I want you to take a second: remember being a kid. Remember the first time you got a video game console and games. Remember how cool that was? For me, it was Christmas day. I hooked my brand new N64 up for the first time, popped in my brand new copy of Super Smash Bros. and played it for hours, a smile on my face the whole time. I was having honest to god fun. What happened to that?
The last couple weeks have been an awful representation of “gamers.” Between the death threats, bomb threats, doxxing attacks and general bad attitudes that people tend to have, things have been looking pretty dismal. I just want to take a moment to let people remember why this is our hobby in the first place: video games are awesome.
As a gamer, we’re able to engage ourselves in stories, and do things we would never, ever be able to do in real life. We can fight crime, we can be criminals, we can go to space, we can roam the old west, hell we can stave off zombies with a god damn food cart. We can do almost anything through games.
The way I’ve personally always seen games, is that they can be a sort of culmination of arts, almost a miracle of modern artistry. The confluence of art design, music, sculpture, writing, and film: all in one product that almost anyone can access. Games have the ability to make you laugh, cry, feel confused, feel joyful, feel angry and in general just feel. They’re miracles of modern technology that you’re able to literally exist in. The first time I played Bioshock on the Xbox 360 it blew my god damn mind because I knew I was playing art!
Video games can bring people together as well. The experience of just sitting down with some friends, some beers and a copy of Mario Kart 8 or Halo 2 is the very definition of fun. I’ve met some of my very best friends in the world by talking about and playing video games together with them. I bought a Wii U a couple months back, and I’ve been having so much fun with it because it has some of the best i local multiplayer games out there right now. It’s not just limited to local multiplayer either, just the other day, two of my fellow Critical D-ers, Mike, Ruben and I, played Civilization 5 together even though we’re hundreds of miles away from each other. Games truly can be a unifying experience.
So what happened? When did games stop being about enjoyment and start fueling so much hate? In no other creative medium in the world (not film, not music, not art, not writing) is there so much hostility towards both the creators and the other people who enjoy them. The Purge Anarchy was awful, but you don’t see anyone doxxing Universal’s website as a result.
I’m not going to defend every game, bad games do exist. I’m also not going to defend every game maker, as sometimes shady things do happen. The thing to do as a response isn’t to become hostile, it’s to move on and make constructive criticism. Don’t like Sony? What you should do is avoid buying a Playstation. What you shouldn’t do is call in a bomb threat to the plane the president of the company is flying in. Disagree with Anita Sarkeesian? What you shouldn’t do is find her address and threaten her personally. What you should do is not watch her videos, and politely disagree with her.
A number of other websites have determined that “gamers” as a group are dead, and I’m here to say that isn’t true. Gamers will exist as long as there are games to play and people who enjoy them.
What is a gamer then? To me, it’s somebody, anybody, who enjoys the act of playing video games. If your game of choice is Angry Birds, great, you’re a gamer. If you’ve spent hundreds of hours playing World of Warcraft, you’re a gamer too. The fact is that you enjoy what you’re doing, and that’s the most important part.
I’m reminded of a quote from the Disney Pixar movie Ratatouille. The vicious food critic Anton Ego says, after all is done: “In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face is that, in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so.” I’m not saying we shouldn’t critique bad games or bad policies, we should, but they should be critiques not hateful diatribes, and we should always remember to be humble.
It doesn’t matter if you play on Xbox One, PS4 or PC. It doesn’t matter if you play Minecraft or Call of Duty. It doesn’t matter if you spend 18 hours a day playing or only seven. What’s important is that we all share a hobby, and that we all love games. So I want everyone to remember that first time they played a video game and bring that joy back to today when you pick up a controller or sit down at your computer. Remember that video games are awesome.