Is this the end?

Like most kids that grew up in Australia in the 80’s and 90’s, I was a very active kid. Sure, video games were there and I liked them, but you were more likely to find me kicking the footy around or having a knock or two of backyard cricket before dinner, than you were to find me sitting in front of the telly transfixed on whatever game was gripping the neighbourhood at the time.  I loved my Game Boy, I loved my Amiga 500, and later on I loved my Playstation, but there’s always been a niggling little something in the back of my mind that made me think I could be spending my time more wisely, like time gaming was time wasted.

And that continued into my teenage years, where again games were there, but they were never at front and centre.  While there were games that absolutely captured me, I made a conscious decision that they wouldn’t be what defined me, that it was the poorer cousin to the other things that made up who I was.  Sure, there were the moments where we’d all get together and huddle around the old-arse telly, passing ’round the old Xbox Duke controller where we’d take turns striking each other down with light sabres Jedi Knight style, engaging in the great Australian pastime of sledging while doing so.  But that was usually when the first signs of dehydration were starting to hit after hours upon hours of cricket at the school oval across the road in 40 degree weather.  Games were almost always an afterthought, and quite frankly, we’d all much rather have been bowling the odd bouncer at each other’s heads or watching the ball sail back over the bowler, than engaging in a venerable frag-fest.

The fact is, while I’ve always played video games, I have always held a level of contempt toward the people that play them.  While I have a perhaps inordinate level of respect for professional sportsmen and women who dedicate their lives to being the best in the nation, I find those that do the same in pursuit of being the best at ‘e-sports’ misguided.  In my country sport is almost a cultural lynchpin, it is the thing that holds so much of our social fabric together, bringing people together in a way nothing else can.  And the art of the analysis that follows is practically worthy of a nobel prize.  While I sit here internally praising the greatest minds of the cricket world – the way Shane Warne analyses the game of cricket in such minute detail – I am simultaneously thinking about just how much of the analysis of the video game industry is either (1) personal selfishness being passed off as financial analysis, or (2) pointless ranting in the service of legitimising the medium.   The internet has perhaps exacerbated my personal contempt for video game culture and is something that is increasingly impacting both how I play video games and how I choose to write about them.  But really it’s this pervasive negativity about everything that is making me disengage from the internet altogether.

So where does that leave me?  Well it leaves me in a position where I’m finding it increasingly more difficult to care about the video game industry.  It leaves me in a position where I’m starting to disengage from any semblance of social media.  But most importantly it’s taking away my drive to play video games the way I used to – and perhaps even more importantly driving me away from wanting to write about them.  And that’s a hard thing to come to grips with. So as the summer of cricket in Australia comes to an end, and the Super Rugby season hits full swing, I find myself thinking about where video games fit in to it all.  Whether they’re a main attraction or just a sideshow, a consolation prize, something to pass the hours during the odd month there is no sport on in the country.  And then and only then I’ll be able to answer one very simple question. Is this the end?

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What the f**k, mate?

25 Comments

  1. Two thoughts:

    1. Is gaming sometimes more like watching a movie than playing sport? It can be an immersive and creative pastime, but it may not have anything like the same level of social interaction and group experience. And that can be OK — but maybe what you’re picking up on is an antisocial vibe or something?

    2. To what extent is it possible to write about games without bothering about the industry?

  2. I think it’s the active interest people take in being passionate and taking glee in dwelling on the negatives. It is a toxic sub culture that has become what the people that pioneered it in the early days were fleeing – it has become almost elitist and exclusionary in how it views itself.

    I try and write creatively, focus on games’ interaction or crossover with the real world, how that impact me as a person if i can. But it is a lot of work doing that, and if the drive to do that is fading, it’ll get much harder.

    1. Do you reckon it’s possible to maintain the gaming joy and tune out the subculture? One of the things I love about Most Agreeable is that you guys don’t seem to feel the need to constantly reference and react to others. Gaming first, gamers second. At least that’s how it comes across — but I can imagine how filtering it out, even in the background, could be a real drain. Or is the problem that no one else seems to get it?

      1. It’s just an inherent negativity that exists i think. And it’s almost impossible to ignore even if you restrict how much you take in. The sub culture is broken, and while many will blame capitalism and publishers, it’s the people that play the games that are killing it but focusing on negativity and perpetuating their own subjective views as fact. Video game culture is a game of Chinese whispers that turns opinion into fact, sadly, and it’s to the detriment of the creators.

        Its the frustration of seeing this happen time and time again that just hits a nerve for me that really makes me hate everything about the hobby sometimes.

  3. I’ve always found that I’ve taken a small break from gaming here and there. But really, only certain MMOs come with the level of toxicity that usually make me want to take a break. My hiatus usually includes social media because that is the aspect of gaming that induces the urge to flee, at least in my case.

    For me, it’s the convergence of many different views and a medium that allows for people to lose their filters and/or tact. However, I enjoy video games. Just as watching a good tv show after a 16 hour work/school day, I enjoy playing an hour or two of my favorite game. I disconnect. I still love games for the game, the story line and in many cases the mental challenge they bring. When I want to play games AND disconnect from the world, I play solo player games like Skyrim or sometimes even indulge in an hour of adult Legos (Minecraft lol) when I really want to just disconnect.

    Either way, I understand where you’re coming from. I’ve also had the eSports/Sports debate roughly eight zillion times in the past. For me, I see it as being different levels of interest. I don’t read into it as much, maybe the concept of eSports wouldn’t receive as high level of contempt if it was called eGaming or eEntertainment or some other name? Often times, the arguments I observe in regard to sports vs eSports boil down to classification. But if you break it down to the bare bones: 1) As people we are observers, we like to watch what interests us. It’s why YouTube is so popular. 2) Both sports and eSports are simply an environment for people to observe what interests them.

    I stay motivated about games by viewing them from a positive point of view and finding ways to disconnect when I feel the need to.

    I hope this isn’t the end for you and that you find away to sift the good from the bad!

  4. I can’t relate to this point of view too well, because I was that kid who spent too much time inside. I had pretty bad social issues for a long time, so books and video games ended up being my life outside of school. Not that I wasn’t active – I still played sports, but I didn’t really give a shit about them, and even now when my friends go on about their NCAA brackets or how losing such and such quarterback will mess up Georgia or Florida or Auburn’s chance at getting into the championship, I can’t bring myself to care.

    I wonder how much that upbringing affects how we view video games. But you have to you what you have to do – if games aren’t something you can bring yourself to enjoy anymore, that’s it. There’s no need to keep doing something you no longer like just for the sake of tradition, right?

    1. I’d imagine your upbringing impacts it enormously – but i think for me it’s that while sport has always been a legitimate use of one’s time I’ve always been on the fence about the merit of video games. The toxicity and bullying the internet has brought into the equation has just pushed me over the line on it.

      1. That toxicity has definitely been a problem for me too, at least as far as all “gamers” are lumped into the group that send death and rape threats to people they don’t like online. Games are still a massive industry, but there’s definitely a kind of stigma there, that they’re childish and made for children (or “manchildren”, I guess.) Looking at the writing and presentation of some popular games, I can’t say that’s unjustified. I just don’t tell most people that I’m into games, partly for that reason.

        I’ve enjoyed reading your posts here, but if you decide to quit, I wish you all the best.

      2. I think the answer is – as my persuasive co-author has pointed out – is to drown out the noise and continue as is. We’ll see how that goes, but please continue to visit, and we’ll see where to from here.

  5. When I visited Australia, I was gobsmacked by how seriously sport is taken over there – forget cultural lynchpin, more like a divine way of life. I’ve never been that fond of sport myself, although I share your scepticism of e-sports. It’s just not quite the same, is it?

    I also view gaming as just one of my interests, and I’m constantly surprised at just how much time some people manage to devote to it. Hands up – I’ve never watched a Twitch feed.

    But I tell you what, there are some nutters out there in internet land. I rarely bother with Twitter these day for that very reason, and I have to stop myself from reading the comment feeds on sites like Eurogamer. It still astonishes me that people have such vitriol on things that really don’t matter very much at all.

    That’s why I like Most Agreeable. A shelter from the internet storm! A beacon of reason! Long may it live.

    1. Straya loves its sports. More than 93,000 people at the MCG last night to watch the cricket, that’s 93,000 that all agree with one another, standing together cheering for something common. If video games had that, it’d be a much stronger industry, and it’d make it so much easier to love well into one’s life. I think it’s this emotional attachment to sport in a country like Australia that makes it such a powerful social bond, where all of our heroes are sports men and women, where hard work is rewarded in kind. I don’t think I’ll ever understand how people can take video games so seriously as to throw insults at one another. To what end, you know?

      Anyway, I think after various discussions around the place, the answer is as you say, drowning out the noise, focusing on what I like about games. It’s not often I stray into comments, I never watch twitch streams, and the only YouTube stuff I watch is Outside Xbox (which is full of suitably British humour) – but I need to not aimlessly wander onto professional enthusiast websites either knowing just how much they raise my ire.

      I agree that we’ve created something great here – a place full of reason and appreciation. We will live on.

  6. May I play the Devil’s advocate? In some ways, I think of sport as an arbitrary choice of national pastime. Does sport play the same role in Japan (a country which releases Dragon Quest games on Sundays to prevent a societal breakdown) for instance? I think the binary between the golden sunlight of a lazy afternoon playing cricket, and the basement dwellers playing games might not be so rigid.

    I’ll leave you with this from Chomsky, on sports – he appears to be saying a similar thing to you but replaces sports with videogames.
    http://www.alternet.org/noam-chomsky-why-americans-know-so-much-about-sports-so-little-about-world-affairs

    Maya

    PS: DON’T GO!

    1. I think you’re right. My fiancee can’t stand sport, and she says she feels isolated in a country that practically lives and breathes it, where such an enormous part of our identity is what she calls “men playing sport”. It’s true, there isn’t much of a tangible difference, but culturally, sport is so ingrained in who we are as people from such a young age, it’s a view that is near impossible to break.

      I pointed out in a previous comment that last night there were 93,000 people at the Melbourne Cricket Ground last night watching the Aussies win the World Cup. That’s 93,000 people pulling in the same direction, standing for the same thing, having respect for the men on the field. I think, for me at least, that’s the main difference. Video games are full of contradictions – people that love games hating the people that make them, people loving creators but hating publishers, people saying they love games but dwelling on failure – and it’s quite frankly a shithouse cultural environment.

      But as people have quite rightly pointed out, it’s a matter of drowning that out, reading critiques over criticisms, and focusing on liking games on my own terms. In a lot of ways that’s why I’ve gravitated toward blogs like your own.

      I’m sure we’ll live on, I just need to drown out the noise. We’ve spent years building our own voice, it’d be a shame to let that go.

      1. I’m glad to hear it! And thank you. There’s a reason why I use Adrian as a filter – he is the garbage man of the videogame news wasteland for me, and he almost exclusively blogs and podcasts like RFN (Radio Free Nintendo) … it can be a difficult. Adrian used to read neogaf and various gaming websites but that stopped, for some of the reasons you outlined. Also, I was watching Jay and Silent Bob Strikes Back the other day, and I totally recommend its critique of the internet.

      2. I’ll have to check it out – I have a feeling I saw that film a while back (if it’s the one with that bloke from Dawson’s creek in it) but i’m long overdue for a re-watch! Thanks! As far as I’m concerned until the media surrounding it grows up, the industry will continue to be somewhat of as cultural backwater regardless of how big it becomes in revenue terms.

  7. I hear you mate. Growing up I was always far more of a gamer than I was a sportsman, but I’m similarly deeply suspicious of e-Sports and the social aspect of gaming. Sure, me and my friends would gather on occasion and play a round of Mario Carts or drag out the old ’64 and laugh our way through a few rounds of Goldeneye, or even go to a LAN cafe to play a bit of battlefield back in the day, but it always tended to be part of a greater social experience. We watched a movie and had half an hour to kill before our rides arrived when we were younger, or are drunkenly nostalgic at a house party now. But even now for myself and most of my gamer friends even multiplayer on most games is a largely solo experience. Even my fourteen year old brother, who fits comfortably into the FPS/FIFA audience stereotype only regularly coordinates matches with our next door neighbour (since they can just yell out the door to see if the other one wants to play a game of CoD. CONVENIENCE!)
    But I’m starting to wonder if this a bit of a uniquely Australian experience. One of the biggest surprises since arriving in Canada has been discovering how many people game socially. For example I know one person back home who plays Civ multiplayer. On my first day at work here I discovered that about a half dozen of my coworkers did, and played together. Back home, that’s just… not how we’d ever think to hang out. Actually meeting people who are (for want of better words) part of internet gaming culture has been a bit of shock (they’re cool though, normal people who play games, but yeah). But maybe that’s just my personal subjective experience.
    Keep writing though, pretty please. We’d miss you if you stopped.

    1. It’s strange isn’t it, just how culturally different Australia is that even things we grew up with, aren’t considered as ‘legitimate’ when compared to our national pastime of sport. I’ve referred to this in other comments, but no one flinches an arse-cheek at 93,000 people at the MCG watching the cricket on a Sunday night, but video games are a waste of time. In this country we grow up in a world where sports people are gods and Shane Warne is a national treasure – it’s very hard to break that perception.

      And I think it is, perhaps as you’ve noted, the lack of social interaction it brings with it in this country. I have only had a very small handful of friends since I entered the workforce proper that have played video games, and even then when we’d play games, it was interspersed with a kick of the footy or something similar. In some ways that has probably skewed how I feel about video games.

      But I think what I find most difficult is this desperate attempt to legitimise video games by talking about it in the same context of films – or as with eSports – sport. For me, instead of making me feel better about playing them, it just makes me feel worse, coming off as the lesser of the two in any comparison.

      Thanks for reading – I’m sure I’ll still write (we’ve spent a long time building this!) – I just need to find a way to enjoy games on my own terms.

      And Australia to Canada?! What a move! Miss this beautiful country? I’ve heard a lot of people say Canada is culturally quite similar to Australia – just much colder – would love to hear your views.

      1. Now that I think about it, I wonder if our suspicion and antipathy towards the culture is born in part by the lack of it in Oz. We don’t have the positives that come from experiencing it, so when all we observe are the negatives it’s obviously gonna affect opinions. And yeah, similar in a lot of ways but dissimilar in others. I’d say they’re sports mad as well, but a lot more fair weather than we are.

      2. I grew up in Adelaide and Melbourne where – and I always use this anecdote to describe it – on September 12 2001 the newspapers had the footy results on the front page of the paper. It is almost literally the one thing most people in both of those cities have in common, and so much of our social interaction through that period is based on a bit of harmless sledging or taking the piss because X beat Y. And it’s fantastic that every Monday morning in the workplace is about the weekend’s games – brings people together in a way so few things do.

        But you’re right, and that’s a great point, video games have never inspired that greater social interaction. Sure, I’ll talk about it with my fiancee at home, but seldom does it go beyond that. That’s not saying people don’t play games, they do, but it’s not the tie that binds people together in any meaningful way.

        Canada is certainly on my list of places to go – hoping to get there one of these days!

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