Wednesday, May 1, 2013

it's okay to like games

this post is somewhat inspired by me being very confused and frankly kind of disturbed after reading about this man's experiences quitting the internet for a year. he seems in many ways like the perfect portrait of a clueless, aimless white middle-class 20-something. with that in mind:


it's okay to like videogames. yes, the culture is bad. the culture is very bad. i'm not making any excuses for it.

there's an undertone of shame to a great percentage of writing i read about games. the tone is of "i'm a pathetic human being who can't live a normal and healthy life and that's why i play videogames". from there one either attempts to exorcise that shame in a cathartic burst of words to connect with an audience of similarly-minded shame-feelers or defends it in all kinds of silly and childish ways and grasps at straws and greatly inflates particular experiences with games in an attempt to prove to the greater culture supposedly oppressive towards games that the experiences are legitimate and meaningful. either way says much more about the writer than it does about the game itself. games, like any other medium have absolutely no need to prove they are legitimate in the first place. they exist, therefore they are legitimate.

videogames are addicting, sure, but all entertainment is addicting. it's plenty easy to get lost into the worlds of tv shows or films too. addiction is a personal compulsion. it's not an excuse to say that a videogame is causing addicting behavior, though many commercial games certainly have tried to feed off that as best they can.

your feelings are valid. you are not a victim. entertainment is making you feel like you're missing out, like you're a loser for not participating in this imaginary cultural image of what people in their 20's in 30's are supposed to be doing. this is not real. culture is preying on you. stop being a victim, and stop feeling sorry for yourself.

if you feel passionate about games, it's almost certainly because you've had enjoyable and meaningful experiences with them in the past. sure, maybe they were an escape from a stressful or lonely or depressive or abusive external life, but there's more to it than that. there's a joy there from experiencing and exploring a digital space, just as anyone would feel joy from exploring a non-digital space. don't try to devalue that. it is perfectly genuine, as are any other of your experiences outside the digital realm. it's just one other way to interact with the world.

do you have friends? you should call up a friend and hang out. just spending time around other people in the same room as you is nice. even if you're playing videogames - at least talk to each other. don't spend your time staring at your phone or computer. you don't have to escape into the woods and meditate for 12 hours every day in order to live life and feel okay about yourself. games are not a substitute for human interaction, nor should they be. games are not destroying human interaction either. they are what they are and they do what they do, no more or no less than that.

movies and and books and music and visual art are not inherently more or less valid than games. they're just another aspect of the human experience. they do, however, have a lot more breadth because of existing as a medium for much longer. being aware of them is a good way to open up to a lot of things you will certainly miss playing videogames. but you shouldn't feel shamed into consuming them, or that you are a lesser person for not being aware of one thing or another. nor are they there as a "pretentious" exercises in manipulation or making you feel bad. art is there to enrich and be enjoyed, not score social points. fuck anyone who treats it the latter way. the impulse to make art is a basic human one, not an attempt to make oneself feel superior to others.

i'm tired of feeling like i'm writing to 17 year olds when i write about games. if we can't accept a base level of validity to the thing we're talking about without having to constantly feel shame and prove and defend its existence, then i'm not interested in participating in discussions surrounding games. it's stupid and boring to have so much of the talk be constantly channeled through that. who cares what Roger Ebert or whoever else who never played a videogame thinks or has thought. games are games and they can do good or bad things depending on how they're used. they're only just one tool.

so yes, turn off your computer once in awhile and watch a good movie or read a book. or go walk around in the park and cook your own food or all of that. those are important parts of the human experience. but don't do it as an exercise in shame. and don't do it thinking it will make you a perfect person, and therefore cure you of the dirty vice of games. and definitely don't expect it to provide you with same kind of experience as a game does. a videogame is not meant to give you a life. when it does, it's usually a pretty poor one. it is just one tiny window in a vast ocean of human experience. it's a pretty neat window sometimes, but that's all it is. to acknowledge this also opens up the possibility of being a somewhat happy, empathetic, socially aware person who can still enjoy games for what they are - and no more or no less than that.

6 comments:

  1. Well writ. I think even within a decade they'll have become so much of a part of "regular" culture that the vice/shame halo will have faded.

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  2. Thanks for the write-up. You're absolutely right that it's okay, and breadth is okay too, and breadth is good for you. It seems obvious, but people forget these things all the time.

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  3. I completely agree. Every time the gaming community flies into a tantrum because some old person generalized the entire space, I'm confused it has any effect. As you say, it still picks at a deep-seated insecurity that has somehow survived.

    Some day the president of the NRA will blame games and nobody will listen because the idea itself is absurd. That will be a good day.

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  4. I liked this but the lack of capitalization made it a little hard to read.

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  5. Absolutely agree. The repetitive nature of the binary debate between "good" or "bad" is not productive and completely irrelevant. "games, like any other medium have absolutely no need to prove they are legitimate in the first place. they exist, therefore they are legitimate." So spot on.

    That being said, The Verge journalist I think you are referring to (if it is the same story you are referencing) wrote an piece detailing his experience after the year was over. Many of his thoughts reflect your own. http://www.theverge.com/2013/5/1/4279674/im-still-here-back-online-after-a-year-without-the-internet

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  6. Have just encountered your page and I guess you should be complimented for this piece. More power to you!

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