Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Sitting all alone in a dark room

The recent Manhunt 2 posting got me thinking about what gets gamers together and united for a cause. As a married male at the age of 25, I'm well on my way to being out of the gamers' loop for a variety of reasons. First, everyone my age is working or doing some other activity that isn't video games, and those that are playing are a bit younger than I am, and I have little in common with them. So, there's no one to play with. I can't afford many games or new systems. I managed to get along without games for a over a year once, but they are a part of my life again.

All video game players are often met with disappointment when it comes to their hopes and expectations for their gaming lives. Some gamers hope for a specific game, genre, company, or platform to turn out well. Some hope their preferred game becomes a success so that they'll have others to play it with. Some want to become good at playing them. Some want to make money by playing them. Some want to work in the industry. Some want the medium to become a legitimate tool for various purposes, which include but are not limited to political, functional, satirical, educational, and artistic. Some just wish that spouses, friends, family, and culture would accept them as a medium, and not just middle-class lazy leisure.

Unfortunately, most gamers have accepted the popular notion that regarding this lazy leisure, it's simply something the boys like to do to play. Like sports, but with fewer parties, no discussions at work, no legitimized special occasions that extend outside their immediate context like the Super Bowl, no talented players as celebrities, and no recognized leagues*, big or small.

They've accepted the notion that innovation in functionality and gameplay is simply inane when compared to the other things we use technology for. Like a phone or piece of software, but no buzz about how it changes our lives for good or ill, and little discussion on the potential or ethics of such technology.

The themes, characters, stories, and worlds of video games accept their labels as low quality and as coming from a lesser medium; good for a laugh or moment of nostalgia, but nothing more. Like novels, plays, movies, or tv series', only no awards, little or no academic scrutiny, and no recognition as having cultural value, and definitely given an eyeball roll at best if you mention a story (say, the story of Gordon Freeman) as interesting, original, and intense.

Fortunately, not everyone in society has accepted these opinions. Some disagree. Some prove them wrong. Others are already working to combat these notions. But it will take individuals and groups on all sides of the fence regarding every issue. Some aren't aware of just how low a status video games are accorded in these respective worlds, and to the casual gamer, I tell you that you must be willing to consider video games for their potential.

If you don't work in games or consider them important, there is little to do. For us common gamers, the only thing we can do is take the high ground. When it comes down to it, if someone mocks your love of, say, Gordon Freeman and his story, it is imperative that you not be ashamed. Because Gordon Freeman, like any other well-made character, kicks a lot of ass.

(*I recognize there are a lot of leagues and organized "esports", but none that are big news have gained stability. This may change in the near future, and The CGS has people hopeful, but I'm not holding my breath.)



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