Growing up, I wasn’t technically a gamer. I owned a Sega Genesis and NES, but I only purchased bargain bin games or rented the occasional video game from a local mom-and-pop rental store. My best friends usually had the newest consoles and the latest titles, and I would get to play the latest titles when we hung out, but I was more into the social aspect of gaming with friends. “Gamer” wasn’t something I was, gaming was something I did when I got together with my buddies.
Now I’m 27 and consider myself a “gamer.” I’ve even developed a reputation around my work as the nerdy gamer. Upon coming in late to work one day, my boss asked me if I “was up all night gaming or something.” A large part of this transformation is due not only to being able to afford to keep up with gaming, but also the embracing of technologies that keep me informed such as podcasts, RSS feeds and updates from Facebook.
Now, as the title of this blog post suggests, I’m not entirely thrilled with or at peace with being a gamer or gaming in general. My main complaints are with gamers themselves, but the industry has lent a helping hand. My first real experience with in-depth multiplayer gameplay occurred only two short years ago when I began playing Left 4 Dead on the PC. Now after two years and almost 400 hours of online play, I’ve come to realize one glaring truth: I usually end up playing online games with people I would never hang out with in real life. And I’m not just referring to the physical limitations in us hanging out, I mean, they are usually people I have nothing in common with other than video games.
I’ve tried to involve my real-life friends in my gaming experiences, but I am horrible at coordinating online events, and quite frankly, I really don’t have many friends that are into the types of games that I am, or they keep different hours than I do and our gaming paths rarely cross. So, I’m stuck with teenagers and 20-somethings that constantly use obscene language, have an insatiable appetite for porn and degrading the female gender, or are typically just not good sports. I’m a really competitive person, so having an online match ruined by bad sports that exhibit all of the above negative personal qualities generally ruins whatever enjoyment from gaming I would have experienced that evening.
What really got me into gaming were the One of Swords and Avault podcasts. Prior to subscribing to those podcasts I had played games and thoroughly enjoyed them, but after listening to dozens of episodes, I felt like maybe I had found a community of people that not only complimented my affection for gaming, but also had families and respect for fellow gamers. I think I was right for the most part, or I would not have pursued this position as a game reviewer. But, there are still podcasts like Talk Radar that remind me of the darkside of gaming, and I am constantly reminded of gamers who completely attack all of the real-life values and morals that I try to maintain. So I am presented with a dilemma. Do I try to make gaming a larger part of my life? I still think I’d like to do web design and development for a game related company, but I question my ability to be a gamer and remain emotionally neutral to the types of people I’d be surrounded by.
I think in the end I’ll discover some sort of balance between reality, real people, real friends and my virtual existence with virtual friends who only expose their virtual personalities. I love gaming because I enjoy it and it has introduced me to some awesome people and provides a nice escape from stress and reality, but I also hate gaming because of the way it makes me struggle with focusing on more important issues in my life. I love gamers because they can be overwhelmingly funny, supportive, and we share a common bond, but I also hate gamers because of all of the negative experiences I have had with them. Just as it’s hard for me to properly define the boundaries between real relationships and online relationships, it’s difficult for me to not over generalize gamers based on the bad eggs out there.
Either way, I’m having fun. If the fun ever stops, I guess then I’ll know it’s time to re-evaluate what I spend my time on.