MONTHLY MUSINGS #2
The gaming medium's relationship with its players' social interaction is a strange one, because while it is more conducive to offering shared experiences than books or film, which are usually experienced alone (most go to the cinema with friends, but don't interact with them while the movie is playing) and then discussed with others later, the sphere of people with whom you can share your games with tends to be far more limited. There aren't many people who deliberately avoid using other media: when I say I'm not much of a music person, I don't mean that I avoid listening to any music but rather that I'm very selective in my taste and it is less important to me than, say, cinema or literature.
As much as games are big business now, the vast majority of games are still targeted at a very specific audience. When people say that they're 'not gamers', they generally mean it in a far more absolute sense than those who claim not to partake in other media. While Nintendo have been trying to widen that audience recently, it's debatable how many of the young girls who own a DS and play Imagine Fluffy Kittenz
will continue playing once they've found less saccharine ways of spending their time. In a sense, calling oneself a gamer is an act of social divison (or tribalism, if that's a preferable term), an announcement that you are ready to commit much of your spare time to an activity that many of your loved ones will not only be unlikely to ever participate in, but be able to relate to in any way.
I think that's why those rare occasions when a gamer's family does engage in a shared gaming experience are so uniquely special, far more memorable than bonding over a shared love of a book or a film which is a more commonplace form of understanding. I have similar taste in entertainment to several of my family members, but as a gamer I'm on my lonesome. I've been gaming for at least two thirds of my life and 90% of that time the closest any family member has ever come to initiating a gaming discussion started with the sentences "Why are you always playing that thing?" or "You're looking pasty, go outside and get some fresh air."
But every now and again, the stars will align and my family will, by hook or by crook, find themselves sitting in front of a computer screen or a console and actually enjoying themselves. I wrote about Myst recently
, which is one of my first memories of sharing a game with my family even though, for once, I was the one watching (an eight-year old's advice is not much heeded on Myst Island) and they were the ones working things out and making progress. A few years after that I received an N64 for my birthday (apparently there's some video up on YouTube depicting the moment – I must have been a wee bit too excited to notice the camera*) and Mario Kart 64
. Seeing as how a birthday is the one time I can command family members to sit down and play some videogames with me, plus how the game is question is at its best with four players anyway, I got everyone huddled around the N64 and the rest of the night was devoted to arguments over whether shortcuts were fair and being abusive towards whomever had the temerity to get a lightning bolt as the rest of the family approached that infamous jump on Wario Stadium. We had a great time, but I didn't think much of it until my mum saw me playing a few days later and asked if she could join in. Needless to say, this became a habit and soon she was as addicted, if not moreso, than I was – her record time on Moo Moo Farm was a point of great pride for her, at least until my uncle paid a rare visit and beat it on his first go. It was a long time before she welcomed him back to our house again. Once the Mario Kart
drug had worn off, she returned to her previous stance on the matter that I spent far too much time playing games when I could be outside, foraging or something, but recently she's taken quite a liking to Wii Bowling (and even had a brief turn on Modern Warfare: Reflex Edition
, until an in-built sense of decorum made her aware of how unseemly it was for a lady to get excited over calling in an air-strike) and usually asks why I didn't bring the Wii home everytime I return from university. Well, they say you never truly quit.
This hasn't been the most original interpretation of a MM topic, but it's a welcome opportunity to be able to recall the occasions when family and gaming have collided, usually to happy or hilarious results. As enjoyable as it is to share battles over the internet, with friends, or even talking about my experiences to similar-minded people on a community site such as this one, it's often only in retrospect that we realise how special those moments when we can share our hobby with those closest to us is.
*I'm not really the N64 kid. **However, I own all on Wario Stadium. Want to know who got that lightning bolt? Cackle! PREVIOUS MONTHLY MUSINGS E For Effort: Red Steel
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