The Essence Of Gaming
Part 2: The image of gaming
Disclaimer: This article contains opinions based on my own experiences. It may not be fact.
Admitting to being a gamer to non gamers has never been an easy task. Most people who don’t game view the hobby with a lot of disdain and preconceived notions that they learnt from the news on TV and those judgemental daily publications that call themselves newspapers. Quite a misnomer really as news is secondary to opinion. Even the public health service ads are against us, look at this one…
Gamers are losers without even a semblance of a life, in fact they hardly even have an existence. They don’t even have girlfriends, probably because the only contact they have with females comes from photographs and ‘fan art’ that they find in the deepest darkest recesses of the internet. Girls don’t game, before you make yourself look stupid by saying they do. Gamers are usually spotty teens who have to wear huge coke bottle bottom glasses because they’ve burned their vision away by gaming too much. They are angry and antisocial which explains why they don’t have any real friends. They’ve also got bad acne and greasy skin because they don’t follow good hygiene practises or even leave the house to get some fresh air. They can’t hold down jobs because they’re gaming all the time and so they have to sponge food and money from their parents while living at home, most commonly in the basement but at the very least in a permanently darkened room with pictures of naked women striking various ‘artistic’ poses plastered all over the walls.
This is obviously not what I think because I’m also a gamer but this is the view of the average non gaming uninteresting person who allow themselves be spoon-fed by news networks because they don’t feel intelligent enough to actually form their own thoughts and opinions. If the news was just a summary of instructions like “jump” or “stick your index finger up a dogs backside and lick it” these people would do it. This is essentially what news networks actually do. They tell people what to think, who to vote for, how to bring up their kids and how to stop other people from having fun.
Especially if the people having fun are gamers.
I am not going to deny that there really are some gamers exactly like the ones I mentioned earlier but they’re exceptions, not the common rule. Another common opinion is that games are for kids and adults have no business playing them and those adults that do play them have done nothing with their lives and just waste away their time on stupid kids games. Of course most of the time when dad buys son / daughter (yes I do know girls actually game) a console, he will spend time on it himself. Usually a LOT of time. In fact so much time he might as well buy himself one and be done with it. I remember being bought a spectrum 48k for Christmas when I was a young lad and I had to throw a tantrum to get my dad off it.
Thankfully, the general opinion is getting better and gaming is becoming a more acceptable pastime to the outsider. People nowadays only really get inflamed about it when it crops up on the news and twangs on their emotion strings like a digital age pied piper of Hamelin. We even have game developers who look like normal people these days instead of looking like middle aged geeks who still wear Star wars pyjamas and sleep in a race-car bed. Now we have younger people such as Cliff Bleszinski who actually look normal and media friendly enough to introduce to your Mother although if she follows his mostly annoying twitter feed @therealcliffyb then she might smack him round the head with a frying pan before asking him to leave. Okay, to be fair it’s not that annoying and definitely worth adding if you’re a twitterer.
There are some great gamers out there and I personally have met some awesome people during my years of gaming and have known them for so long that I now call them friends because it goes beyond the game and you actually find out about each other. I even met my wife in a game. An MMORPG called Lineage 2 was our meeting place and we just celebrated our third year of marriage and our son is due to be born in April. It wasn’t so long ago that just meeting someone on the internet was social suicide, so much so that people would be embarrassed to admit it. It happens so much nowadays though that people accept it in the same way as “We met at work” or “We met at a bar”.
Gamers don’t always do themselves favours though and there have been many times during my gaming career when my face firmly met my palm. Xbox live is always a great place to find the worst of the worst. I actually formed a very low generalised opinion of Xbox live customers, which might seem unfair but here’s what happened and you can judge for yourself.
I had a weekly muse published on the inside xbox section of live, so it was seen by everyone who turned their Xbox on. My subject was that preowned gaming is killing the industry more than piracy because developers don’t see any of the money when you go to Game or Gamestop or wherever you buy preowned games from, the money goes straight into the pocket of the shop and nothing goes to the devs. Not only that but most of the time the saving is only a few Pounds / Euros / Dollars especially on new releases which would be selling brand new with any extras included at 49.99 and the same game preowned without any of the possible extra dlc codes would be selling for 45.99 – absolutely not worth buying it second hand for a not very whopping saving of four Dollars / Euros / Pounds. Even when you try to buy a new game the damn shop assistant tries to talk you into buying preowned and make you feel like an idiot just because you’d prefer to spend that little extra to buy new. My point was that piracy isn’t as huge as the second hand game market and I stand by that opinion today just as I did when I wrote it.
I digress though, my point is nothing to do with the content of what I wrote but the fact that after writing it I got such an avalanche of badly worded replies, most of them typed on keyboards with a broken caps lock button (aka cruise control for cool) and all of them were so full of hate that it made me wonder what kind of people were being let loose on a system that allows them to send messages to strangers. They cursed, they told me that they knew where I lived and would be coming to kick my head in or just said in no uncertain terms that I was an idiot. Now I totally respect the opinions of others as long as they have some kind of counterpoint explaining why you think I’m wrong, don’t just type something like this while feverishly beating yourself around the head with a tyre iron.
“you suck so much that I’m going to write your name in shit and blood on the wall of my padded cell” (this comment may be an exaggeration)
I couldn’t help imagining that most of these replies came from the same children that you see crying and stamping their feet in supermarkets because mommy didn’t buy them a chocolate bar and let’s be honest, who can blame her? The last thing these little brats need is more flippin’ sugar.
So there were literally hundreds of these messages over the course of the week and I only recall a handful of them actually being sensible messages. Some agreed but those that didn’t actually explained why they didn’t agree, you know, basically trying to have a civilised discussion. Thus my low opinion of Xbox live customers. It is definitely a sweeping generalisation and I know that there are some nice folk playing Xbox live but the sad fact is that the idiots are usually the loudest and therefore get more attention.
Playing multiplayer games on Xbox live is just as bad (I can’t talk for PSN yet as I haven’t had my PS3 for very long but I had a 360 for ages and moved over to PS3 for reasons I’ll go into at another time). I used to do the whole headset thing and join a random game in the hopes that it would be a similar experience to playing online with some friends.
How wrong I was.
The first thing I noticed while having a blast on Call of Duty 4 was that most of the voices seemed to belong to preteen boys and they were all very angry about something. Maybe their parents were making them wear underwear that was too tight or something, I have no idea but they would scream and rage and act like absolute lunatics from the start of the match to the end. Oh and there was always one with an annoying mic that made a weird noise all through the match. Either that or he was just a heavy breather getting some practise in before he called his latest stalker victim.
It totally put me off multiplayer gaming on the Xbox and these experiences really don’t help to discredit the general public’s view of gamers.
I spoke to a fellow gamer about this and he told me that most people don’t join random games and only play with their friends. This is understandable but if you only play with your friends then you’ll never meet any different people. I get bored playing with the same group of people over and over because you get to know their tactics pretty quickly so it’s not long before each game is just a case of going through the motions and the banter is the only thing that stops it from seeming like constantly treading water. You might as well just all go to a bar. After my own experiences I do have to admit that it is better than some ten year old in Milwaukee threatening to rape and kill my Grandmother (God rest her soul). This bad gaming etiquette shown nowadays makes me want to become some kind of a multiplayer sociopath taking off the headset and cutting all forms of communication with other players so that I can just run around shooting anyone and everyone – that’ll teach ‘em!
The problem is that, as I said in my last article, parents are buying kids these games even though they are rated as suitable for adults only. If only that was enforced by parents as well as stores then our multiplayer experience would be a lot better. I know that I go on about this a lot but it is an issue that’s always annoyed me. Yeah, they will buy them these games but not the chocolate because if they buy the chocolate then they have to deal with the hyperactive little tyke but if they buy them a violent game then people like us have to deal with the hyperactive little tyke. Anything for a quiet life, right parents? Yeah, thanks a lot! Makes me sick, it does.
I said earlier that girls don’t game but I wasn’t being serious (obviously). They do game, but you have to feel sorry for them sometimes. As soon as people get wind of a real live girl playing a multiplayer match then that’s it, the whole match is dominated with comments directly from “Hormonal teenage boys weekly” asking how good looking she is and how old she is but before long they will all decide that the girl is most likely disgusting to look at because why else would she be gaming. Doesn’t really say much for them does it? Anyone would think that an alien species was making first contact through a Call of Duty free for all and all the unfortunate extraterrestrials managed to communicate with is some misogynistic sub species that cries when it doesn’t get chocolate.
Let’s have a look at MMORPGS. These games get a lot of bad rap, even from other gamers but I have to say that while I was playing Lineage 2 I met a lot of very cool people which surprised me because it was my first time playing a MMO and I fully expected it to be full of geeks wanting to show me their +10 wand. Why did I expect that? Well because society told me that MMO’s are played by losers who sit at their computer wearing wizard hats typing role-play while eating donuts. It’s not a fair portrayal and it’s not even true but it is the image that we are given by the media. I joined a guild and we all talked on teamspeak and it really was one of the best times I’ve had while gaming. The game itself was a terrible grind but all the light hearted banter on teamspeak made it a lot more fun. Then came World of Warcraft which everyone in the whole World now plays. It simplified the gameplay elements of MMO’s and was/is a lot of fun but there came a point where I just couldn’t play anymore and had to try different things. Some people love WoW so much that it’s the only thing they play, all day long. There were people in the guild I was in that never seemed to be offline, no matter when I logged in, there they were doing something or other in a dungeon or just sat in a town chatting away to random people and then mocking those people in guild chat.
These are the people who don’t do the image of gaming any favours. They wear Tee-Shirts proclaiming their love for WoW and that the game is their life. This is not healthy gaming, it’s obsessive and harmful. It has bored young mothers playing it while ignoring their kids in the background, it has students playing it while not working on their education, it has adults playing it who call in sick when an expansion comes out or if a raid has been planned that coincides with a work shift. I’m pretty sure that there are some people who can play WoW for a couple of hours and then get on with something else but they are way, way outnumbered by the addicts of this virtual crack. It has something like 11 million subscribers so there’s no denying that the developers have created something quite extraordinary, yet at the same time it can be something quite dangerous. At least, it can when played by lonely people looking to it for some kind of fulfilment. About 9 million of its subscribers then.
It’s a bit grim really isn’t it? This image of gaming. Even more so when we see just how much of the negative image is created not just by the media but by gamers themselves. Some of them, anyway.
What can we do about it? Well firstly don’t let games create such an uncontrollable rage that we forget we’re talking to other actual people on that headset and not just AI combatants designed solely for our entertainment. I guess leaving the house now and then isn’t such a bad idea. Meet with friends, walk the dog, dance naked in the moonlight with the rest of your coven – whatever takes your fancy.
Most importantly though, (and I can’t stress this enough) don’t wear shirts like this and definitely don’t live your life by it’s slogan.
That’s it for The Essence Of Gaming this week – next week I’ll be talking about Games journalism.
Please feel free to comment, question or just yell at me in caps lock in the space provided below.