Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The True Gamer

So, what is a 'True Gamer'? How often do they play?  What do they play, and maybe more importantly, what don't they play?  What hardware do they use?  How long do they have to have played to be in the 'True Gamer' club?  Super Nintendo?  Earlier?  Should they have to know about Indie games, or are the heavy-hitters enough?  Does genre, difficulty setting, multi-player or single player matter?  If you don't play Dark Souls are you even in the running?  And the question I'd really like to put forward with this post:  Why do we care?

I've been heavily gaming for about two years now.  I'm talking a few dozen games, most of which I've beat, some I've beat multiple times, several forums about specific games and gaming in general, listening to developer interviews, spending a good deal of time on Gamespot, and a program on my computer called Raptr that tracks my gaming progress.  And in these two years I've noticed something about the gaming community as a whole that baffles me: Elitism.

I would say that the majority of people whose sole or primary form of entertainment is playing video games have an earned stereotype (I can say this because I've earned it too).  We were outcasts in school because we were interested in things that no one else was.  When we talked we noticed that no one knew what we were talking about (both about entertainment and academia) and how we noticed it was that people would make comments about how they didn't know what we were talking about, to which most people would laugh.  Those of us in this category did one of two things, either we kept talking how we wanted and told ourselves we were just smarter than most people (though the ridicule got worse as time passed and while our minds felt superior, our hearts sure didn't), or we realized that people don't like smart people and dumbed ourselves down so we wouldn't be made fun or anymore, hiding our real interests from everyone except our true friends (this was me).  It was like people were part of these clubs that we were either not invited to, or that we faked our way into and then felt uncomfortable once there, because we could tell our kind weren't supposed to be there.  It was a struggle, or at least it was for me.

And then, after I got married, I found gaming, and more importantly, I found gamers on the internet.  It was like all of us found each other and became friends online.  There weren't many of us in our own communities, but when we made a worldwide community there were really a lot of us, and that idea intrigued me.  Finally, a large group of people who shared my interests and knew what I was talking about, and it wasn't just my group of friends I was honest with, there were a bunch of them.

After a few months though, I noticed how little gamers learned from high school.  I started seeing cliques.  The first I noticed were the hardware cliques (mostly PC vs. Console).  "Games are made for consoles, which are really just old computers so we never get to use our rigs to their full capabilities."  "Consoles are for casual gamers."  ('casual gamer' is an insult in the gaming community)  and, "Real gamers play on PCs."  I was originally a console gamer, I have some games on the PC, but when it comes to shooters, I need my paddle, I just do.  So console gamers would come back with "If it wasn't for consoles we wouldn't have the quality of games we have because there wouldn't be as much money in the industry."  "People with PCs just need to stop getting such powerful rigs, as it's obvious they don't need them for the games that exist."  but I never heard console gamers say PC gamers weren't 'True Gamers', but I think that comes from the fact that games started on the PC.

Which leads into the next clique:  "'True Gamers' have been playing since Atari."  or Nintendo, or Super Nintendo, or started on the PC and have never left it.  Somehow, having played for twenty years just makes you better than other people, kind of like being Vegan.  It just makes you better.

Then there are the genre wars.  Mostly it's people saying that those who play Call of Duty (or other multi-player shooters) aren't real gamers, even if they play something else.  The other big one is making fun of those who play facebook games because, you know, they aren't 'real games'.

I could go on, but my favorite are the Dark Souls/Deamon Souls players.  If you don't play and enjoy that game you aren't a 'True Gamer' in their minds.  I don't know what it is about that fan base, but I remember staying away from that game literally because the fans were so bat crap crazy that I didn't want to be numbered with them.  I've decided to try it eventually, but if you talked about any other game to any of them it was as if you were a twelve year old boy in Victoria's Secret, you just didn't belong talking to the grown ups about video games.

It's all so childish though.  It's as though we've finally found our way into a club we belong in and what's the first thing we do?  Try to keep as many people out as possible, by saying they aren't as good as the rest of us because of what they play, or how often they play, or that they don't play every single game on the hardest difficulty possible.  Don't we remember what that was like?  They mention a game on facebook and because that's not our cup of tea we make sure they feel like they don't belong, or because they haven't spent hours reading every book in all of Skyrim they aren't really playing the game.  Why aren't we better than this?  Why can't we seem to be better than this?  A gamer is anyone who enjoys playing video games with some or all of their free time.  We all have different tastes, and that's okay.  All of our tastes are valid, and all are invited to enjoy at least a facet of our past time.  It's brought us a lot of happiness, and we believe it can bring others happiness too.  So, lets invite them in, and make them feel welcomed instead of shunned.  I know we can do it, and we owe it to our fifteen year old selves to at least try.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Little Too Much

The lines on the tiles aren't perpendicular to the floor board.  This room isn't square... no, not square and the tiles are moving.  I know they are.  I can see them... move.  Why are they moving?  Oh, no.  The tiles aren't moving.  Squint my eyes, see what's real.  There, back to normal.  I shouldn't have taken that much; I just wanted to impress her.  Her.  What was her name again?  Dammit, I've been dating her for three months.  What is her damn name?

Amber.  Yeah, that's her name.  Amber.  Oh, squint again, oh man, the room's not moving, but it is.  I've got to focus.  Focus on something that won't make me feel so sick.  This tile's like ice on my butt.  No, nothing painful.  Ugh, there, what is that?  A hole in the sheet rock.  Just, yes, it's just big enough for my fingernail.  I wonder if I could see behind it?  Dig.  Dig.  Dig... yeah, something's behind here, something red.  More.  A little more and I can fit my whole hand in.  There it is, and, yes:  A big piece.

It's not just red; it's... furry... soft.  What... what's behind my wall.  Let's see.  Grab more pieces.  Pull.  Pull.  Pull... Oh.  Oh, no.  Dammit, I didn't know that's where it was.  Shit.  Amber will see it.  Cover it up, but, its eyes beg me not to.  "You're mine."  Shit, I'll wake up Amber at that volume, "You're mine.  I'm not sharing you with Amber.  She'll dump me if she knows about you."  There it stands as a perfect oxymoron, the pleading, the soft red fur, the cushiony belly, all thrown around the gaping mouth full of yellowing spikes and horns jutting out of an over-sized head.  The monster.  The lovable, cuddly, soothing, shaming, hating, embarrassing monster.

"I have to cover you up."  Shit, the alarm.  Oh, Amber's going to be here any minute.  Um... okay, maybe she'll be too tired to notice him.  "Be cool, man."

"Mmmhmmm, what?  What in the hell are you doing in here?  After what you did to me last night I thought you'd be sound asleep."

Stand as big as I can, maybe she won't notice it behind me.  "Oh," laugh... oh, not like that, she'll know you're hiding something, "I just went to the bathroom right before the alarm went off."

Good, she's popping zits in the mirror, maybe she won't see him.  "Hmm, okay, well, I'm going back to bed.  You're more than welcome to join me."

"O-okay.  Yeah, I'll be there in a minute."  She didn't notice it, thank heaven, but what am I going to do with it before she wakes....

"Hey, you haven't been doing drugs again have you."  Shit, she's staring right at us.  She has to see him now, we're so screwed.

"No... no, of course not.  I told you, I gave that up a year ago."

How can she not see the monster standing right behind me?  "Okay.  You just seem a little weird this morning.  You'll tell me if you ever do, right?"

"Oh, absolutely.  But, that won't ever happen because I am so done with that stuff."

She doesn't look convinced.  "Okay.  Well, come to bed would you?  We stayed up late last night."

"Yeah, just a minute."  Good, she's gone.  "Look, buddy, you've got to go... now, don't look at me like that, Amber will leave if she ever finds out about you... Okay, you can stay, but you've got to stay out of sight okay?  I have no idea how she didn't see you this time.  Stay in the closet or something.  Somewhere she won't go.  You know I love you, I just can't let her know you're still around.  Now, I'm going to bed; you fix this wall before we wake up.  You've done it before; do it again.  Goodnight."