Video games

Play what you feel like

I’ve developed a bit of a personal gaming mantra in the last few months. It’s something I’ve always adhered to, but as the pressures of other commitments have kept me away from video games for longer and longer stretches it’s been made all the more important.

It’s a very basic idea and it’s remarkably liberating. Ditch the video game magazines, the PR spin and the website hype for a while and play what you feel like.

Not a new idea, but sometimes a rare one

The video game industry lives and dies on the members of the gaming community keeping their fingers on the pulse. We’re actively encouraged in nearly every media output to aspire to the next great game. Every potential gaming experienced already slightly mired by the anticipation the next big thing. We live for product cycles – beautifully designed gaming experiences but products nonetheless.

I’ve been easing myself out of this cycle in recent months. Playing based on mood and gaming appetite rather than anyone elses steer. A good game is a good game forever – despite how late into its release (be it days, or years) until you finally get around to playing it. Getting home and playing what your desire right at that moment – no matter what – is such an underrated pleasure.

Off the beaten path

Instead of desiring the gaming’s industries latest and greatest I’ve working through the guilty mass of secrets that is my gaming backlog. Starting and finishing games at my own pace, away from the worry of spoilers. As a result I’m avoiding the nervous hurry of wanting to finish and complete a game before elements of it are spoiled. Ultimately though it’s time for myself away from the scruntinous glare of others – a somewhat guilty pleasure – slightly at odds with my last post.

I’m moving away from being teased with details of a game months away from release. I am no longer being drip fed morsels of details about a game I desire. Instead I can simply examine the list of games I’ve always wanted to play, or pick up a title I’ve been meaning to experience.

I’ve realised throughout this process that I am a retro gamer at heart. Playing older games is at the very heart of my mantra. It’s also particularly exciting when I inspire this feeling in others; encouraging people to start or even return to a game that has languished on a shelf for years, it’s wonderful how a very personal urge, can evoke the same feeling in others.

Going back to gaming staples

I also use these quieter more contemplative moments of the gaming year to go back to games I love. These titles are the backbone of my video game palette and are tried and tested games that I can return to time and time again with minimal effort. I know them intimately. I’ve played them numerous times, and they are the benchmark upon which all future games are compared against.

These games are the rarest of the rare, they simply don’t come along often. There’s something both nostalgic and delightful about replaying these favourites. It takes me back to the pleasure of playing them for the first time, except I know every inch of their contents, and can play expertly from the off – it’s complete indulgence and a different sort of enjoyment to playing a new game.

I will eventually of course return to my desired new releases, but I am definitely a happier and more satisfied gamer in the meantime.


Are gamers selfish?

It’s a look I get often. A look of disdain and misunderstanding. I see it when I mention to most people that I play video games. Be it someone I’ve known years or just met. Their eyes gloss over, mind made up. Their perception of me is almost pre-drawn and near impossible to change.

Although it has taken me years to understand why this is; why something as normal and natural to me as any of my other hobbies provokes such a reaction. But now I know – they think I’m selfish.

Difficult to deal with

This gets to the heart of the issue I think. But for some reason gaming has developed the perception of being a selfish pastime. A solo effort. Something done alone, ignoring every other person and by association joy and social interaction in life. By admitting I enjoy games I am admitting to spending vast amounts of my time alone, ignoring my responsibilities and ambitions, and shunning the company of others.

The thing I find hardest to articulate after that look that makes me shudder, is that my hobby does not relate to any of these things. People who have this perception of gaming find it hard to tease it from a dislike of the outdoors, or a waste of time. They ignore the obvious comparisons between game playing and TV watching or reading because the benefits of other hobbies are more obvious and often more immediate.

Nothing other than the pleasure that gaming brings is speedy. Culturally and artistically, it is a passion of slow burn. We need to spend years waiting for a game, hours mastering it. All for what is in reality a tiny proportion of our waking hours. As gamers we live for the moments of pleasure we work hard for like every other normal person.

Not selfish in the least

Years of pushing gamers to the margins of society has made it harder to meet like-minded individuals. We are often split-up by distance and thus resort to other looked down upon mediums (such as the internet) just to maintain the sorts of day-to-day conversations about our love that most other people take for granted.

It is the immediacy of pleasure that gaming affords that perpetuates the selfishness of the hobby. We are all apparently people that slink away from our real lives in order to indulge in virtual ones. Nothing is mentioned of the vast array of things that gaming has taught us, or the enlightenment offered by it’s music, heritage or artistic content. It’s profoundly social elements are largely ignored, the chatter around a screen that brings people together, the accessibility that its social ability affords. The vast array between pick up and play and unbridled complexity petered down in one quick and initial assumption.

The mass market of family-friendly, beautifully scripted (and expertly designed) gaming output is continuously undermined by the mainstream flogging of the same issues, particularly violence (to note one tired example). Of which comparable movies and TV programmes which flaunt similar populist content (which all mediums can be easily boiled down to if we’re honest) continue to limbo quite happily under the public consciousness in an enviable manner that I still don’t quite understand.

Moving on

I’m tired of that look. Despite seeing it thousands of times gaming has helped make me the person I am – a comparatively normal person by any stretch of the imagination, with a full-time job, worries, concerns and passions. One of them just happens to be gaming, and that fact alone out of the multitude of things I am capable of shouldn’t be the basis of anyone’s disdain or pity.

The only problem is, as hobbies go, we have the hard sell. The up-hill struggle to convince anyone that things are nearly always the polar opposite of what they expect. Video games have been and always will be profoundly social hobby filled with friendship, camaraderie and competition, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of, despite those disheartening looks, I am still remarkably and quietly proud of what I am part of.