By ahoodedfigure 11 Comments
Time to go all meta on you.
When we first moved in to our new apartment, our landlord asked apropos of nothing if I was into "gaming." This was a 60+ year old fellow asking me this, so I was sort of amused and bemused at the same time. Could he mean, like, bejeweled or something? He didn't seem to be a hard-core RPG player, although looks as always can be deceiving, but I was guessing there might be something in common between him and me, which would make things a bit smoother should we subsequently set the place on fire when I'm conducting one of my cooking experiments.
"Yes, by gum," I said [I'm paraphrasing here], "I like games! What kind of games do you mean?"
"Well, you know, slots. Poker. "
I've been a gambler of sorts ever since I was old enough to put a coin in a slot: you played arcade games with the chance for glory, putting your initials into the high score list, and maybe even seeing an ending, although those weren't invented for most arcade games until much later. They're often games of skill, and they take an investment in time to get right. Even single-purchase games (remember those?) were a gamble when you didn't know how good the game was from the tiny picture in your Sears catalog, and now we get tons of compatibility errors, patches, and DRM shenanigans. There's an element of gambling in all of them, but not the kind of gambling that you think of when you just say that word out of the blue.
Gambling. Gambling was what he meant by gaming. They even have gaming commissions in the States that regulate gambling. They couldn't call them "gambling commissions" because there's something seedy about the term for some people. Gambling suggests recklessness, but gaming is good clean fun, even if a particular game or its participants wind up being pretty reckless. And this sort of gaming exists in a gray zone of legality, sometimes falling on either side, often because people have shown their ability to wreck themselves and their families utterly through irresponsible behavior.
That's not to say that "gaming" couldn't be used by random folks to mean board games, card games, whatever. It's certainly used that way by many species of gamers, of which I'm several at once. But I don't tend to gamble, probably because I know the odds are against me. I know that whatever gamble I take on a video game, I've already lost my money and am trying to earn it back through learning about the game and enjoying what it has to offer. The pressure is just as much on the people making the game to give me a good product, as it is my job to appreciate what's going on. Those kind of odds sound a lot better to me.
I don't doubt there are people who gamble AND play video games and board games (or sports, for that matter), it just feels like the gambler and non-gambler core groups live on separate islands, both of them exiled from the non-gaming mainland. I'm not sure what the people do on the mainland... It's been a very long time since I tried to live in a world without games.