Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Self-abuse in game playing

What unhealthy things does someone who works in games do when he is messed, stressed, or depressed? Sex? Alcohol? Caffeine? Some other drug?

For me at least, it's play video games. Ironic, because I've been talking or writing about games all day, probably on a monitor, and and I take a break by staying on a computer and playing a game? The lines between work and play are confusing, and even more so for games. Not old news. So when do I get a break? Isn't there some sort of Sabbath or sabbatical, a day of rest, if you will?

How can we rest from video games? Perhaps the only way is if there is something else in your life that is also important. If there isn't, or if what is temporarily loses its hold, perhaps they can have too strong a hold.

My first piece for the Game Anthropologist was about DoTA. It's a great game. I was unhappy with the results of the article, though. After a temporary increase in DOTA playing, I remembered one reason why I got involved with other games, and that is that the text-based denizens of are one of the most savage breed of jackasses ever encountered.

Let me explain this a bit more. In an MMO, you can /ignore someone. On XBox Live or PSN, you can mute them. In most shooters, you can mute, and there's little time for text. Tactical, long-respawn shooters (Counter Strike, Call of Duty's search and destroy mode) can also reveal gaming's mire, but sometimes the team is coordinating. Sometimes there is commentary on the existing players. The round will end, and all who are dead and alive will be together again. And anyway, the dead and living can't communicate.

In, you can squelch, but many use tricky names. And for some reason, in DoTA, when you squelch, it doesn't always work (or stay working). If you check the chat log for anything you missed, squelched chat occurs.In DoTa, when you die, your respawn time is anything from 5 to 90 seconds, leaving time for players to do nothing but say whatever they want. The living communicate with the dead. Observe these two:

Open closer inspection it is not shit-talking, "I'm gonna own u" rhetoric we are hearing (though I also have a shot of that same orange guy saying that). It is teammates being unhappy with each other. While dead. And talking to the other team (which I was on).

I've been discouraged for a number of personal reasons and it's been impairing my ability to work and be happy. One of these is that my video card finally burnt out and I had to use a spare. The spare is not as good, and Team Fortress 2, the place I could go and play play instead of work play, was not so relaxing, as the card is struggling to handle it. I also didn't get to interact much with anyone of quality, the way you can in WoW or TF 2. I didn't even get to interview Icefrog, DOTA's current head of state, one of the few people involved who is a decent human being.

So I've been playing more public, non-TDA DOTA matches, which the card can handle. And it's discouraged me. It's made me lazy and more hateful of games while enslaving me. I'm not sure how this happened, but it's fascinating to me. I didn't realize until a week later, after I was bitter.

We talk about games being therapeutic, educational, beautiful, aesthetic, or enlightening. We also talk of them as being cheap, derivative, or boring. But it occurred to me in the last two weeks that sometimes they can be devastating, depressing, destructive and discouraging.

It doesn't matter how good a game is--if the people there make you feel worse than you did when you started playing, don't keep hoping it will get better.

This guy is right, even if he is ironically unaware as he uses his ally's IRL name. I don't deny that "IRL" is more real than it is online, but I have to insist that what we do together digitally is more real than we often give it credit for.


Blogger Nhexima said...

I hear you. I hadn't played any FPS games in years when I tried out Team Fortress 2 a few months ago during a Free weekend. While I loved the game itself, the gameplay and the artistry of it, gamers haven't changed much in that time and the atmosphere could be quite hostile and oppressive. Add to that "radio spam"... and TF2, with its bright cartoony style, is more friendly than a more "hardcore" shooter base probably is.

WC3 was one of those experiences too - I'm admittedly not too good at those games, but I did get through the single player game which was really fun. After being decimated in regular play, I did like DotA early on because it was not quite as serious. Of course, even DotA wasn't immune from bad behavior, as you've described, and over the years it sounds like it became even more "hardcore".

10:24 PM  
Blogger Etelmik said...

Awww, but TF 2 is much better when it's not the free weekend, I promise. My brother, a 30-year-old doctor who used to play DoTA, will attest to my opinions of both.

Seriously, someone said that over on TGA, and many, many people will also confirm that free weekend isn't an accurate sample because plenty of people who have no investment in the game are there, and we know what happens with that kind of crowd....

11:27 AM  
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