Games, Journalism, Other, and Books

Games, Journalism, Other, and Books

That's all of life's bases covered, right?

Constantly on the defensive: Life as a gamer

November 22, 2015 | Comment

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Let me preface this by saying two things: 1) This is a rant. Nothing more, nothing less. 2) I’m all too aware there are far more important, more heinous things happening in the world. File this under ‘#firstworldproblems’.

Why do we as gamers always have to be on the defensive?

“£42 for the new Star Wars game?!” a friend exclaims. “Why are games so expensive?”
“Only the new and biggest ones are that expensive,” I said. “There was a time when they’d cost £60-£70.”
“Why? They’re not exactly worth that money.”

To you, perhaps not. But to others, who find dozens perhaps hundreds of hours of pleasure and entertainment in such products, that’s £42 well spent compared to the equivalent three or four trips to the cinema, each time to a two- to three-hour film.

“Well, that’s a lot of money that could be spent on better things?”
Like what? Are we supposed to be instead investing in The Complete Works of Shelley and Keats? Buying outfits we’ll only wear once? Throwing money away as we throw shots and cocktails down our gullets, all for a few hours’ fleeting buzz and a lingering hangover?

“£300 for a console?!” a similar argument begins. “And you only end up having to replace it in five years – and then your games won’t work on it.”
Again, this is true and for some gamers just as frustrating, but no one bends your arm and forces you to buy the next console. And even if you do upgrade, how is this different to those who need to upgrade their family computer or laptop every four to five years, or trade in their car for a newer model?

“Games just train people to be murderers,” another friend says. “Do they have to be so violent?”
Perhaps some titles take gore effects to extremes, but how do they differ from Quentin Tarantino’s works or the Saw films? Should we all be watching that completely non-violent entertainment platform known as TV? Has nothing violent ever occurred in books? Are all song lyrics completely without aggression? Even Marvel and DC comics – appealing to the same age ranges as video games – show some remarkably graphic scenes of people being beaten to a bloody pulp.

“The difference is they’re interactive. It’s encouraging people – [or, more often than not in such arguments, children] – to do those things in real life.”
Of course. Because handling a traditional gamepad is perfect training for anyone who wants to wield an assault rifle. Thanks to the hours I’ve put into Batman: Arkham Knight, I’m now fully confident I could take down forty-plus heavily built thugs then glide to safety by jumping off a roof.

I was recently fortunate enough to be invited onto BBC World News to discuss Activision’s acquisition of King, creators of Candy Crush. In the break before being brought into the studio, the newsreader asked: “Has anyone actually played this Candy Crush thing?”. My written words will never fully express the contempt in his voice. Surprisingly, not a single person on the ten-person team had played Candy Crush, prompting the newsreader to add: “Thought not. Last thing I played was that one with the circle that eats dots and ghosts.”

Pac-Man? You’re seriously telling me you have never encountered any form of video game since Pac-Man?

At the end of my interview, the newsreader turned to the camera and told BBC viewers: “We’ll be back in a few minutes, where we have more stories to talk about – not gaming, of course!”

I realise I am not alone in my frustration, but I am so sick and tired of this utter bullshit.

No, video games aren’t for everyone. No, they’re not perfect. Yes, they might have adverse side effects on certain people, and yes maybe sometimes they’re not quite worth the money we invest in them.

But why should we have to spend our lives justifying our hobby? Do music lovers, film goers, avid bookworms, sports fans, artists or any amount of other normal people have to defend the way they choose to spend their free time? Shouldn’t gaming be closer to these pastimes in terms of cultural acceptance than to fox hunting and porn?

Why have we been dispelling the same myths for decades now? How many times do we need to point dramatically at the headline “No link between video games and violence”, or point out the hundreds of thousands of games that explore deeper stories, raise awareness of other real-world horrors such as cancer in a way that no other entertainment form can?

Why can’t we, when asked why video games are so violent, just answer: “Because after the shit day I’ve had, I really need to blow something up.”

We expect this crap from scaremongering mainstream newspapers, preying on the ignorance and fears of older generations. But from the other ordinary people in our lives? And particularly from people that are themselves, in a way, gamers? They might not think of themselves as fans of video games because they can’t stand the idea of playing Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, Grand Theft Auto or any of the other chart-toppers. But if you have spent more than a few hours playing Mario Kart, Pokemon, NintendoLand, Guitar Hero, Singstar, Dance Dance Revolution, the LEGO games, Crash Bandicoot, The Sims – not to mention Flappy Bird and the plethora of other casual titles on smartphones – then I have some shocking news for you: you’re a gamer. Maybe not in the same sense, but you game. You’re a gamer.

I know, I know – “It’s a generational thing. These views will die out”. No, they won’t. Not while people in our own generation share them. And yes, they’re perfectly entitled to their views, but you know what? So are we. We’re entitled to view video games as the harmless entertainment and escapism they are. We’re entitled to enjoy engaging in activities we’d never even dream of outside the virtual realm.

And, yes, I know that yet another blog post bemoaning the state of Video Games Players vs The Rest Of The World isn’t going to change anything. But that, quite frankly, sucks.

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