By Evercaptor 19 Comments
So, I was thinking about this the other day, and frequently since, as these random thoughts often do, and I had a thought about nomenclature surrounding the culture of games and how limiting it often is, as opposed to how freeing it can be.
Here's where this coalesced, I was on Youtube and watching some Bioshock Infinite discussion. I've not finished the game, I've only played a few hours, but since I'm not likely to play this game twice, I'm having fun seeing the little details on my first run through. One comment at the top of the pile caught my eye:
"I hate this glorification of bioshocks story. Yeah its cool but this is far from the first time this has been done. Maybe the first AAA title that this, but its nothing new. Its nothing revolutionary, and its no genius commentary on gaming. Its just a well written story about the parallel universe theory."
And I decided that I wanted to respond maturely. I don't usually comment on Youtube (which is how I maturely browse on any other day) but I just wanted to, despite myself. I thought about the terms "Gamer", "Triple A" and just the word game itself are limited, in the way "Adolf" is limited, in the way "democrat" is limited. There's a connotation that you can't surpass there, at least to me. TL;DR, I wanted to reply in a very generic way.
"That in itself is a first and that Ken Levine can command such respect from his audience, his peers at Irrational and Those that bankroll his projects is to be respected, I think.
As a "new" medium, products that push boundaries at all levels should be celebrated. Whether BI's narrative is unique or not, you can't argue that the story of it's creators isn't, and when there is a first, it paves the way for a second."
Movies aren't limited this way and neither are books. You are a watcher when you see a movie, you are a reader when you read a book, and you're a player when you control a game. But neither "watcher" nor "reader" feel confining as words to me. Is it because I am neither of these? Even as a part of the culture around games, the term "gamer" brings up nasty images of far-too-young children screaming curses and leaving flecks of spit on their TV, or horribly overweight men who shit in socks and just vegetate grinding daily quests.
I started to think that part of the problem was the catch-all terms we have created around games and how sticky those labels are.
I suffer from Depression. There was a moment, Christmas 2011 where I realised that I had changed. I couldn't define the difference in words because it seemed so subtle to me and I sought out help. I saw my doctor and told them what was wrong with me; I couldn't feel motivated about anything, I couldn't remember the last time I was happy or satisfied, there was a hole in my chest I could only describe metaphorically (in that there was no real hole, but I could feel something missing), I had hurt myself (which triggered my first doctors visit) and I had frequently thought about suicide. I was Depressed.
I'm mostly better now. I'm speaking to friends again, I go outside, I have a job and so on. But I still acknowledge that I have depression. I think gaming's vocabulary has helped me express this most fluidly. I see it as a modifier, a permanent Debuff I have to be aware of at all times. It doesn't always affect me, but I have to remember that the lows can be very low just as highs can be very high, like a multiplier on a sine-wave graph. I have heard from people close to me that I am limiting myself to continue to associate myself with the word Depressed but I can only disagree. I feel like it helps me keep tabs on how I'm feeling to remind myself of it occasionally as it helps me remember where the Bad Thoughts of social anxiety come from. I don't think "labels" are a bad thing, they just give me a shared vocabulary to express groups of ideas.
I feel the opposite about "gaming," however. I don't hide that I play games, but I don't call myself a gamer because I feel that word is limiting. I am a person who enjoys games and plays a lot of them and the word gamer has begun for me to remind me of the worst of the culture, almost like an insult. To me it highlights the entitlement (Mass Effect 3's Ending and more recently, Microsoft's potential adoption of a Steam-like model) that everything must conform to the nebulous mold of public opinion. The extreme cognitive dissonance that means one company must "win" E3 because that's who we've "aligned" ourselves with this year, and you can't own the other console because you'd be "stupid" to own it. The childishness of the audience that can't share their toys or have a discussion; Anita Sarkeesian is my example here: she recently posted a tumblr of responses to a comment she made via twitter, about how there were no female protagonists shown on stage at E3 (spoilers: She got called a cunt and told her opinion didn't matter because ladies in games don't sell.)
I don't want to call someone a gamer anymore. I want to be a person who plays games, and I want others to be that too. It sounds more mature and I want people to be more mature in kind. We shouldn't have popular figures like Robert "Rab" Florence or Jim Sterling embodying the negative, wildly opinionated nature of "gamers," frothing up hatred or a platform that hasn't been released or finalised yet. We need more Jeff Gerstmanns who talk about what it means and what the alternative means. I would like to see content where I can take away a talking point and a lesson or new piece of information (and ultimately that's why I pay my money for Giant Bomb).
I've been writing this for a while now and it's all very stream of consciousness. I don't really feel like editing very much as I'm just happy to have it out of me for the moment. Long story short, I feel like having labels is good, but I think how we use them is going a bit overboard and picking up meaning that it shouldn't represent thanks to the way they're used and the people who are using them.