August 6th, 2008
Since I first picked up a controller and pressed the buttons, to see visual confirmation on the screen, I became fascinated by games. As a child, I played them for hours on end when I could, discussed, defended and debated them in the playground, drew pictures of them during free time and art classes, read about them and wrote stories about them. Despite my interest in the medium there was and has always been resistance. By my parents who restricted play time, from classmates who stigmatized me and my friends as social inadequates, in the media whom link video games to negative social behaviour.
Throughout all of the hard times though there was something to keep me going. Something that I have faith in. Allow me to try and explain to you what it is:
When we play games there is a psychology deeply rooted between us and the experience. With the experience being feedback generated from gameplay. The interlocking of player and experience builds up an affinity within us, creating an obvious affection towards this medium. We receive visual confirmation on screen and hence relate to that, even in the slightest form. It is this affinity that I’m attempting to describe that is the core of the playing experience.
When discussing the social difficulty of being a gaming enthusiast it is easy for me to lay the blame on those outside of our collected group. This is not the case. The reason why our parents, friends, media feel this way towards us is because we have a disconnect created through misunderstanding. They have never been hit by the same impact from games that we have and no one has ever sat them down and tried to explain to them how it feels to have that impact. In a nutshell: they fail to understand and we fail at explaining it to them.
Deep down within all of us enthusiast there is an utmost love and respect for the games we play and overall we only want the best for our industry. This is, of course, very much influenced by the ‘experience of play’ which I tried to describe.
Our problem is that we fail to correctly inform our peers of the impact that games have on us. We fail to technically justify what it it exactly, within the game and all its mechanics that send endorphins rushing through our head. Infact, worse than that we still fail to justify this to ourselves. In which case how can we possibly describe it to others.
As an industry we need to very quickly realize our medium for what it is worth. We need to frame video games as something special, something important which should garner high discussion and then justify this with deep analytical thought proving why video games are so very dear to us, with relevance to the culture, experience and life. Our writing should reflect our passion so that it can be celebrated, discussed and understood by gamers and non-gamers alike. Instead we often seek to inform though fact rather than converge through opinion, even modern game reviews are just bullet points outlining a game’s components and only contain glimpses of subjective opinions. This has to change.
I believe this in this so strongly that between us and the game there is something important. There really is, even 8-bit games, infact, especially in 8-bit games. Something worthy of discussion that has remained dormant since the birth of games.
We are undoubtedly a long way away from becoming a widely respected medium, you don’t need to look far to see that. Which is why we need to concentrate our efforts on higher thinking to prove our importance to others.
I feel as though I’ve placed a heavy burden on your shoulders, dear readers. This is by no means the intention of this piece. What I am trying to preach is perhaps a lessen of consequence. We’re all familiar with how it feels to be brushed side ways as a result of bad press towards our favoured past time. Our medium is worth more than that though and I believe so strongly that deeply down embedded in the very thing we love is our answer.
So I urge those of you who read and write about games, to think hard about what exactly it is that drives your interest in this medium and try to express this through your writing. There is talk among us bloggers about forming new vocabulary to translate these feelings into literature, I have a great respect for this. For now though, I think that it is best if we all just try to think a little harder about games, to think critically because once we reach that mindset, the vocabulary will soon follow and so will understanding.