Does Success In Gaming Make You Fail At Life?

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As you step out of your lovely suburban home today, inhabited by your beautiful wife and two well mannered children, before walking over to the gleaming SUV parked in the driveway, spare a thought for Dave. Dave, somewhat unwittingly, sacrificed all of those things and continues to do so, due to his passion for saving the world…which he’s done now twice…this week…from the comfort of his bedroom…where he lives with his parents…at the age of 40. Dave is no less of an achiever, or any less dedicated, but the fruits of his labour hold very little real world value, because they don’t take place there. Dave is a gamer.

Dave may well be a bit of an exaggeration (or not) and a stereotype, but does dedication to gaming contribute to under achieving in life, at least when compared to other pastimes? I say other past times because that is of course the obvious argument. If you spend an unhealthy amount of time doing anything that is not “real life” productive – watching TV for example – it has to impact on your capacity to be productive. It’s a simple, logical fact. You can’t spend 18 hours a day doing fuck all and expect to get anywhere. It’s not a gaming thing, it’s a work/life balance thing, and on that much I agree.

I think gaming differs in a couple of ways though, ways with make it an increased risk to under achieving. Firstly, I’d argue that gaming is more addictive than other forms of entertainment by design. These are products that are manufactured to keep you both playing and then paying, with drip fed downloadable content. Gamers tend to actively feed their addiction by seeking new games out, and then find it harder to put them down, when compared to more casual pastimes.

You then have the social interaction. There is only so much time a normal human being can spend on their own before they need to interact with other people. I vaguely remember reading a study once (or possibly just a theory) that stated: if placed in a room all alone, but with everything they desired, the average person would still want to leave within a day. Gamings online capabilities provide that vital interaction, making it a much more sustainable bubble.

I think the big danger with gaming though, and how it really can hinder your real life achievements, is by providing those achievements itself. I myself have saved multiple civilisations, won all manner of sporting championships and saved the same bloody princess for the last 3o fucking years. I’ve adventured across the highest mountains, plunged into the deepest seas and seen the furthest reaches of the galaxy. I am constantly doing amazing stuff and medium is constantly raising the bar. Had gaming not provided this fulfilment for me, there’s a good chance that void would need to be filled with other, more tangible, things.

I’ve always been aware that gaming is a diverse, time-consuming and very powerful medium, yet been ignorant of the potential for oppression that the power possesses. We’ve all played games where a slightly disconcerting counter displays the total time played and the value recorded states days. If gaming simply didn’t exist, the average gamer would recoup thousands upon thousands of hours. That is a lot of time, and you know what they say time is.

That is of course assuming you did go out and use that time more productively. If, due to the absence of gaming, you used that spare time to learn new skills and didn’t just watch more TV. If you then applied those skills in lucrative ways. If that resulted in a wife, kids and suburban home. If that is what success is. Which then brings it all back to the biggest if of them all.

If you did those things instead – if you were a success -would you actually be any happier than Dave?

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Wicky-Wicky Wild Wild West

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Every once in a while in gaming the age old complaint about the prevalence of nasty men on the internet resurfaces in some form. It could be via a blog post that goes viral, some new study or, as with recently, a new BBC 3 video on the subject.

The medium may change, but the argument is always the same: the world of internet gaming is full of nasty men that will abuse you the second you enter into their dark realm/game lobby.

Whenever I listen to this bullshit two things always come to mind. Firstly, this complaint is about a decade out of date, and secondly, boy do I miss those cunts.

See, if you’re an OG of Online Gaming (an OGOG if you will) you’ll have been privy to the days when this image of the community was, in some ways, vaguely true. I’d argue that it’s never been as bad as people will have you believe, but it was certainly more a matter of when (and how frequently) you’d experience it, rather than if you’d experience it. If you gamed online back then you were going to run into one of these douche-bags sooner rather than later, and the games they inhabited seemed to be a little more clearly defined (Gears of war was a particularly bad cesspit).

This magical time in gaming was pre 2008 before the introduction of a little thing called party chat. Back then, services like Xbox Live really were the wild west of sexism, homophobia and general douche-bagery. Everyone had a mic, and very few were afraid to use them. Each time you entered a lobby, you didn’t know what you were going to hear. Sometimes it was smack talk, sometimes it was game chat, sometimes it was discussions about where people were from, but the key thing was, it was always people interacting.  Once party chat was released, everything changed. We all paired off into our little friendship circles and the general game chat died.

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If you fire up a game of battlefield tonight chances are you won’t get abused. You won’t get harassed. You won’t get like minded individuals discussing the loadouts on their M16 either. You won’t get anything. No one talks online any more. Well, not outside of party chat anyway. Most will see this as a good thing. There own safe spaces have been created to hide away in. Me, I miss the good/bad old days when randoms used to talk to each other. I’d tolerate the abusive arseholes because it’s much easier to click mute on an arsehole than it is to get everyone talking again. During all that talking, arguing, abusing and general banter enemies were made, but more importantly, friendships were forged. During these early years of Xbox Live I met people that went on to become some of my closest friends. This is something that I don’t think would be possible any more. Devoid of chat, the randoms I play online with now are little more that bots with better AI. I have no interest in befriending them.

I’m not arguing that online abuse doesn’t happen any more, that would be silly. But now that I find silent lobbies are the norm and have been for years, I struggle to recognise the portrayal of gaming that is being presented. I’m certainly not an advocate for online abuse either, and I appreciate that I’m of a demographic that got it less than others, but with the silent community that now exists, I can’t help wonder if more has been lost than has ever been gained.

This Month In Gaming (Feb 2016)

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For someone that starts many games and yet finishes very few, I’ve actually managed to complete three games in the last month. That might not mean much to you, but for me it’s quite an achievement. They were also all titles on the platform that time forgot/ignored: The Playstation Vita.

Grim Fandango

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I don’t think I’ve ever played a game that is so brilliant and yet so rubbish at the same time. See, Grim Fandango is a piece of pure creative excellence that is unfortunately coupled to game mechanics of pure dog shit. It’s an adventure game where you play as Manny, a grim reaper/sales man who’s job it is to guide recently departed souls and advise them on what travel package entitlement they have for their journey across the land of the dead to the ninth underworld. It’s all pretty off the wall stuff, and it’s packed with fittingly off the wall characters, locations and plot twists. All of which are some of the most interesting and memorable I’ve seen.

However, the archaic (although lets not forget this is a game from the 90’s) point ‘n’ click adventure style gameplay quickly becomes a chore. The puzzles aren’t very logical, so it becomes a case of trying every object on every bit of the environment, or simply turning to the internet. I soon found myself playing with one eye on the game, the other on a walk-through. This would generally be the part where I simply stop playing, but the fore mentioned brilliance of the story kept me compelled to finish it.

As I say, it’s a really odd one. A poor game to play, yet a great one to experience.

Fez

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It’s probably about the third time I’ve come back to this game, and finally it clicked. As I often say, I’m a very fickle gamer and I have to be in the right mood at the right time (bow chicka bow wow) for certain games. This time I obviously was because it not only clicked, it clicked hard. At first it comes across as a simple platformer with a neat perspective rotating mechanic – which it is – but there’s also a bit more going on beneath the surface. I think my initial stumbling block was that I was playing it as an A to B platformer, and then getting confused/lost with all the bloody doors. Once I started using the map properly, and unearthed what I was meant to be doing to progress, I found myself lost to it for hours.

I came to find that Fez has a very endearing charm to it. The mix of platforming and puzzle solving (with sometimes the levels themselves being rubix cube style puzzle-platformers) combined with the pleasant, vibrant visuals and enchanting soundtrack come together in such a way that I now understand why people rate the game as they do.

The final game of the three that I completed was Resogun. Although there is an ending of sorts, it’s still not really a game that you play for that. It’s arcadey nature – Defender on crack, if you will – make it a game that you really play for high scores more than anything else. A solid enough game that is fun to play, but still not quite up there with games like Luftrausers in my opinion.

Stupid is as stupid does

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And finally….being that I am not a fan of scary games, I intelligently decided that Alien Isolation would be a sensible purchase. I’m not sure what compelled me to buy it? Possibly the £10 price tag? Possibly because it generated a fair amount a hype? Possibly because I’m a moron? Anyway, it’s actually pretty good. I highly doubt I’ll compete it. My bravery only lasts about 20 minutes, so I pretty much turn it off every time I find the next save point. I do appreciate the pacing (lack thereof) and the atmosphere though. Few games dare to utilise those aspects in such a way like Alien Isolation does. I’m about two hours in and I’ve only seen a glimpse of the Alien once…in a cutscene. It’s actually a bit of a shame that I a) know I’m playing an Alien game and b) know what Alien is, because this game would be phenomenal to go into knowing nothing, other than what you’re presented with. It would be great to share in that mystery with Amanda (the person you play as) rather than secretly knowing what the deal is, before you actually know.

I may not be that far it, but it’s clear that the development team behind this one know exactly what it is that makes for a good “Alien” game and have nailed the execution precisely.

 

 

 

Definition of a Gamer

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The discussion (ok, argument) around who does and who doesn’t get to bear the prestigious title of “Gamer” is a common one. Who is worthy to kneel before the great Shigeru Miyamoto and have the accolade bestowed upon them, and who is merely a two-bit phoney?

It seems as straightforward as it is ridiculous really. A bit of a non-argument. By virtue of picking up a controller and starting to play a game, you become a gamer: Simples. Well, yes and no. I mustered up all my culinary skills and cooked a pot noodle the other day, but I feel I might be slightly over-egging it to start referring to myself as a chef.

No, pick up a controller and you may well be gaming, but it doesn’t make you a gamer. You see, If it were that simple there would be no case at all when it comes to those that bemoan the fake-gamer girls, with their cleavage filling webcams or dirty casuals, with their crappy farmville on Facebook. I mean to some, the term “mobile gaming” is nothing short of an oxymoron.

Although I don’t necessary subscribe to that school of thought, I do believe there is a bit more to it than simply playing a video game. I’m not a massive fan of labels but”Gamer” is one of the few I do use to describe myself. I don’t do it out of pride or any form of misplaced self-righteousness. In fact; as a man in his thirties, I’m actually very reserved about mentioning it in certain circles. No, I use that label for the profound reason of: IT FUCKING FITS.

If you find yourself playing, talking about and enjoying a fair amount of video games, I’m sorry to break this to you, but you’re probably a gamer too. Don’t worry though, you don’t need to start living in a basement, or watching an unhealthy amount of internet porn; those things are completely optional.

Established gamers, you don’t need to worry either. People being really into Clash of Clans or spending most of their time on Minecraft aren’t diluting the gene pool. Despite stupid articles* claiming otherwise, gamers aren’t over in the slightest; on the contrary, they’re stronger and more diverse than ever. It isn’t your £4000 gaming rig or what you choose to play on it that defines you as a gamer, it’s simply your love of games.

*I don’t actually think the article is stupid, I just think the choice of framing was so misguided that it undermined the point being made.