Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Game-dar

Was working with a colleague today and started chatting about life (non-work) stuff. As I like to consider myself a gamer, I mention my passion for games when opportunities like this present themselves. After some apprehensive pauses and a caveat of "Well, I haven't played in ages", it turns out that my co-worker is a fan of KOTOR. Now this took me by surprise. When people say they haven't played in ages, it usually means the last time they took up the "sticks" (as my neighbor, who is much cooler than I, calls controllers) was for Super Mario Bros or some variant of Madden. KOTOR, well, KOTOR is in a different league entirely.

If you play through a Star Wars RPG, you're a gamer. I don't care how you spin it. You've firmly entrenched yourself into gamer geekdom, case closed. Now, I didn't actually bring this up to him but I became acutely aware that he was very self-conscious about this revelation, as if this was the first time he came out of the gamer closet.

Sure, this story probably isn't unique. You probably run into people you'd never guess could kick your ass in Halo or blindside you in AOE 4. The thing is, why aren't these people more open about their gaming? The dreaded gamer stigma? Perhaps... that would be the obvious explanation.

I have an alternate theory: Let's call it the lonely gamer syndrome. There are very few titles out there that make it easy for people to talk to each other. Unlike watching Lost or Heroes, there's a lack of a common but disassociated experience. Sure, games have story lines that we could talk about but I think there's a problem with game story lines. When we play games and we assume the role of the protagonist, we internalize the story. There's just no good way to say, "Well, when I decided not to kill that guy, it was a poignant moment." That just doesn't work for me. Sports games are the same. "Dude, I was 2 points down with only half a second to go and I made this killer dunk that shook the house!" I can't quite put my finger on it but it sounds weird.

Would we get more social acceptance of games if we had more games we could talk about openly without that weird feeling described above? Are games, as a form of interactive entertainment, doomed to forever help us escape but not relate?

5 comments:

Vernox said...

Well I believe as the Video Games popularity increase (generally speaking), and the way they are played becomes more entertaining there will be more social acceptance for them.

A little info about the Wii here. I hang out with girls who aren't video gamers at all. I mean these girls are petite and were the popular ones in school. Well I have brought some over to play the Nintendo Wii, needless to say after they get used to it and don't care about how funny you look swinging a controller they really like it. Sure I'm pretty much positive that some will be like no way but games are getting there and we can all thank nintendo for that. Go Wii sports!

Oh p.s. Ken aka Crusader says hi!

Ken said...

Give my best to Crusader! Hope you guys are doing ok back there. I haven't checked in with the team for a long time but I think things are pretty good.

But to your point. The Wii is definitely an exception. It has social pull during and after a gaming session. But my point about other games is not so much about the social acceptance of gaming in general, you're absolutely right that as more people game, more will be comfortable talking about it. What seemed interesting to me is that it may be the form of entertainment itself that's creating awkwardness when talking about it. Perhaps we just don't have a good way to talk about the experience yet and the vernacular and social nuisances will catch up eventually.

Vernox said...

Haha will do. And BOTS is kind of a mess. Hackers and overpopulation have ruined what we grew to like during the betas.

I would have to agree with you on "we just don't have a good way to talk about the experience yet".

Bildo said...

Definitely have to agree about the Wii. The idea behind the whole system is to break down the wall this post speaks of. I just hope us gaming geeks don't lose out on our "l337 gamez" for the sake of the Mario Parties. :)

I kid, I kid.

By the by, great blog. I was directed over here by a post from Amber on Cuppytalk. Good stuff, man. Keep it up. :)

Aaron said...

Nice post.

I think it's easier to talk with someone (another gamer, at least) about a game they haven't played than about a movie they haven't seen or a book they haven't read, but enthusiastic conversations are still usually limited to games both people have played.

There was a good blog about games and society a few months ago, but I don't remember whose site it was on. Anyway, someone pointed out that films were not taken too seriously by the mainstream until they started tackling serious and current societal issues in an intelligent way. Games have started to move that way, but the industry's storytelling methods are too often stuck on traditions that don't cross over well from film or novels. Once the industry figures out ways to tell a story without taking control away from the player, we'll start seeing games in the vein of films like Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan (not "fun" or "entertaining", but "compelling" instead).