You’re A Gamer
Yesterday I saw the above video pop into my subscription feed on YouTube, and since Pixel is awesome and was a Blaugust participant I of course watched it. In the video she talks about a problem of shunning going on in the “girl gamer” circles, and it prompted me to write yet another one of these pieces. While I absolutely see the issue happening in that community, I also think the issue is inherent in all “geek” communities, and it becomes pretty damned frustrating. For awhile now I thought I could blame it on my generation. As far as video games go, we are essentially patient zero. My folks had a pong system, then I graduated to Atari… then to Nintendo… and pretty much every gaming fad in between. So for awhile now I have felt this strange sense of responsibility for apparently being part of the generation that created this broken model. I thought maybe the gatekeeping came from the fact that for many of us we have experienced a bit of shame over our hobbies, or at least being treated to those “you are not normal” type of looks on a regular basis.
I wear my “geekdom” on my sleeve but once you leave the development row at work… I am absolutely “not like the other kids”. I have Lego MiniFigures instead of pictures of kids, and I have to explain so many of the assorted items of kitch on my desk. Weirdly enough pretty much everyone knows what a Creeper from Minecraft is however, but I guess if folks have kids… that makes sense. The odd thing is… I remember a time when it wasn’t like this really. I remember when you went to someones house and saw an Atari… you were essentially instant friends because you had a fast point of reference. Same thing happened for Nintendo, and everyone would huddle around the lunch room to talk about this game or that. It wasn’t just a geek thing, it was an every kid thing. Hell my wife does not consider herself a gamer at all… but she had an Atari and a Nintendo and played both. Her favorite game growing up was Snoopy and the Red Baron, and at some point I am going to find one for her for no reason other than sheer nostalgia. So I guess the question is… what happened?
The very first time I can really remember any tension forming, came from the early Sega versus Nintendo rivalry. I mean during the Atari era there were other console systems like the Colecovision or Intellivision, but ultimately it didn’t really matter that much. At the end of the day we were all playing the same ports of arcade games, which seemed to be universally offered on all platforms. The first party title thing didn’t seem to really matter… that is until Mario and Sonic. The advertising was constantly and obnoxious and full of partial truths. I grew up in a small town, and quite literally no one that I knew could actually afford both a Super Nintendo AND a Genesis, so it ultimately meant you had to place all of your hope in one console or the other. I don’t remember any fights breaking out but it was really the first time I can remember such a thing as someone owning the “wrong console”. I had a friend with a Sega Master System, and I remember one birthday party where everyone was disappointed that he didn’t have a Nintendo to play. No one really wanted to try this “other” thing, because everyone wanted to play Super Mario Brothers.
I could drive myself insane trying to trace the roots, but regardless of how we ended up in this situation… it isn’t a great one. Any system where we claim that Gamer A is not as much of a gamer as Gamer B because they like this thing or that thing… is a really bad system. I guess the part about it that I don’t really get is when did we start competing with each other on everything. Can’t it be enough that you like a thing, and want to do a thing… without having to feel the need to shit on everyone who is doing something else? I mentioned Minecraft earlier, and that game honestly gives me a lot of hope. A friend of mine was telling a story the other day, about how their kid bumped into some other kids while on vacation. Somehow the topic of Minecraft came up, and suddenly all of these random strangers were instant friends. Games have the power to bring people with no other shared interests together, and honestly most of the people I know on the internet… I know thanks to gaming. So I see the potential that this shared interest has to unite us all… and it just makes me even the more depressed when I see people fighting over this game or that game. Does it really matter if you prefer Call of Duty to Battlefield, or if you happen to like a PS4 over an Xbox One? Can’t we all just be okay with saying “these are things I like” and be equally okay when someone else happens to like different things?
I Have No Answers
I have no real answers at the end of the day. Lately I have seen a lot of angst in the World of Warcraft community as people disappear from that game. I was absolutely part of the problem during the first great exodus to Rift, and I feel bad for it. Ultimately what I want is for people to do whatever makes them happy, and play whatever game they are passionate about. Similarly when they stop being passionate about it… it is perfectly okay to walk away with zero shame. Just because I am in a down cycle where I am not all that interested in World of Warcraft it doesn’t mean that I wish the game harm. Sure there is a bit of schadenfreude occasionally over the earning reports, simply because I have felt for awhile that the staff doesn’t really get what players actually want. I keep hoping that they will right the ship and turn us back to a game that I would be happy to play again. At no point however do I want the game to go away or am I willing to actively rail against people for playing it. I guess what happened to change my opinion… is that I started to see the alternative.
During that first parting of ways… we had not seen the consequences of when a game stops being supported. Ask the folks who played Star Wars Galaxies, City of Heroes or Vanguard how they feel about having a game world disappear. After watching several worlds just simply vanish… it has made me quite a bit more respectful of whatever game anyone happens to be playing. We invest so much of ourselves in the games that we play, and whatever it is that you happen to be passionate about is awesome. The gatekeeping and the “you must be this tall to ride this ride” signs that we seem to constantly be willing to tack up all over our landscape are counter productive. I original thought it was my generation that broke the system, but now I am just not certain any more. Maybe tribalism is just something that is naturally going to happen in any system when it gets too large. Maybe “gamer” isn’t even really a thing anymore… and video games are just something that everyone does. We don’t have a title for folks who watch TV, because that distinction is utterly meaningless. Just because we both own a TV does not mean we are likely going to be watching the same shows… but by the same token no one is expecting us to. Maybe we need to shed the notion that we all have this common point of reference, and maybe we just need to accept the fact that we are all going to like different things. Maybe in another generation this question just simply won’t exist any more because gaming has become so mainstream that nobody even thinks about it as an identity. Whatever the case… for the time being… I just wish we could treat each other better.