While games have an incredible social aspect, most people see gamers as an odd, unwashed beings, that sit in a darkened room while starting at a screen for hours on end. They see no benefits to the hobby, calling it out as a waste of time, and only good for producing the dangerous youth of today.
When going home to visit my parents recently I had to work on two different 3DS titles. This meant sitting with my parents while my laptop on the table open for notes, and 3DS in hand to play the game. At one point they reluctantly asked what I was playing. I got less than one sentence in before fear was apparent in their eyes and hands were raised in front of them, ‘Never mind, it’s too complicated for me’ was announced in unison. For the record I was playing Return to PopoloCrois: A Story of Seasons Fairytale, which essentially has a ‘save the world while doing a bit of farming on the side’ plot line.
I should probably note that my parents are very supportive of my career choice, wanting me to be happy in whatever I choose. But, in general, they do rather hope that games would leave them well enough alone. Anyway, after my parents declaration of horror at the thought of a story plot line from a game being described to them, I shrugged and went back to my notes. Not long after, however, I heard the distinct sound of digital bubbles being popped resulting in a victory jingle. It turned out that both my parents were playing a game called Jelly Splash on their respective tablets. In the past I tried this little title, but stopped quickly after realising it was a Candy Crush clone purposefully made so that most levels can’t be completed unless luck happens to fall in your favour. The mechanic is unfair, and used to encourage players to spend money. My parents have been playing Jelly Splash for over a year. They sniff at my PC and console games, whether AAA or indie, but can’t wait to have an extra go on their broken app game.
I find this attitude so odd. Gaming is considered to be ‘another world’ that they ‘just don’t understand’. This even extends to the music. When listening to orchestral versions of famous tracks they pricked up their ears asking for the title, but as soon as ‘it’s from a game’ was uttered disinterest quickly set in. So what exactly is going on here? While games in general are being viewed through the opinion of negative stereotypes and a fear of the unknown, apps are not being viewed in the same light. Gaming apps are simply a way to pass the time for a few moments, they’re simple, devoid of violence, and a fun puzzle to solve. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against app games. There are plenty of well-crafted and very interesting titles out there, but I’m pretty sure I can learn more from playing Professor Layton than connecting smiling desserts into lines of three.
What ultimately needs to change is the way that gaming is thought of and talked about. For me gaming is so many things. It is about the ideas of developers coming together and being created in a playable form. It is personal stories that one can get deeply invested in, from seeing through the eyes of the creator and entering their personal worlds. The story and combat mechanics, old and new ideas, beloved characters and dialogue, all there for us to explore. It is an artistic craft that deserves attention.
The other side of why I like games is even more personal. It’s an escape from reality. The opportunity to throw away the self and become another. This could be a journey of emotion and tears, of laughter, of being a badass, and so much more. A good friend of mine recently wrote about how Splatoon got her through a very difficult time in her life through it’s bright and fun gameplay. It reminded me of how games are an escapism so different from our other forms of art and entertainment. Gamers do not simply sit silently in a chair, but they truly involve themselves in the journey.
While the negatives are there for a reason, they are also becoming harmful. There are people who need games. They need a few hours to solve puzzles, race against friends and, yes, shoot down bad guys. When this is met with degrading comments about how games are childish and worthless, it is much more likely that the player will isolate themselves into their gaming worlds, unable to share them with friends and family.
I’m not trying to be some video-game vigilante here. This is not about forcing others into the gaming community and world. Instead it is about appreciating the art form. If you have a child, friend, or parent who plays games then ask to play with them. Even if you do not enjoy it, this simple gesture will be really appreciated. Just take a deep breathe, forget the stereotypes, and look through their eyes at this ever expanding world.