By Encephalon 7 Comments
An Embarrassment of Hats
So about two weeks ago I started trying to get into Team Fortress 2. Not in a particularly zealous way - just a few hours a week as I get a feel for the different classes - but it's kind of a big gesture for me. You see, I tend to think of competitive multiplayer as one of those things I am just incapable of getting into, because there are very few combat loops in video games that I find compelling for their own sake, without some sort of situational context to push me forward. Nevertheless, I am actually enjoying TF2 a whole lot. A lot of the fun comes from the goofy artstyle - also, hat lust- so I doubt I'll be picking up, say, BLOPS 2 this fall, but it's a bit stunning to me that I am now excited about shooting dudes on the internet. I literally never thought that would happen, ever.
Why We Cut Ourselves Off
That, in turn, got me thinking about the limitations we place on ourselves within this hobby of ours. I imagine there are very few of us who are open to literally any type of game; many of us have specific go-to genres, and several other genres we just don't bother with for whatever reason. It makes sense why we would close ourselves off to things without experiencing them firsthand. After all, no one knows what you like better than you do. So mostly it comes down to personal taste, but I don't think that's the whole answer because I feel it discourages the reevaluation of those tastes.
I think another reason we close ourselves off is for simple filtering purposes. There is too much content being produced for one person to reasonably consume, so we each make cuts according to what we think is worth our precious time. Basically, we ignore a large chuck of the available content so that we're not paralyzed with the need to experience all of it. The reasons we use to justify the cuts are almost irrelevant in this case. It's a basic categorization heuristic, and nothing sinister is involved. Still, it's useful to understand exactly why we close ourselves off so that we can take control of the process.
A Brief History of Shooter-Fear
For the longest time, the only games I played were RPGs - pretty much from the SNES era till when I got a Gamecube. I wasn't sworn against other kinds of games, but the FPS was an source of fear for me - I was genuinely frightened of being snuck up on from a blind spot (yeah yeah, laugh it up). I admit, the idea that an enemy could be lurking outside of my character's peripheral vision, readying some diabolical ambush, still sends a little shiver up my spine. ButResident Evil 4 opened me up to the possibility that I might at least enjoy shooters in the third person, if they were sufficiently crazy. It was only fairly recently, with Bioshock, that I got over the lack of peripheral vision thing. Bioshock still scared the piss out of me, but for different reasons.
Now I can play Gears of War with the best of you. Well, not really, because I don't have a Gold subscription. Also, I'm an embarrassingly poor shot. Just terrible. But at the least, I can confidently say that I would not shout in horror if you came up behind me and chainsawed me into soggy little gibbets. It's a moral victory.
Widening One's Gaze
I've been seduced into other seemingly inaccessible experiences the same way as I was with shooters: by playing one exemplary game that proves the viability of the genre. Most recently, I've been playing Telltale's The Walking Dead, which is technically my first adventure game. It's been a blast so far, and now I think I might delve more deeply into the genre, or at least sifting through Telltale's past work. I only picked up The Walking Dead after the bombcrew's repeated praising of the game, which underscores just how important it is to have a like-minded community to turn to.
Of course, I can't just pat myself on the back for being the most open-minded gamer on earth. There are plenty of games that still occupy the "NEVER!" category in my head, like sports, racing, rhythm and visual novel games. I have fairly solid reasons for just disregarding any of those games on sight - at least Ithink they're solid - yet I'm probably just one awesome game away from tossing those reasons out the window.
Well... maybe not sports games, but my point stands.
So that's pretty much the extent of my thoughts on widening your horizons. I've shared a bit of my gaming history, but what about you guys? Which genres do you consider your favorites? Which do you refuse to even give a look, and why? Do you think you'll ever reconsider the boundaries you've drawn for yourself within gaming? What would it take for you to give something new a shot?