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Lessons on taking games just seriously enough

5:00 PM on 11.08.2009 // Andrew Kauz

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There’s a very obvious divide in the way that people, even on this “hardcore gamer’s Web site,” approach videogaming. To some, it is their lifeblood -- a thing of utter divinity that cannot be trifled with by anyone. To others, it is the silly, nerdy hobby that you’re still secretly embarrassed about participating in. Others enjoy it as a passion, and still others use it to provide their livelihood. We’re all slightly different in our judgments of gaming.

Yet some still don’t seem to know how to feel about gaming. They make arguments like “it’s only a videogame,” while arguing with someone else who maintains that a game shouldn’t be made unless it’s art. The seriousness of gaming is called into question, and our weaponry consists of empty statements such as “gaming is serious business.” We join sides and create silly wars, attacking some for being overcritical of a game, and attack others for not being critical enough.

The problem is that we’re not taking gaming seriously on the right level. It’s not completely serious, and it’s not completely frivolous, and any argument made to the contrary is utter nonsense.

It’s only a game.

It’s a statement that we’ve all heard, and perhaps even used, at some point. We toss it out like Halloween candy to keep the ghosts and zombies off our doorsteps, ending serious arguments by attempting to invalidate the entire justification for arguing in the first place. If it’s only a game, why have an argument at all? You’re stupid if you take this seriously. It’s only a game, after all.

It’s a statement as empty as the minds of those who use it like some sort of crutch. Really, is there any meaning at all in there? It’s nothing more than a trope that people hide behind when they cannot argue for themselves.

It’s also a ridiculous generalization. Even if they don’t themselves possess the ability to see a game as others see it, they must at least be able to acknowledge the relatively large number of people for whom games are everything. I’m talking about the increasing number of people who rely upon gaming as a career, and especially the ones who make them.

Yes, there are people behind the games being created here. They’re people who need to eat. They’re people who want you to take their games seriously -- whether it’s as a product, piece of art, or form of entertainment -- so that they can justify all of their hard work and maintain a livelihood.

These aren’t fucking board games, people. These are complex pieces of entertainment that people slave over for years before releasing in the hopes that their product might rise above the pack and provide their company with enough money to stay in operation, keep food upon the tables of its employees, and maybe, just maybe, provide them with that Ferrari that they’ve always dreamed of.

So they’re certainly not just games to these people. They’re life. They’re often what makes the difference between a person being happy and a person working some cubicle-monkey job for the rest of his life. Let’s not devalue what they do by saying that everything that they’ve put into their final product is “only a game.”

It devalues what many people consider to be a passion, as well. Gaming is not my life -- not even close. I imagine that most of you on here are the same way. But I’d be fooling myself if I said that it wasn’t a damn big part of my life. It’s something that I enjoy doing, thinking about, talking about and, obviously, writing about.

Mostly, people just need to stop suggesting that there’s no meaning in games if they themselves cannot find it. It’s great if you want to think of games as this silly, meaningless hobby that you do in your free time. Really, that’s fine. But stop feigning anger at people who think of it as something more than that. Just because you don’t connect with the games you play on a deeper level doesn’t mean that others can’t.

Games have made people cry. Deal with it.

I told you I was hardcore: The narrow path

It’s not hard to find gamers that can’t seem to remember one critical aspect of gaming: fun. They think all that gaming has become is something to be angry about. Games aren’t what I want them to be. Games aren’t doing enough to give me what I need. Games don’t try hard enough to be art.

I have plenty of critical things to say about gaming. I think game stories can be better. I think that there are certain aspects of games that are stupid. I think there are certain games that everybody loves that just don’t deserve that amount of adoration.

The difference, however, is that some of us manage to not be a cock about it.

There are a lot of different ways that people engage in dickishness when it comes to taking games way, way too seriously. Take, for instance, the guy who systematically shits on any post or forum thread that disagrees with his point of view. They might be a console crusader, an overall jackass/troll, or someone who legitimately doesn’t realize that they’re going a little overboard with their love of a particular game. The cause may not always be “taking games too seriously,” but if we really take a look at those people, I think it often is.

What is really frustrating is that people seem quick to make themselves miserable because they simply can’t find the fun in games anymore. It’s something typical of many gaming forums (not, thankfully, Destructoid’s). A thread will begin a month prior to the game’s release, and its contents will reflect a sense of anticipation, enjoyment of the game’s promotional videos, and general good will. The days after the game’s release will see that anticipation turn to pure enjoyment. However, days later, the discussion devolves into a pissing match, with some people simply trying to enjoy the game while others systematically pick it apart.

Is it bad to be critical? Of course not. Criticism is good, but only when it is meant to lead to improvement (or when it’s funny as shit). Some people seem to criticize because they want to be seen as these really edgy, informed people who can see everything that’s wrong with a game that the unwashed masses miss. It’s a pathetic ploy to make themselves seem better than others.

Again, the cause of this may or may not be “taking games too seriously.” But it’s hard to deny that there are people out there that get just a little too riled up over certain things. And it’s not helping anything.

So what do I do?

I’m not here to change how you feel about gaming. It doesn’t matter. But if the reaction to some recent Destructoid articles has taught me anything, it’s that some people seem unwilling to acknowledge the varying levels to which people take games seriously, and it’s causing intelligent discussion to devolve into pissing matches.

So, for one, please stop suggesting that the degree to which you take games seriously is the correct way. It’s not. Gaming isn’t this two-dimensional entity that can be summed up in one collective experience. We all experience it in a different way, and different games are meant to affect us in varying ways. The intended impacts of Flower and Modern Warfare 2 are, obviously, quite different. Why should we lump them into being all about either “fun” or “serious business”?

Secondly, stop trying to suggest that discussions shouldn’t take place simply because you don’t have anything to say about them. It’s fine if you have no opinion about a topic; really, it is! But when you break up a real discussion with something like, “It’s only a game, this discussion is stupid,” then you just make yourself look like a jerk. If people want to discuss something they deem to be controversial, why not let them? If you don’t think it’s that big of a deal, either explain why you feel that way or just chill out. There’s never a reason to suggest that a discussion shouldn’t take place. If you don’t like what’s being said, that’s no reason to wish those differing opinions away. That’s just weak.

While you’re at it, why not try to understand where others are coming from? Before I played Flower, I really couldn’t fathom why people seemed to enjoy it so much. So you know what I did? I played the damn game. And guess what? I saw exactly what people were talking about. Did I experience it on the same level as everyone else? No. It didn’t make me cry like it did for some people. But at the same time, I could understand where they were coming from. I saw that people weren’t taking it too seriously; they were just experiencing something in a way that I hadn’t understood before I experienced it for myself.

Really, it’s a matter of taking games just seriously enough, and all this requires is a willingness to accept that games aren’t only serious business, and they’re not “just games.”

And, seriously, what is that shit even supposed to mean?

Andrew Kauz,
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