Is there shame in your Game?
I sit amongst my colleagues in our plush London office and hear a number of them discussing the latest episode of Love Island. This is not unusual. I often passively hear the updates of who “pulled” who and who has fallen out over what from the events of last night’s Big Brother, Ex on the Beach, Geordie shore etc.
I can’t help but think to myself about how much time people spend watching the projected “real lives” of TV celebrities. By all estimates at few shows a night, a few times a week this would be close to 8 hours of passive “brain out” TV. This is now a socially acceptable part of someone’s life and something that is openly discussed with some regularity, which is of course great. People live stressful lives these days and deserve to unwind and share whatever escapism they see fit.
However, These are the same people who would look at me aghast and judging if I came into the office talking about the couple of hours I spent last night levelling up my gunzerker whilst on the hunt for a rare loot drop. I have often seen a face react as if I had mentioned the fact I had spent the previous evening building Lego (I wish) or playing at swordsman whilst wrapped in tin foil armour.
Video games are for kids or nerds who never grew up. This is all too real a reaction from at least half of my friends, whether explicitly said or inferred by reaction. The vast remainder shrug bemused at my choice of hobby and the remaining few are the ones that get it. That realise that for me the action of playing video games is equally, if not more, engrossing than seeing Charlotte Crosby out clubbing. To explain why I may have sounded elitist there by saying “more so” I feel that the fact that gaming by it’s very nature is interactive that the ability to connect with a game breaks down barriers that TV finds much more difficult to do so.
I have always been a gamer. Be it tabletop gaming, my Amstrad CPC 464 or just the rules conjured in the world of action figures there has always been a desire to inhabit and experience worlds beyond my own through play. This has not changed as I continue into my early thirties.
At the same time I understand that this is not every gamer’s reason for pressing start to join.
For the skill player, the rewarding feeling of pulling off a complex special move or having the cat like reflexes to make it through a tough platformer sequence releases more than it’s fair share of dopamine. After all without this the roguelike genre and massive hits such as Dark Souls would not be so popular. Harking back to the origins of gaming the skill players are the purists. When games were all about using your skill and muscle memory to get the most out of your credit in the arcades.
For those who feel that real life is a little chaotic and out of control there can be a great solace found in putting a world into order. Whether it’s the simple innate calm found in games such as candy crush of matching colours into perfect lines or the complex control of setting your farm out just right in Stardew Valley there is a great feeling to be found being in control and being able to create or restore order. The majority of games are perfect in their ability to set goals and to update a player on their progression towards them.
As mentioned above, the kind of gamer I feel most related is often referred to as the escapist. I think that the word escapism however is seen in more of a negative term than perhaps it should be. As humans we crave the opportunity to see and experience new things. People often do not go on
holiday to “escape their lives”. They go to enjoy a rest bite from normality, to see fresh views, cultures and hear/live new stories. For me this perfect encapsulates my connection with gaming. The majority of the games I have lost track of time playing have been story based and have provided with a deep world to explore and feel a part of. It’s not about needing to leave the real world, but about wanting to be a part of the new one. Be it open world or linear the plethora of RPGs on the market are to me a clear indication I am not alone in this desire to experience through gaming.
It saddens me a little that the activity of “Zoning out” in front of the TV is now the socially acceptable norm and yet having any form of interactivity with such fiction in the form of computer games is still thought of as a lessor hobby aimed at kids. Especially when the stats indicate more than ever gaming is becoming a more adult hobby. I do believe the times they are a changing, but for now, I’ll live in the shadows!
What kind of gamer do you think you are? Do you feel you can be as open as you’d like to be about gaming? Do you care? Let us know in the comments below.