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The Myth of the Media Myth: Games and Non-Gamers
March 30, 2008 3:36 PM   Subscribe

"Inevitably, after I finish speaking, the strong opinions come. It happens the same way every time: People listen and then they say what they've been feeling. Videogames are not good for you. Videogames are a waste of time. They isolate children. Kids never go outside to play. They just sit there and stare at the TV all day."

The Myth of the Media Myth: Games and Non-Gamers.
posted by flatluigi (129 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

 
I've been outside. It's overrrated.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:41 PM on March 30, 2008 [5 favorites]


Videogames are not good for you. Videogames are a waste of time. They isolate children. Kids never go outside to play. They just sit there and stare at the TV all day.
Hey kids! If you liked videogames, you'll love work!
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 3:45 PM on March 30, 2008 [50 favorites]


So, we're countering popular opinion with anecdotes, splendid.
posted by oddman at 3:56 PM on March 30, 2008 [3 favorites]


It's a little like the Bush administration saying that according to their think tanks, the war is going splendidly.
posted by Patapsco Mike at 3:57 PM on March 30, 2008


I've also been outside and I concur with the Astro Zombie, and would only add that it is also at times very hot or exceeding cold.
posted by nola at 4:01 PM on March 30, 2008 [3 favorites]


James Gee's video game book has been trotted out before (and even I think by me in some cases), but it is a really interesting read and related to this topic. I am in Education and I regularly cite Gee when discussing video games--or weblogs, or social networking sites--with teachers. What a lot of those teachers (and other people) who do not regularly get into games don't realize is that the video game industry is light-years ahead of Education in being able to design effective learning environments. That is what Gee is saying in the book.

So I feel for this lady. Reading a novel is just as solitary and sometimes just as violent as playing a video game, but we tend to look at people who read a lot as introverted-but-smart and people who game a lot as antisocial nerds.
posted by oflinkey at 4:07 PM on March 30, 2008 [7 favorites]


Astro Zombie: "I've been outside. It's overrrated."

I don't know. The developer did a pretty damn good job with IRL, so I'd expect that same quality of craftsmanship in Outside. That hasn't stopped the haters, of course, spewing their judgmental bile before anybody has even gone Outside yet. But that's just part of the experience, I guess.

On the other hand, they're facing some pretty slick competition from First Life. I admit it's possible then that Outside may be a disappointment, too concerned with trying to snag the "casual living" market at the expense of the hardcore social players. And First Life definitely seems to cater to the social aspect more. But it's impossible to tell at this point.

It's too bad we can't all have it all, though. Some people have the patience to play two, even three games at once, but I can't handle the pressure.

I just regret that I have but one life to live living my life.
posted by Rhaomi at 4:08 PM on March 30, 2008 [6 favorites]


Oh, and I forgot to ask, Astro Zombie: how have you gotten Outside already? I heard they were talking about running a public beta, but as far as I know it's still private for now.

All I need is a beta key to open the door, and I'll be able to explore Outside all I want. It's still sadly unreachable to me right now, though...
posted by Rhaomi at 4:12 PM on March 30, 2008


Rhaomi, I found the latest version I was using to be pretty buggy
posted by Razzle Bathbone at 4:14 PM on March 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


I've been outside. It's overrrated.

Traditionally Outside receives extremely high ratings by those who like to see others play it, and these people are in many cases comfortably ensconced Inside themselves. Outside was released many years ago, it was in fact the first massively multiplayer game, and yet it has always managed to avoid the double-edged Retro tag. In its favor, continual user updates have kept Outside current; there are always new things to see and do Outside. Participants are permitted, to some extent, to modify their own areas of Outside, which is a large part of the fun of the game. However it seems that in the end one is modifying Outside largely for the sake of it, and having done it, there is a distinct feeling of "now what?"

In terms of the traditional target age content metrics, Outside is remarkably high in sex, violence and challenges to traditional values, despite the strong child-focussed marketing it receives. Many would go so far as to say that for a child to develop the ability to cope with Outside is essential, as long as the harm incurred is not too debilitating. Children injured playing Outside are usually comforted by parents, and soon encouraged to go Outside again; this leads to the conclusion that somehow Outside has escaped any and all of the usual moralizing that surrounds the videogaming industry. One might say that Outside gets a free pass from the Jack Thompsons of this world.

That aside, how does Outside actually rate? The physics system is note-perfect (often at the expense of playability), the graphics are beyond comparison, the rendering of objects is absolutely beautiful at any distance, and the player's ability to interact with objects is really limited only by other players' tolerance. The real fundamental problem with the game is that there is nothing to do.

In terms of game play the game sets few, if any, goals: the major one is merely "survive". What goals a player sets, are often astonishingly tedious to actually achieve, and power-ups and gear upgrades, let alone extra weapons, are few and far between. Some players choose accumulation of money, one of the many point systems in the game, as a goal, but distribution of this is often randomized and it can be hard to tell what activities will lead to gaining points in advance, and what the risks will be.

Other players choose to focus on accumulation of personal abilities, the variety of which greatly exceeds the capacity of any individual to accumulate; again, the game requires players to engage in years of grinding to achieve any notable standard with a skill or ability. Players are issued abilities and characteristics largely at random, and it is entirely possible for a player to be nerfed beyond any reasonable expectation of being able to play the game, or to be buffed to the point where anything he or she does is markedly easier. Unfortunately over time, player abilities tend to degrade, unless significant effort is made to keep skills up. This reviewer cannot emphasise this enough: Outside requires a huge time investment to build up player abilities, exceeding any other massively multiplayer game on the market by some three orders of magnitude.

Players are encouraged to focus on social interaction, which can be engaged in in a variety of ways. In fact it's extraordinarily difficult to solo anything whatsoever in Outside, apart from basic skill and knowledge accumulation quests. One of the major forms of social interaction in the game is based largely around the addition of new players to Outside, and is both complex and, in comparison to the storyline-driven romance quests of, say, Baldur's Gate or Mass Effect, they are immensely difficult. Dedicated players of Outside, however, report that the romance quests are among the most rewarding the game has to offer.

The game world is immense, perhaps unfeasibly so. The sheer amount of resources that went into development of the Outside environment is staggering to consider. Outside is a world of tremendous size, containing examples of every known real-world terrain type and inhabited by every known real-world animal. On the other hand it is somewhat lacking in the traditionally expected, more interesting, zones where the developers would be given the opportunity to show off their skills in varying the physics and graphics of the game. There are, for instance, no zones where gravity varies to any significant degree.

The respawn rate of objects and players is ridiculously slow. A dead player can expect to wait for years to respawn, and will be set back to zero assets and a tiny, nearly helpless form. Death is hardcore, and resurrection all but impossible. Outside is not a game for the QQers out there!

In terms of the social environment, almost anything goes. Outside has a vast network of guilds, many of its players are active participants in designing the game's social environment, and almost any player will be able to find company to undertake their desired group quests. On the other hand, gold-buying is rife, the outskirts of virtually every city zone in the game are completely overrun by farmers, and the developers have so far proven themselves reluctant to answer petitions, intervene in inter-player disputes, or nerf broken skills and abilities. Indeed this reviewer will go so far as to say that the developers are absent from the game entirely, and have left it to its own devices. Fortunately, server uptime has been 100% from day 1, despite there being only one server for literally billions of players.

On the whole, Outside is overrated, and many gamers will find themselves forced by friends and family to play it against their will, but it still deserves a high rating. I give it 7/10, and look forward to improvements in future patches.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 4:19 PM on March 30, 2008 [824 favorites]


I'm against all video games, not because I think they'll decrease the aptitude of children, but because I know opposite to be true. The last thing I need is a bunch of up-and-coming smart whippersnappers coming after my job just because they're more qualified. No kids, it's traditional athletics for you, and a long future in the service industry.

This is the same reason I'm all in favor of increasing up college tuition rates. Of course I bundle this sentiment in the guise of fiscal conservatism.
posted by mullingitover at 4:23 PM on March 30, 2008 [5 favorites]


According to the ESA, the video game industry took in $9.5b in 2007. Until the number becomes significantly smaller, I could care less about what people think about my hobby. I think I'll have plenty of great games to play in the future, regardless of what Jack Thomson threatens.
posted by uaudio at 4:26 PM on March 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


"I'm not too pleased with some of the content of videogames either... sex, violence, over-the-edge action. That can't be healthy for anyone. I liked videogames when they seemed simple and not so all-consuming... Frogger, Pac-Man, now they were some righteous characters that never picked up a prostitute or blew a cop's head off." -- Page 2
Meh, I say. MEH! This sort of Banduran monkey-see-monkey-do mindset is getting tired.

Was there a rash of concern about people leaping into traffic because arcade denizens saw a pixelated frog do it when Frogger was all the rage?
posted by CKmtl at 4:26 PM on March 30, 2008


CKmtl: even worse, they have done it with a poor defenceless roomba. It appears that alcohol may have been involved.
posted by Razzle Bathbone at 4:33 PM on March 30, 2008


I don't buy her "video games aren't addicting" point. I've pulled all nighters to play a hot new game, skipped showers and meals, etc., and I'm not the only one of my friends to have done this. It's possible I just have an addictive personality*, but I think it's more likely that there's something about video games themselves, whether it's self-identification with your avatar, or level design that rewards continued play, that's just different from other entertainment media.

(Rereading this I'm just so, so glad I've avoided WoW. I don't think I could survive a video game that has no ending.)

*although that singularity of focus I get when playing a video game, that "just one more level" compulsion, doesn't manifest itself when I'm entertaining myself in other ways.
posted by longdaysjourney at 4:43 PM on March 30, 2008


I don't buy her "video games aren't addicting" point. I've pulled all nighters to play a hot new game, skipped showers and meals, etc., and I'm not the only one of my friends to have done this.

Is it addictive or are you just very attuned to novelty?
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:48 PM on March 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


There are people who exhibit "addictive" traits with all sorts of entertainment and media though.

Some people almost literally can't put a good book down (personally, I like reading in short bursts so that the good books lasts longer).

Every time a new Harry Potter book came out, there were kids on the news who I'm sure would have skipped sleep, hygiene, meals and school if they were able to, to get "just one more chapter".
posted by CKmtl at 4:56 PM on March 30, 2008


"If I had a choice, I would want to include these distrustful folks in finding solutions. I would prefer it if they understood. I would prefer it if they could see the long sequence of events that is going to address their fears and create the medium they will inevitably love and participate in, whether they expect to or not."

"What's sad is that their ideological, ignorant, hostile, one-dimensional attitudes oversimplify one of the most beautiful problems in human history. It makes me very sad that many of these people will die fearing games. I would so rather include them, but they have to meet us in the middle or become sad, lonely, reclusive luddites.

"In the end, we will stamp them out if we have to, but it would be nicer if we all tap danced our way into the future together."
I love that games like Rock Band and Wii Sports are de-mystifying video games for many, and that the scene for "casual" games like Bejewled and Peggle has just exploded over the past decade. It's hard to pick up any of those and hold on to one's stereotypes about video games; at worst, one has to acknowledge video games aren't all (or even most) like Grand Theft Auto. In the end, widespread acceptance of gaming will come down to sheer demographics: more and more adults, having grown up with video games, have already made adult gamers a huge proportion (perhaps the outright majority) of the gaming populace, and that percentage will only grow. I believe our Metafilter TF2 league only has one teenager, a 19-year-old college student. It gets harder every year to demean and ostracize a growing segment of the general population.

Nowadays, hardly anyone bats an eye when one mentions meeting someone on an online dating site. Neither did any of my friends, even my non-gamer friends, when I recently dated someone whom I had met on an online game. The march toward normalcy continues.

But the naysayers do have a point about video games. There are those who spend inordinate amounts of their lives away on MMO's like WoW -- many because they simply enjoy its gameplay and social aspects, but some because their "real lives" are so dross that they abuse its escapist powers, the way drug users do. Likewise I recently caught myself holing up in my bathrobe replaying old games obsessively during the bowels of a deep depression instead of picking up my camera at all during the past few months -- not healthy. Games have their potential for misuse, just as alcohol, TV, music, you name it. None of those are problems in and of themselves, but they all can become symptoms of problems in some cases. And I feel that acknowledging how people misuse games (for example, to avoid their IRL problems -- spouse, school, depression, money anxiety, etc) has to be a part of any honest celebration of video games' power to delight people, dazzle their senses, and bring them together for a good time.
posted by DaShiv at 5:01 PM on March 30, 2008 [7 favorites]


or are you just very attuned to novelty?

Not really, I don't think. E.g., I wait to pick up new books by my favorite authors when they're published in paperback and see nearly all films I'm interested in when the DVDs come out (this goes for TV shows too). I save up for big purchases, never buy on credit, excellent credit rating, etc., etc. I'm pretty good at delaying gratification in general and I'm responsible in other areas of my life, but video games are a whole different beast. I'm not sure what happens exactly, but I can be playing a game and only realize what time it is when the night sky starts to lighten. I generally avoid most games now since I find the physical/personal effects of investing such large chunks of time to be very debilitating.
posted by longdaysjourney at 5:06 PM on March 30, 2008


I don't buy her "video games aren't addicting" point. I've pulled all nighters to play a hot new game, skipped showers and meals, etc., and I'm not the only one of my friends to have done this.

I've done the same with novels in the past, and I certainly wouldn't say that I was addicted to books. I think that there is a large level of immersion in some sorts of games (and I won't limit it to video games, since I played D&D with a similar level of intensity when I was a teenager), and those people who are looking for escapism to pathological levels will use the game to get their fix - but they could have used just about anything...alcohol, soap operas, novels, heroin....The difference between a video game and meth is that a video game doesn't change your brain chemistry so much that it requires more video games to function.

In short, it's not the games, but the players.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 5:11 PM on March 30, 2008


Reading a novel is just as solitary and sometimes just as violent as playing a video game.

True enough, esp. on the low end of fiction; but at the other end of the spectrum, is there anything in video game land that is the relative equivalent of, I don't know, Moby Dick, or The Great Gatsby, or Anna Karenina, or that old Mefi standby, Lolita?

Early days yet, I suppose, but something for the programmers to work on, if not.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:17 PM on March 30, 2008


I believe our Metafilter TF2 league only has one teenager, a 19-year-old college student.

::waves::
I'm turning 20 in April, so soon it will be free of teenagers.

It gets harder every year to demean and ostracize a growing segment of the general population.

I've been telling kids to get off my lawn since 4th grade.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 5:23 PM on March 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


is there anything in video game land that is the relative equivalent of, I don't know, Moby Dick, or The Great Gatsby, or Anna Karenina, or that old Mefi standby, Lolita?

By what metric? In terms of hours reading/playing it? "Depth of story", however that is defined? Strength of emotion inspired? Time spent discussing it with others? Thinking about it afterwards? Desire to personally enter the story? "Advice" to characters thought of? Number of people x number of hours? Relevance over time between publication and today? All of these favor one or the other due to the nature of the numbers.

It's apples and oranges. I ate a really nice apple yesterday, but last week, I had one that was so sour I had to throw it away. I prefer the taste of oranges, but something in the juice gives me a headache. YMMV.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 5:26 PM on March 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


is there anything in video game land that is the relative equivalent of ... The Great Gatsby

So, a game that you were semi-forced to play in school even though you thought it mostly sucked? Sure. Number Munchers.
posted by CKmtl at 5:35 PM on March 30, 2008 [15 favorites]


IndigoJones: True enough, esp. on the low end of fiction; but at the other end of the spectrum, is there anything in video game land that is the relative equivalent of, I don't know, Moby Dick, or The Great Gatsby, or Anna Karenina, or that old Mefi standby, Lolita?

Do you mean a game respected by critics, widely known, and seen as a major part of what contributed to today's culture? Videogames aren't seen as an 'art form,' so you'll have a hard time finding a game like that. However, if you mean a game that's enjoyable, interesting, creative, and meaningful, there are certainly quite a few out there. As much as I consider myself a gamer, I don't play a lot of new games due to budgetary reasons.

However, I'd certainly consider Portal to be one of those games. Try thinking about Portal as an analogy for most gaming: you're given a goal from someone and you mindlessly follow out the tasks presented. You don't know why you're doing this and you don't know what doing these tasks will get you -- you just do them because they're there. In case you need some sort of reason, you're told there'll be cake at the end. Everyone likes cake, right?
posted by flatluigi at 5:38 PM on March 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Person works for industry X. Says industry X isn't that bad for you.

Color me shocked.


I'm turning 20 in April, so soon it will be free of teenagers.


I say this in all seriousness. The socks I am wearing right now are older than you.
posted by tkchrist at 5:39 PM on March 30, 2008 [4 favorites]


I believe our Metafilter TF2 league only has one teenager, a 19-year-old college student.
--
I'm turning 20 in April, so soon it will be free of teenagers.


Then I should get into TF2 -- my copy from The Orange Box has been gathering dust. I've been worrying that my first ever multiplayer FPS game would be a short and painful experience, but MeFites should be fairly forgiving, right?

right?
posted by flatluigi at 5:46 PM on March 30, 2008


Meh, I look at the sample groups and blink mostly. These people are complaining about their 20-30 something year old kids in some of these and I think - wha? Cut the cord. You raised them, if they are rude, that's your fault, not video games.

That being said, we have a (insert viably acceptable form of) kid and do you know how hard 'outside' is? Sure we take her often to the park and go to the beach, but you have to now drive to those places that are acceptable and safe outside - and we live in a nice neighborhood (urban suburb). I grew up in the backwoods so cars driven by idiots whizzing around while on cell phones weren't the problem they are here, and there isn't the same neighborhood mentality that my old youth had. I don't even know my neighbors. That isn't a 'things were better in my day' kind of thing, it's likely a lot to do with geographic location, but with more and more people living outside the urban sprawl, it's likely that this has become the norm for many people. And outside isn't always so healthy - in the dead of winter or rain outside isn't acceptable for more than an hour - I'm not subjecting the offspring to hypothermia. Where can the kids even hang out? There's a tiny little gazebo park here where I see the local teenagers with their skateboards, but I notice from time to time they are kicked out of that by authority figures and they're left skateboarding nearby under the railway. How fantastic is that outdoors?

So what options does she have? I'd rather her play videogames like Katamari or the Sims then watch TV. She's now building a family based upon one of her books and I think that's great. There's an internal dialogue, thought process and problem solving happening that she just doesn't get from Hannah Montana. I happen to think Dance Dance Revolution is probably one of the best things to happen to those kids 'last picked in gym class,' out of shape or without rhythm - thinking with the body and mind (no, that isn't her but still). And don't tell me it isn't social, I have seen 'the gang' of kids hang out and play Raving Rabbits on our Wii for hours in one of the most warming, team-working, positive environments I've ever witnessed with tweens. There wasn't any 'oh you suck' if something failed, just a lot of laughs and 'let's try again!'

How much worse is that than when my parents sat me down in front of the tv? We're all gamers in my now family and her watching both her father and myself try and fail at our video games (the Wii ones elicit the biggest laughs) are real bonding moments. Not to mention in her future she will always have computers and developing technology in vast and significant ways that we can't even fathom, so why isn't dealing with technology considered another life-skill that we need to instill in our children? Being a gamer doesn't change that she loves snorkeling and wants to be a marine biologist, but it also opens her mind to exploring other people's vision of what alternate realities can hold.

I hate when people bring up (insert significant child violent act here) because it wasn't video games that gave the kids the vast leeway to do something (like insert purchasing firearms / naughty stuff / example # 582 here). Said event was mostly due to the lack of parenting, well-intentioned or lack of. Why didn't they know? Where were they? Also, why were the parents letting their (sample age here) old purchase GTA or similar adult-oriented entertainment? Do they also let them buy hardcore porn? As for online predators, there are predators everywhere. It's being a watchful parent that makes the difference in life - virtual or real. You have to teach a child to be smart, sure you can't be everywhere but I'm sick of the cop-out that parents 'just didn't know.' Don't know? Why not? Learn enough or you aren't involved enough to let your kid do something. We're not perfect but we know exactly where and how long she is online under our supervision. For gawd’s sake, learn how to check browsing history and your cache.

I think the author is on target with a lot of this. IMHO, just shows a lot of the ignorance being tossed around. It’s always that way, isn’t it?

Now get the hell off my lawn you old people!
posted by eatdonuts at 5:48 PM on March 30, 2008 [12 favorites]


I would just like to point out that the only reason I am currently posting on Metafilter is that the flight between Gadgetzan and Darnassus is ridiculously long.

Also, I admit to being completely addicted. However I'm 37, have a job, a kid, a wife, and big plans that don't in any way mesh with my gameplaying. Still, it's something I really enjoy and I am able to make the distinction between what needs to be done in real life and what I want to do in the game. I suspect that distinction is obvious for the far majority of players...as choice is made between want-to-do in the real world and want-to-do in the game world, and quite often want-to-do in the real world loses out. As long as it's not followed by need-to-do, I don't really see a problem.
posted by Kickstart70 at 6:00 PM on March 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


True enough, esp. on the low end of fiction; but at the other end of the spectrum, is there anything in video game land that is the relative equivalent of, I don't know, Moby Dick, or The Great Gatsby, or Anna Karenina, or that old Mefi standby, Lolita?

You will want to look at the games Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, directed by Fumito Ueda. They are minimalist, moody, subtle, morally shaded games that are beloved by a few (especially critics and game designers) and pretty well dismissed by the masses. Good MeFi discussion of Shadow here.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:04 PM on March 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


True enough, esp. on the low end of fiction; but at the other end of the spectrum, is there anything in video game land that is the relative equivalent of, I don't know, Moby Dick, or The Great Gatsby, or Anna Karenina, or that old Mefi standby, Lolita?

This is actually really interesting question, because it's actually very complicated.

Videogames seem usually to be lumped in with other time worn media, such as books, music, television, and film (let's call these things passive media). It's worth noting something though about these which might suggest a mismatch in category: None of them are games. In some sense, videogames have just as much in common with basketball as they do with the Great Gatsby.

So comparing videogames with any passive medium is tricky. To make a long story short though, this does give us one very common split between games: some have great stories, and some are great games.

Some games that leap into my mind as having incredible stories are Planescape: Torment, Final Fantasy VI, and the king of kings: Fallout.

On the other hand, these games (as do most games of this kind) have fairly uninspiring game mechanics. Some are just poor (god damn you Arcanum!) while most are just to easy (all of the above).

Some games which come to me as having had great game design are: Halo, Tetris, and Super Mario Kart.

To say these had 'bad' stories though is kind of besides the point.

Games which have had a rare and brilliant mix of both: Secret of Mana and Super Metroid both stand out for me. Coincidentally, you can download them both pretty easily and run them on a SNES emulator, if you're serious about exploring gaming.
posted by Alex404 at 6:15 PM on March 30, 2008


IndigoJones: True enough, esp. on the low end of fiction; but at the other end of the spectrum, is there anything in video game land that is the relative equivalent of, I don't know, Moby Dick, or The Great Gatsby, or Anna Karenina, or that old Mefi standby, Lolita?

What are the classic, everyone-who-games-knows-them games? What are the ones which are artfully done? People talk about Myst and Riven and even 7th Guest with reverence. Maybe there are classics there.

Genres of art generally have to have some history for there to be classics. Exemplars come earlier and that is what I think we see now, esp. with the Portal example. While I could say that Pong could be a "classic", I personally think that its complexity is a bit lacking... but I could be wrong. It all depends on the metric, as aeschenkarnos argues.

But if we go by when games became "environments", what were the ones people were talking about? And as games move more and more towards the center of cultural acceptability (they are and will continue to do so as kids grow up on them), we will see the storied classics emerge.
posted by oflinkey at 6:21 PM on March 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Or what Alex404 said, which was better.
posted by oflinkey at 6:32 PM on March 30, 2008


Then I should get into TF2 -- my copy from The Orange Box has been gathering dust. I've been worrying that my first ever multiplayer FPS game would be a short and painful experience, but MeFites should be fairly forgiving, right?

Join us -- we've got a great and supportive group, more than 100 Mefites registered on the site, and I think around 300 in the Steam group. Everybody's very friendly, and we have a grand ol' time on our private server during our several-times-a-week scheduled sessions (though the timezone is a killer for me, so I can't play there as much as I'd like). We're competitive (we've got an internal tournament going at the moment) but not rabidly so, and we've got people with skill levels all the way from PROFESHINAL CYBERATHLETE all the way to people for whom TF2 is their first time playing a first person shooter. Hell, I'm old enough to be CitrusFreak's dad (dear god, I'm old), but that doesn't matter a bit -- we have a grand old time playing together. Because Team Fortress is first and foremost a team game, it really does reward teamwork and social stuff, and isn't daunting for people who just want to join in and run around and shoot stuff for a while. And we've got all kinds of funny screenshots, too! Go Team Mefight!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:43 PM on March 30, 2008 [6 favorites]


(In fact, as I write this, I see there are about 20 people on our game server right now!)
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:44 PM on March 30, 2008


Videogames seem usually to be lumped in with other time worn media, such as books, music, television, and film (let's call these things passive media). It's worth noting something though about these which might suggest a mismatch in category: None of them are games. In some sense, videogames have just as much in common with basketball as they do with the Great Gatsby.

Fine. Let's compare them to other forms of play. Where are the video games that have the rich meaning, cultural importance and vital social function of spin-the-bottle, surfing, go, baseball, the Running of the Bulls or "playing house"?
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:44 PM on March 30, 2008


Fine. Let's compare them to other forms of play. Where are the video games that have the rich meaning, cultural importance and vital social function of spin-the-bottle, surfing, go, baseball, the Running of the Bulls or "playing house"?

World of Warcraft.
posted by Justinian at 7:01 PM on March 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Besides: what is this, 1982? Spin the bottle? Playing house?
posted by Justinian at 7:02 PM on March 30, 2008


The Running of the Bulls isn't really a form of play. You can't just call up your buddies for a rousing match of Running of The Bulls... well, you could invite them over to run in front of your angry bull, but it wouldn't be the same.

As for the rest, any multiplayer game could fit the 'vital social function' aspect. No bottle to spin? Play Mario Kart and those who finish in first and second place have to kiss.
posted by CKmtl at 7:10 PM on March 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Well, nebulawindphone, you can play Go online. Does that count as a "video game?" :)
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:13 PM on March 30, 2008


So, a game that you were semi-forced to play in school even though you thought it mostly sucked? Sure. Number Munchers.

Also, Oregon Fucking Trail.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:18 PM on March 30, 2008


This is going to make me sound like an old fogy, but I always enjoyed how successful interactive fiction is at blurring the lines between literature and games, and consequently I'm somewhat dissatisfied with the likes of Halo because for me, good writing is actually a prerequisite to a good game. This will sound preposterous to someone whose mental image of interactive fiction stops in 1989, so I'll encourage everyone to check out the games of Adam Cadre and Emily Short.
posted by zeusianfog at 7:24 PM on March 30, 2008 [5 favorites]


The escapist sucks and this guy is just fear mongering about fear mongers. There was, I suppose a time when video games risked being regulated, but that time has long since passed. (Although railing against video games was one of Hillary Clinton's signature issues in the senate, oddly enough). So why worry about it?
posted by delmoi at 7:26 PM on March 30, 2008


a) I would pay good money for a Great Gatsby video game.
b) it's amusing how much people will shift their arguments 180 degrees in order to be able to demonize what is currently in fashion to demonize. When TV was the villain, we always heard that it encouraged people to be passive watchers and not think (nevermind that the same could be said for watching Shakespeare or an opera). Now that videogames are the new trouble in River City, the problem is apparently that they're too engaging and require too much interaction from the player.

TV and older Pac man type games caused a "short attention span," newer games that take days or weeks to play turn the players into "addicts*" who can't do anything else.

*I find the concept of "addiction" to something that is not literally physically addictive to be almost totally worthless. Because really, what is the difference between being "psychologically dependent" on something, and just liking it a whole lot? As people pointed out above, no one is ever described as being "addicted" to reading, or gardening or any of a million other activities that aren't relatively new and youth-oriented. What it comes down to is this: if grown-ups like to do it a lot, it's a hobby. if kids like to do it a lot, it's an "addiction."

posted by drjimmy11 at 7:27 PM on March 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


Just as there is a lot of cliche and groupthink in the uniform dislike of videogames, there is just as much among those who defend them. That is, those with (I think) genuine concerns about videogames are caricatured as holding some very simplistic beliefs (oh, those videogames are all violent, etc.). There's little willingness to admit that, beyond the crudest sorts of objections, there even could be some true issues around videogames.

I don't think videogames are all crude, violent or worthless -- but I do have some serious ambivalence about what they do to me (I don't play much, but they consume me utterly when I do). As a teacher, I admire the richness of construction of many videogames, but I dislike that some students I've known have nothing resembling lives outside of school. They don't go out, they don't exercise, they don't generate fun on their own with other kids, they just sit and play. They don't have a hand in creating their own imaginations; it's dominated by the prefab stuff of their gaming.

These are some seriously dull and socially feeble kids, the ones that play games all the time.

All around our society the real-world activities are dwindling: Recreations sports are losing popularity, social clubs are atrophying. People are leading very indoor, screen-oriented lives. Sure, videogames are just a part of this -- but they are part.

There are glib replies to all these concerns, so don't bother repeating them. After the glib replies are done, there is still a problem: Many people are putting enormous devotion into synthetic pleasures, highly stylized and limited simulations of what could be (but wouldn't necessarily be) otherwise rich lives.
posted by argybarg at 7:38 PM on March 30, 2008 [4 favorites]


As for the rest, any multiplayer game could fit the 'vital social function' aspect. No bottle to spin? Play Mario Kart and those who finish in first and second place have to kiss.

Okay. But does anyone actually do that?

Or, here's a bigger question: Back in the day, spin-the-bottle was (as lame as it is to admit) something of a rite of passage, and a way to make the huge hairy issue of sex seem manageable. Are there video games that can serve as rites of passage in comparable ways?

I'm hoping the answer is "yes" and I'm hoping someone will tell me about it. I'm not a gamer, and I'm clueless about gamer culture, but I'm willing to learn.

What I'm getting at is, it seems like a bit of a cop-out to say we can't talk about the cultural importance of games because they're interactive and art is passive. Art just isn't the only thing that can have cultural importance. All kinds of interactive things can, too: rituals, sports, dances, jokes, social routines, kids' games, forms of courtship... If you really want to make a case for the validity of video games, shouldn't you be comparing them to those?
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:38 PM on March 30, 2008


Man, how is this the first time I've heard of MeFight Club? I just signed up.

Also, I liked Oregon Trail.

Alsoer, this River City, is it something I would need a ransom to understand?
posted by adamdschneider at 7:42 PM on March 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Back in the day, spin-the-bottle was (as lame as it is to admit) something of a rite of passage, and a way to make the huge hairy issue of sex seem manageable. Are there video games that can serve as rites of passage in comparable ways?

Uh, I don't think young folks do that kind of giggly crap anymore. They just go straight to the oral sex.

Anyway, if you can't see the cultural importance of a lot of video games, I think that says more about your lack of interaction with large swaths of young (and not so young) people than it does about video games. MMORPGs and other online games are hugely culturally important. I would wager that there are more man hours spent playing WoW than there are man hours playing, oh, soccer in the USA. And hockey. Possibly football, baseball, and basketball.
posted by Justinian at 7:43 PM on March 30, 2008


I always point people at Deus Ex when the video games as/vs literature discussion comes up. I'd do the same for Vampire: the Masquerade- Bloodlines, but people hear the word "vampire" and the "genre is not literature" switch gets tripped.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:51 PM on March 30, 2008


Spin the bottle may be out of vogue, but I know plenty of young people whose first experiments with sexuality and/or romance are on the internet--cybersex, porn, social networking sites, etc. These things aren't games, but Spin the Bottle hardly counts as a game either--you spin, you kiss, it's not exactly contract bridge.
posted by zeusianfog at 7:53 PM on March 30, 2008


Many people are putting enormous devotion into synthetic pleasures, highly stylized and limited simulations of what could be (but wouldn't necessarily be) otherwise rich lives.

You could be talking about sports fans, television fans, movie buffs, or book worms.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:54 PM on March 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


Anyway, if you can't see the cultural importance of a lot of video games, I think that says more about your lack of interaction with large swaths of young (and not so young) people than it does about video games.

You're right. It does. Lemme try this one more time.

This is an article about explaining gaming to non-gamers, right? As a non-gamer, I've got a suggestion about how to do that.

First of all, I'm assuming that gaming does have cultural importance. I bet it makes your life richer and more fulfilling, right? — Or else, why would anyone bother? But as a non-gamer, I don't know how it makes your life richer and more fulfilling. I suspect other non-gamers don't know that either.

The thing is, I do accept that play in general can be culturally important. It can teach people about themselves; it can help people explore their surroundings; it can glue a society together. It's a huge part of what makes us alive and human. I wouldn't be half the person I am today if I hadn't had a LEGO set at age 6, or people to flirt with at age 15, or learned to play poker in my 20s.

What I'm suggesting is, if you want to explain gaming to people like me, you shouldn't be trying to convince me it's art, or protesting that the comparison to art is unfair. (It's not art; the comparison is unfair, but so what?) You should be trying to show me that it's up there with LEGOs or flirting or poker or, I dunno, building a treehouse or something.

And if you can explain to me what it is about video games that enriches your life like LEGOs, flirting, poker and building treehouses have enriched mine, then I'll finally feel like I really get it.

Make sense?
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:07 PM on March 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Devoting ALL your time to any one pursuit is unhealthy. Unless you are a paid professional in that pursuit. And even then... there are issues. People that obsess with playing basketball are every bit the bores that people who obsess about playing WoWC are. The only operational difference between the virtual obsession and the actual might be basketball players are less likely to develop obesity or hear disease.

Look. I hang out with fighters and martial artists. And if I didn't share that with them it would be fucking boring to hear about that shit all the time. No check that. Since I DON'T obsess about that shit it IS boring to hear about it all the time.

The point is a healthy balance must be struck between the virtual and the actual. But also between anything prone to creating obsessions in either realm.

I think parents and what gamers may consider the "fuddy-duddy" crowd are worried about has some real grounding in reality and that is the aforementioned risk of obesity and lack of physicality in kids lives these days. But frankly video games are a scapegoat for shitty parents that don't bother to set examples for their kids by, you know, getting off their asses themselves.
posted by tkchrist at 8:10 PM on March 30, 2008


"hear disease."

HEART disease that is.
posted by tkchrist at 8:11 PM on March 30, 2008


Reading back, my initial comment sounded a little more skeptical and confrontational than I meant it. I should have said "I'm curious — can anyone tell me a story about a game that's mattered to them like my LEGOs mattered to me?" rather than "Where are the games" etc. etc.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:11 PM on March 30, 2008


Okay. But does anyone actually do that?

There were a few instances of videogame-competition-assisted Truth-Or-Dare type of things in my past.

As for kids nowadays, Justinian's probably mostly right.

The thing is, in terms of the Spin The Bottle scenario, the bottle spinning is completely secondary. The whole point of it is to have an excuse to experiment / not have to deliberately initiate the kissing, right?

Let's say that eatdonuts' gang of tweens wants to do a bit of smooching, but they can't quite get over the awkwardness. If they aren't aware of Spin The Bottle, it's not inconceivable that they could make use of something that's already established in their social circle (Wii minigames) and use that as a crutch to get over the kissyface awkwardness.
posted by CKmtl at 8:12 PM on March 30, 2008


And if you can explain to me what it is about video games that enriches your life like LEGOs, flirting, poker and building treehouses have enriched mine, then I'll finally feel like I really get it.

I think games WILL enrich peoples lives to that degree... one day. Likely not yet. But there is no reason that experiencing life HAS to be a zero sum game. These thing don't have to compete with each other.

If your spending so much time building treehouses and not, say, flirting with girls you may experience a problem too. Yeah people playing five hours of games a night are likely missing out on living. But they don't HAVE to be just becuase they are playing games. They could regulate themselves. It's not heroin.
posted by tkchrist at 8:16 PM on March 30, 2008


There were a few instances of videogame-competition-assisted Truth-Or-Dare type of things in my past.


Good God. I am old. We used to use pot for that.
posted by tkchrist at 8:23 PM on March 30, 2008


is there anything in video game land that is the relative equivalent of, I don't know, Moby Dick, or The Great Gatsby, or Anna Karenina, or that old Mefi standby, Lolita?
*ahem* BioShock.

I've been playing video games for over twenty years. I haven't played every game, but I've played an awful lot of them. I think BioShock is the closest equivalent to a great classic novel yet achieved it the medium. Its setting is incredibly rich and detailed. The art direction is impeccable. The pacing is wonderful. The gameplay is full of variety, allowing the player different ways to combat the environment. The characters are compelling. The plot is fantastic. Eventually, it even turns the inner eye upon itself, confronting the decades-old problem of video games, namely, the why. Why in the hell is the character you're controlling even there? Why does he not just sit outside the first door and wait for a rescue, or simply lay down and die? BioShock addresses all these things, and it does so in a way that pulls together all the different aspects of the medium into a complete experience. Along the way it presents the player with a complex moral choice that, for me, completely transcends the medium of a first-person shooting game.

But don't take my word for it. See this article,* the MeFi discusson, or a spoiler-free Ars review.

As Jerry Holikins put it, "If BioShock is not art, then art is the worse off for it."

*I obviously disagree with that author's final conclusion, but it is a great article nonetheless.
posted by BeerFilter at 8:40 PM on March 30, 2008 [4 favorites]


tkchrist: Eh, this was in elementary school, and I don't think anyone in my circle of friends had access to weed. I was a pudgy kid, but I kicked ass in World Class Track Meet with the NES PowerPad, and was thus frequently the dare-giver.
posted by CKmtl at 8:42 PM on March 30, 2008


(In fact, as I write this, I see there are about 20 people on our game server right now!)

Sigh. I wish I could justify (a) the expense and (b) the time not spent with my wife and baby to join up with this. Unfortunately, I can justify neither right now. But frag some n00bs for me.
posted by middleclasstool at 8:50 PM on March 30, 2008


Uh, I don't think young folks do that kind of giggly crap anymore. They just go straight to the oral sex.

Eh, everyone believes the generation after them is a bunch of libertines. In fact preteens are just as hopeless and awkward, and take the same sorts of tentative microsteps towards sexuality, as they ever were and did.
posted by argybarg at 8:52 PM on March 30, 2008 [4 favorites]


Plus blowjobs.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:04 PM on March 30, 2008


I think BioShock is the closest equivalent to a great classic novel yet achieved it the medium.

I disagree strongly; Bioshock had the potential, but they blew it in the final act. It's still a brilliant game but it is deeply, deeply flawed. Andrew Ryan keeps telling us that a man chooses and a slave obeys; it's quite clear from Bioshock which one you are, even after the "big reveal". The only choice you make the entire game is whether to save the little girls or harvest them, and that's a piss poor excuse for a moral quandry.

The actual answer to the videogame-as-novel question is Planescape: Torment. Also flawed, but flawed in the area of game mechanics rather than story, and that's a more forgiveable area to be flawed in.

Can anyone tell me a story about a game that's mattered to them like my LEGOs mattered to me?

There is the problem that you can play with LEGOs for years (decades) and not exhaust the possibilities; a narrative game can be played through multiple times but eventually you "finish" pretty much all there is so it doesn't have the same staying power. That doesn't make it inferior, it makes it different.

That said, I'd point at the aforementioned Planescape: Torment. I've never had, before or since, the experience of chills running up and down my spine from the text in a videogame like I had many times while playing through Torment. Fallout was great, Vampire: Bloodlines was great, Deus Ex was great, but Torment made you think and I still wake up occasionally thinking about various bits. The characters in Torment were brought to life in a way that no other computer game has ever managed and, to get to your question, in a way that isn't even possible in a novel or non-game.

There's a character named Dak'kon. To simplify greatly, he teaches you his philosophy. This involves a *lot* of dialogue between you and Dak'kon. If you're smart enough, he teaches you more and deeper levels of his philosophy. Eventually he can't teach you any more and if you're really smart, you start to teach him. Yeah, you instead become his teacher and start guiding him to a better understanding of his own moral code and philosophical outlook. Do this well enough and he gets a lot stronger and more powerful and will follow you to his death (...again, but that's another story) and beyond.

And eventually you find out that... well, that would be spoilers.

Anyway, you can't do that sort of thing in any medium but an interactive computer game. And I haven't even mentioned Fall From Grace (Grace for short), Annah of the Shadows, Vhailor the Mercykiller, Morte the wisecracking floating skull that follows you around, Nordom the Modron, or Ignus the pyromaniac. Each of whom have a story and a torment that has never been equalled in computer gaming.

That's what, to me, can stand on par with LEGOs and such.
posted by Justinian at 9:47 PM on March 30, 2008


I just found my copy of Torment, Justinian. Gonna install that, now -- thanks for reminding me how good it is :)
posted by lumensimus at 9:58 PM on March 30, 2008


And if you can explain to me what it is about video games that enriches your life like LEGOs, flirting, poker and building treehouses have enriched mine, then I'll finally feel like I really get it.

The question you are asking is important, I think, but answering it is hard. The thing is, I know exactly what you mean by those examples. I've built tree houses, I've played poker and with Legos, and I have the same associations with them as you do. But if I try to explain to you how my life was enriched by playing games, it will be hard for you to really get what I'm talking about, since you just don't have the shared experience. But I'll try anyway to draw some parallels maybe.

In 1992, two of my friends and I spent hours sitting in a group in front of a computer screen in a dark room, working our way through The 7th Guest, working out the puzzles and getting scared by the noises and spooky music. In 1996, I did the same with my now-husband, taking turns playing the first Resident Evil. It was every bit as mock-scary (the dog jumping through the window in the hallway!) and as social as telling ghost stories to each other in the dark would be, except that you are in control of your own actions - and you have to solve puzzles along the way. (I can't even imagine the workout my brain has received over the years just from puzzle/adventure games alone.)

There are lots of games that have similarly played a part in me making new friends or in solidifying friendships. Take playing Starcraft in the computer lab of the university dorm in China, then going out for beers with everyone in the room afterward - the winner of the most games paid. Or playing Day of Defeat on a random online server in the area we had just moved to, where I ended up in a community of local gamers - many of whom I still call my RL friends six years later. Or Rockband, which meant a lot of time having fun together with my inlaws this past Christmas. Or playing with the MetaFilter Team Fortress 2 crew, making new friends right now.

But there are solitary games that have made an impact on me too. In 1998, I played Grim Fandango over a weekend when I was alone, and the artfully crafted dialogue, the story, the characters - all of them stay with me just like a favorite book would. Except that I can still hear the voices in my head when I think of them - Manny Calavera, Meche, Glottis... It was so good, that like a good book I thought about the characters long after I was done playing. The Fallout series, which was like a post-apocalyptic novel where I could truly choose the story - play as a charismatic people person or as the evil criminal, with the story following accordingly - all in the same game. Portal, which has already been mentioned, was another great game with a great story and a fantastic interface. But in Portal, you also learned to think differently about space - I'm sure I'm not the only one who finished playing, and for days I would see places that would be perfect for portals.

My list of games like that - that have enriched my life one way or another - goes on and on (Fallout, Goldeneye, Winning 11, EA's NHL/NFL series, Half Life, WoW, etc., etc.). Many people here know exactly what I mean, and we could reminisce about good moments in any one of those games - how it startled us, how it made us feel, how excited we are about the sequel coming out... But to anyone who hasn't played games at all, and who has never shared the type of exhilaration you can get from beating a game, the bragging rights of winning a game against a friend, how much fun you can have, etc., I can totally see why it would be a mystery.

As a female gamer, I run into all kinds of stereotypes about my gaming - many of the ones echoed in the article, along with many more. I know I can't make people enjoy games, but at least try one or two good ones - games that fit your personality, not just any game - before making a snap judgment. Like many others have said, though, I think time will tell on this one. We have had the same kind of snap judgments made about reading books, about comics, about TV - when I get old, I'm sure it will be something else.
posted by gemmy at 10:09 PM on March 30, 2008 [17 favorites]


Welcome, lumensimus. I played through it again about 6 months ago. Would you believe that the first time I played I never even saw Vhailor? He's kind of off to the side and it's easy to miss him; I walked right by.

Now, thinking about Torment, I'm even more pissed off at Bioshock. What the heck were the developers thinking making a game that is ostensibly all about free will and choices, about sacrificing your humanity for the greater good, and about a guy looming over the game like a colossus with a moral code summed up by "a man chooses; a slave obeys"... and then they don't give you any real fucking choices to make. Ryan was right, you're nothing but a pitiful slave.

Grrrr.

See? If I get pissed off thinking about how they botched a computer game that could have been brilliant, the genre is clearly doing something right.
posted by Justinian at 10:09 PM on March 30, 2008


You get some minor choices which affect the outcome in Bioshock, but yeah, mostly you're on rails. I did kind of think they way they made your being on rails a part of the story was rather cool though.

Now, would you kindly find a crowbar or something?
posted by Artw at 10:17 PM on March 30, 2008


What Justinian said about PS:T >> Bioshock.

Yeah, Bioshock has the edge in production values, but PS:T is just so much better. It isn't just a great game or a great story, but it's also such a meta-experience: <spoiler> "What can change the nature of a man?" Me, goddammit! I'm playing the game and pointing and clicking and making the onscreen dude do stuff. I'm changing the nature of the man.</spoiler>
posted by juv3nal at 10:23 PM on March 30, 2008


What's weird with gaming is that it there seems to be a pretty huge gap between the people at this professor's dinner party (that last touched a video game 20 years ago) and what we regularly think of as "gamers" (cut to 30-year old in parents basement with a xbox360 running a FPS for 16hrs/day).

I myself am merely a casual gamer, an hour here, an hour there a week, tops, and it seems like that almost no one markets to me (aside from Nintendo) and no one writes about casual gamers or casual games. Every game that comes out seems attuned to heavy gamers that do ride the line between avid hobby and addiction. I spend my hour or two a week on a game and I see I'm only 6% done with it after a month. That's fucking crazy and the few games I've pushed to the end required marathon sessions where I neglected everything else in my life for a week straight.

Gaming kind of reminds me of mountain biking as a hobby. Gone are the days where anyone cares about a $300 mt. bike that might be ridden on a gravel road and taken on errands around town. Go into any bike shop and you'll only find crazy carbon suspended monster bikes starting at $2500 and men in silly tights walking around with water bags on their backs talking about said bikes. If people wrote articles about mountain bikers, it'd be all about how addicted they are to riding their expensive rigs in dirt and how much money and time the sport requires even for an amateur.

So I think the "media myth myth" goes away when mainstream culture acknowledges and starts paying attention to casual gamers.
posted by mathowie at 10:26 PM on March 30, 2008 [12 favorites]


is there anything in video game land that is the relative equivalent of [...] Lolita?

You have got to be fucking kidding. How in a thousand million years would that be a good idea for shutting up the gaming-haters?
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:47 PM on March 30, 2008 [3 favorites]


I did kind of think they way they made your being on rails a part of the story was rather cool though.

It was cool; brilliant, even - for the first two-thirds of the game. A complete subversion of the FPS experience. But, and here's the part where it all went to shit, once you found out what was happening and counteracted it, you still didn't have any real choices. The game was just as much on rails after your supposed programming was interrupted. You didn't free yourself, you just traded one master for another.

That was the problem; they set up this absolutely brilliant gotcha moment and it didn't change a goddamn thing except who your master was.
posted by Justinian at 10:59 PM on March 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


is there anything in video game land that is the relative equivalent of [...] Lolita?


Maybe The Baron?
posted by juv3nal at 11:02 PM on March 30, 2008


Aw, I loved Number Munchers. What's wrong with Number Munchers?
posted by Kwine at 11:09 PM on March 30, 2008


Last night I used the Nintendo DS game Electroplankton (plus an effects processor) to create and record a 35-minute Reichian underwater soundscape. No words were involved there, so I guess it's not literature. It might not even be a game, technically. It was a fun, immersive, and creative experience though. Kind of like Legos?

Oh, and the true 00's version of Legos might be Spore, which comes out later this year.
posted by naju at 11:12 PM on March 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Spore, which comes out later this year.

It's so cute that you believe it's actually coming out.
posted by dersins at 12:18 AM on March 31, 2008


Oh, I'll still pick up a great game and play it, but I don't think I'm a "gamer" anymore. Games are just a huge timesuck, for one. The heavy gamers I know don't just complete games. They beat games multiple times to unlock all the secret endings or practice skill-based games (Guitar Hero, First Person Shooters) till their rank increases. Often, it's not just the 20 or 25 hour experience indicated on the back of the box.
posted by theiconoclast31 at 2:09 AM on March 31, 2008


Spore, which comes out later this year.

I've seen several interviews where Wright has said that the game has been feature/art-complete for months, except it's just not a game yet (not fun!).
posted by blasdelf at 2:56 AM on March 31, 2008


I've been playing computer games since I was six years old, and I've worked my way through almost all the point-and-click adventure games that ever existed (the entire Sierra and LucasArts back catalogue, for instance). I've finished Planescape: Torment and Deus Ex.

And yet I'm not impressed. For a game, of course, P:T was incredible (although a terrible old game called BloodNet had better dialogue). But for a book? As far as I'm concerned, it doesn't have half the gut-wrenching moral impact of a Pale Fire.

Unfortunately, I think in many ways this is due to the medium itself. Games have to be epic, over-the-top, all the time or almost all the time--otherwise it's hard to keep the player's attention. There's no room in a game for crazy old Kinbote dying unnoticed in a motel room, or the ugly girl drowning herself after a botched date--except as fodder for crude jokes at the expense of the characters who aren't busy Saving The World or Choosing Their Destiny. What can a game do with the light at the end of Daisy's dock?

Games certainly have the potential to take the traditional hero narrative to the next level. But what happens to the other parts of literature--unresolved, and unresolvable, by selecting Obviously Evil Conversation Option or Lawful Good Quest Acceptance Formula? The kind of open-endedness games offer is just so impoverished, so prefabricated, compared to well-crafted literature or film. I stopped playing games mostly because I got sick of the conflict between Good and Evil, the stale and predictable romances, the lack of any interesting or complex imagery. If I spend thirteen hours playing a game, my experience of the world is no more altered than if I had spent it playing solitaire--yet the same time spent reading a book has often reshaped my mind.

I'm not dissing your hobby. Play whatever the hell you want. It's probably better than a Tom Clancy novel--but, unfortunately, not much better.
posted by nasreddin at 3:44 AM on March 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


My local news program still trots out the 'Manhunt inspired a murder!' story years after it happened and after it was proved that the game had nothing to do with the crime. Because, of course, playing video games turns you into a psychopath... just like 'video nasties' did in the 80s and horror comics did in the 50s
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:02 AM on March 31, 2008


nasreddin: Unfortunately, I think in many ways this is due to the medium itself. Games have to be epic, over-the-top, all the time or almost all the time--otherwise it's hard to keep the player's attention. There's no room in a game for crazy old Kinbote dying unnoticed in a motel room, or the ugly girl drowning herself after a botched date--except as fodder for crude jokes at the expense of the characters who aren't busy Saving The World or Choosing Their Destiny.
...
I stopped playing games mostly because I got sick of the conflict between Good and Evil, the stale and predictable romances, the lack of any interesting or complex imagery.


Which games were you playing? This sounds extremely pessimistic about the potential of videogames and I'm not sure where it's coming from. In my experience games certainly have the potential to tell stories without being over-the-top or cliched -- they may not sell, but they certainly do. Try Beyond Good and Evil, which I've played, or Persona 3, which I haven't but I've watched someone play. Both definitely go against your position.
posted by flatluigi at 4:11 AM on March 31, 2008


I like games because they are fun.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:18 AM on March 31, 2008 [3 favorites]


There's no room in a game for crazy old Kinbote dying unnoticed in a motel room

"You really think people want to die unnoticed in a hotel room as Kinbote?"

"I know I do!"
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:29 AM on March 31, 2008


IndigoJones: True enough, esp. on the low end of fiction; but at the other end of the spectrum, is there anything in video game land that is the relative equivalent of, I don't know, Moby Dick, or The Great Gatsby, or Anna Karenina, or that old Mefi standby, Lolita?
The notion that games should be judged as narrative and judged against other forms of narrative has seriously fallen out of favor in recent years, even when you are talking about games that do have an explicit narrative. What is happening is an emerging form of aesthetics that considers both the rules of play and the artistic artifacts that go with it.

It's like comparing novels to opera. If you want to understand opera, you have to do it on its own terms that take into account the music, staging, costuming, and even audience participation.
nebulawindphone: Fine. Let's compare them to other forms of play. Where are the video games that have the rich meaning, cultural importance and vital social function of spin-the-bottle, surfing, go, baseball, the Running of the Bulls or "playing house"?
Of course there is a catch 22 here in that many of these things only have social meaning because they are multi-generational traditions: baseball since the American Civil War, go for several centuries, and spin the bottle since the 50s. That "cultural meaning" is something that exists outside of the game, not within the rules or objects needed to play it.

But, just to point to an example of cultural importance, the Monopoly Man is an internationally recognized trademark. So is Mario and Pikachu. And as a matter of fact, Mario and Pikachu have better brand recognition than anything produced by Disney or Warner Brothers in the last 30 years.

Let's take for example The Sims 2. There are rich communities out there of people who use The Sims 2 to create narrative fiction and video, who produce objects, clothing, houses, and sims to be used in the game, create remixes of music videos using Sims animation, and who talk about creative and technical aspects of the game.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:33 AM on March 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm curious — can anyone tell me a story about a game that's mattered to them like my LEGOs mattered to me?

Well, if I had never played with lego I don't think I'd ever understand why it mattered to you. It's just blocks, right?

It's about a personal frame of reference. There are as many anecdotes as there are players. A game can elevate you in the same way as a book, a film, a game of hide and seek or lego. Only a videogame combines elements of all four in something that makes it familiar yet completely unique.

As a kid of the 80's and as a teenager I didn't think of computer games as an alternative to anything else or as a 'new' divergent form of entertainment. Games were accepted at face value and luckily my parents never made a distinction. They put equal emphasis on what I read, watched on TV and what I played on my computer. All these things remain an integral part of how I define myself and how I framed the way I look at life. I didn't 'grow out' of videogames any more than I grew out of music, books or films. Games are as an integral part of me as any other form of entertainment out there. Actually, games are more important to me than others, as I have relatively accidentally drifted from film (which I studied in university) to video games as my living.

I know I'm not doing my own thoughts much justice with this incoherent rambling mess... It's like if someone came up to you and said that they want to ban books because they have violence and sex in them. For me videogames are just as common as books and they are equally important and I can't imagine a world without them. As an additional point, videogames/consoles/PCs these days have parental controls. Libraries and bookstores don't.
posted by slimepuppy at 6:22 AM on March 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm currently reading The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America and think that if American kids could survive the horrors of comic books, rock and roll, and D&D, they can survive videogames.

I would be interested to see if there's a common pattern in the reaction to new, kid/youth/new oriented activities. Does it always go from Introduction to Acceptance via the same route?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:28 AM on March 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


When I was little, a number of my friends from the neighborhood would get together and play tag. This was especially fun in the winter, as the snow made it harder to hide, and added an improvised weaponry element to the game. I loved tag, I probably still would, unfortunately, it's not nearly as popular with the 18-35 demographic, I find. Unfortunately, much as I enjoyed playing it, I was never any good at it. In fact, anytime I became "it", the game would stalemate, as I was so out of shape that I couldn't actually catch anyone. After a number of these, I was more or less asked not to play tag with them anymore. True story.

So instead I played a lot of video games. At one point I had 5 functioning consoles, not counting my PC. There are those who might say these two situations go hand in hand, unfortunatley, those types no doubt have to write "Correlation" and "Causation" on index cards so they can readily tell them apart, and sadly, many of these people are in positions of power and influence. I think it's because of things like video games, internet communications and their bastard child, online gameplay that brought solace where standard issue activities did not. Yes, had I spent more time running about and meeting people, I might have less of these disappointing adolescent memories, and possibly have kissed a girl sometime before spring break of my senior year of highschool, but had I any capacity for the counterintuitive unlogic of social interaction, further marred by that particular developmental stage, both in myself and my peers, I wouldn't have had so much interest in video games to begin with.

It's difficult for many to recall, but before 80's nostalgia and retro video game swag became haute couture, before NFL fans signed onto Xbox Live and before college parties centered around Guitar Hero, video games were lame. Spending your formative years playing video games instead of doing 'cool' things, like standing around looking menacing, underage drinking and smoking cigarettes indoors meant you were 3 kinds of loser. Even D&D people had to have more than a few friends to play their game with. The same kind of shut-in who read books all day wears that as a badge of honor, regardless of how much of it was garbage fiction.

So what's the appeal? I'm not any kind of social scientist, but part of the reason there is such a large "gamer culture" is due to this ability to control one's own environment, the interactivity involved. There's a part in Final Fantasy VII during a downtime part of the story where your character and one of the female characters goes on a date. There are no fights or powerups or anything; this "quest" of escorting her to various places and engaging in dialogue with her serves no other purpose but to serve the story. To a 16 year old loser like I was who hadn't the foggiest idea of how to even talk to girls, let alone how to eventually convince one to let him put his tongue in her mouth, this touch of interactivity added to the experience in a way that mere reading or watching could not quite deliver.

As it stands now, I'm 26, I work full time in IT, have a steady girlfriend, go to the gym 3-5 times a week, and in spite of all these "all growed up" things I do, one of my favorite things to do is have people over and play Halo 3, even though I'm still fairly terrible at it (I'm forcing myself to learn console FPSes, I was a PC gamer for years until I got tired of upgrading my rig every time a game came out). People complain about plot or lack thereof in games, and while I like a game with a good story, the mechanics of problem-solving, adapting to a new system, regardless of context is always a fun experience. I'm not completely sure why Master Chief has to shoot the creatures he does, but I understand and enjoy the challenge of doing so, and doing so more efficiently. When I fix a network or wire up an office, I'm not dissuaded by the intrigue or mundanity of the user or potential uses, (insofar as it pertains to technical aspects anyway), it's still a challenge in and of itself. However in that case, they're paying me to do it, it's not nearly as colorful or pretty to look at, and there are not nearly as many sticky grenades at my work as I'd often like.

This is turning into something of a tl;dr gyobfw, so I'll end it by saying I'm not some stereotypical "basement dweller" and I still want a Master Chief birthday cake this year. If playing video games makes me uncultured, well it was lovely to meet you and please tell me how the latest Chuck Palahniuk xerox is.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 6:42 AM on March 31, 2008 [5 favorites]


Games that are classics the way The Great Gatsby is a classic? Well, hmm.

A work in a form is a classic when it does something that couldn't be done in other art forms. Something uniquely suited to it. Thus, while Ico and Shadow of the Colossus are great, they don't really play into the things that video games have outside of being a collage art: interactivity and dynamic content.
posted by JHarris at 7:14 AM on March 31, 2008


The media perpetuates it, but it doesn't cause it. ... The media just picks up on it and presents the same message with as much negativity as it can possibly find, because we are a negative-driven culture. We don't do things because they are right thing to do; we do things because we don't want the wrong things to happen.

I found that quote to be quite accurate. Before violent video games, violent movies were the devil. Before movies, it was inappropriate novels (Ulysses (?!?), Tropic of Capricorn, etc.).
posted by mrgrimm at 8:45 AM on March 31, 2008


Folk Devils - politicians and media sorts of a certain kind love these.
posted by Artw at 9:06 AM on March 31, 2008


 mathowie: So I think the "media myth myth" goes away when mainstream culture acknowledges and starts paying attention to casual gamers.

Well for that matter, "gamer culture" is deluded about the scope and audience of electronic games. Approx 50% of the market is "causal games." And an estimated 40% of the online game market is female. To point out a fallacy in nebularwindphone's argument, computer games include poker, and euchre, chess, bridge, checkers, go, dozens of varieties of solitaire, and backgammon. The ability to play these games over the internet or against a computer opponent is extremely valuable when there is no local club or venue, or if you want to play against a wider variety of opponents than your close circle of friends.

Although the media bears some of the responsibility for the idea of computer games as something horribly scary and addictive, gamer culture and media has done quite a bit to promote computer games as a counter-cultural boyzone that is only accessible to those obsessive enough to master a new language, and complex interfaces for interaction. In spite of the OP's and Penny Arcade's attempts to show that gamers are mature adults who make positive contributions to their brick and mortar communities, the most visible members of the online gamer community are adolescent bigots who value competition and trash talk loaded with prejudice.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:33 AM on March 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm not dissing your hobby. Play whatever the hell you want. It's probably better than a Tom Clancy novel--but, unfortunately, not much better.

So when you say "I'm not dissing your hobby" what you really mean is "I'm dissing your hobby".
posted by Justinian at 10:26 AM on March 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


I've played a Tom Clancy novel. It was kind of crappy.
posted by Artw at 10:27 AM on March 31, 2008


Kids never go outside to play... and

is there anything in video game land that is the relative equivalent of, I don't know, Moby Dick...

When I see a book club decide to re-enact a scene from Moby Dick (a la
http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=bTrm4Yie4ow),

I'll start worrying about gaming.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 10:30 AM on March 31, 2008


I spend a lot of time talking about this, often to hostile audiences. The bottom line is that it's a generation gap, and whatever teenagers are into that some adults aren't into is always seen as the downfall of civilization, going all the way back to chewed-up leaf sponges.

This peculiar dismissive dynamic is really all about the newspaper. Most gamers don't read newspapers. Most newspapers readers don't consider themselves gamers. Many newspaper readers have teenage kids who have newfangled, confusing personal interests. This is a formula for sensationalism that will only intensify as news on paper wheezes towards extinction.

I just gave a presentation to a group of teachers, and the experienced ones were really open-minded about videogames and all the positives of the educational environment that games create, as Gee writes about. It was the younger, more jocky / outdoorsy male teachers who looked at the gamers in their classes and bemoaned that they couldn't make eye contact or know how to use a broom. Sounds like a pretty normal group of 12 year old boys to me.

It's a generation gap, and either this is a unique moment in our development when the gap is at its largest due to the sudden onset of rapid technological change, or from now on, kids will always know more about everything than their parents. Actually, kids always have known more and been better at things than their parents... that's what life is all about, right? It's just that now parents have to face it.

Also, it's unfair to compare playing closed-ended videogames to constructive pursuits like building a treehouse. Leisure does not have to be constructive, and not everyone seeks out richness in every moment of their waking life. Compare game playing, presented as a new and scary pastime, to game watching, an established and officially sanctioned use of leisure time, and it's much closer to apples to apples. I always say that a generation ago, these kids would have been arguing about some legendary hero's batting average... now they have statistics of their own achievements to argue about.

Of course, some will say that xbox live achievements are but a shallow aping of merit badges or some other real-world based badge of genuine meatspace achievement. These kids and their [videogames / comic books / telegraph / waltzes / fiction / cuneiform / pointed rocks / leaf sponges] ... they've got it too easy.
posted by ulotrichous at 10:51 AM on March 31, 2008 [4 favorites]


A work in a form is a classic when it does something that couldn't be done in other art forms.

Um, no.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:08 AM on March 31, 2008


Anecdote-as-data:

I played through MOTHER3 back when it came out in 2006 (oh god! It's been two years already!) and I got all weepy-eyed at the ending, despite it even being in a foreign language.

I also clearly recall the very ending of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater and getting all choked up at the realization that Snake wasn't going to pull the trigger himself.

So yeah, I'd say that probably would make a persuasive argument to me that the medium can be art. Also, god damn those were fantastic games.
posted by DoctorFedora at 12:28 PM on March 31, 2008


if American kids could survive the horrors of comic books, rock and roll, and D&D, they can survive videogames.

Thank you. This is a cogent line of argument which I wish more videogame naysayers would remember. Many of us over the age of 30 remember the PMRC and how they were going to save kids from the evils of metal and rap. The problem is, that the people that were so adamantly against those generas, were the same people who listened to the anti-war music of the '60s and '70's. And those kids parents were the ones that were railing against the drug music of the time period, were the same that secretly listened to Elvis, or Jazz or whatever.

Every generation seems to get pissed about the things the kids are doing, while completely forgetting that they, themselves indulged in it in their youth.

I'd be willing to bet that there are few people out there who are truly anti-game, who have never wandered into a bar or an arcade in the last 30 years and dropped a quarter in a console.
posted by quin at 12:34 PM on March 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


This guy says that kids should spend their time 'killing monsters,' as he puts it, in order to succeed in life.
posted by LeLiLo at 12:39 PM on March 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


What the fuck is are 'generas'? Clearly I am an idiot. Genres, that is the word I was looking for.
posted by quin at 1:19 PM on March 31, 2008


Video games seem to have taken the place, at least for parents, of letting kids seek personal autonomy. Bit of a double edged sword there.
On the one hand, this is how people interact in the modern age and so pursuing interaction and autonomy along those lines is acceptable. By the same token the environment is - as has been pointed out - safe.
Great for parents, not so great for kids.

In a book, for example, the page is unalterable. A character dies, changes, whatever, that is what happens. Not so much in a game world. Things are infiniately customizable and often nearly instantaneously so.
Which again, in terms of entertainment, intellectual stimulation, all that, is just great.
But video games do have the same effects on kids that so many people castigate the suburbs as having, and that is that prophylactic effect on development. It’s ‘not real.’

Certainly that applies to televison and other forms of entertainment as well - and less so to quality work in any media interactive or not.
In terms of the other criticism - that doesn’t apply at all. Since that artifice can be extended to anything (social function, cultural importance, etc)

I’m speaking only of seeking autonomy.

Kids do need to find their own way in - regrettably - a not perfectly safe environment. That doesn’t mean we cast them to the wolves, but merely that they can be, for example, verbally abused by older children, adults, they may have to avoid mean dogs, find their way to the store, learn how to make a purchase, make change, discern value as to which thing they buy is most suitable (and learn that once they do they can’t simply restart the world), if they fall they may experience real pain and bruise, all manner of things.

I would say that many kids today are often alienated by their environment. The way social life is structured and the physical environment plays a part in that.
I wouldn’t blame video games per se. But it is a symptom as well as in some ways a remedy and in some ways a placebo since the interactions aren’t real as there is nothing truly at stake.

This isn’t to say it isn’t valuable in the ways folks have laid out. But it isn’t a replacement for discovery and learning of real autonomy any more than books or t.v. and such.

That seems to be the blind spot in the author’s - and much of society’s - reasoning.
It is not enough to be a watchful parent, one has to let a child discover the real world and learn to make good decisions within it on their own.
You help them of course, but they must learn the consequences
The online world is part of the environment. But distinct from gaming in that what happens in video games isn’t real, comes with a great deal of support and can be resolved relatively easily - that is, with little actual cost. Online however, different story.

I can see being a little nervous because of the association and there could be worry that the responses kids learn in gaming could become rote responses in the real world. But I don’t see that as a valid problem.

No, the problem - again - is autonomy. Kids are still separated (if only by distance) and disassociated from others.
There’s a membrane there no matter how permeable that achieves the same sort of prophylactic effect (indeed, we often see people saying things online they wouldn’t dare say to someone’s face - and not because of any threat of physical violence but because of the social reality.) Politeness, decency, all that interpersonal interaction we take for granted. Those interpersonal socialization skills require development, like any other skill.

I don’t think video games are any different from other artificial media. But by the same token - they’re not any different from other artificial media. As such they can’t be a replacement for that development.

Hell, neither can muscles or anything else (to somewhat 2nd tkchrist). I know some gym/dojo rats who can barely hold up their end of a conversation on the most trivial issues. And yet, they all get neatly slotted into the overspecialized “can’t think for themselves” stereotype.

Video games as entertainment, great, solid. Perhaps even more liberating in some ways than other forms. But that makes it more of a trap, it seems, since a lot of parents seem to use it as another structured form - a way to keep kids “safe.”

But I don’t think kids have changed. I think the social environment and parenting has changed.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:28 PM on March 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


ulotrichous: I don't buy it. The parents of today's teenagers are people like me, who grew up with Galaga, Donkey Kong, Pac Man and cheap Pong consoles. My generational cohort is also well represented in the newsrooms.

For that matter, I'm not certain I take the myth of the dottering oldster who just doesn't understand information technology at face value. With two exceptions, every member of my extended family over the age of 50 are early-mid adopters of information technology, and most of them beat me to adoption of the cell phone. The two exceptions have disabilities that pose additional barriers to adoption. If the volume of lolcat macros that hit my mailbox are any indication, my mom has a higher email volume than I do.

And for that matter, this narrative of the technological wiz kid vs. the naive and bumbling parent is exactly the narrative put forward recently by the NYT in regards to cell phone messaging even when most of the parents featured in the article had adopted cell phone messaging for their own purposes. It's baffling to me how an editorial can interview parents who adopt text messaging and still come away with the bumbling Luddite parent narrative.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:54 PM on March 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


So, games take the fall for the son's rudeness. "All games can be paused," I told her, "and if it's a live match, he can drop out and join another later."

I dislike this statement. Would the author pull out his son from a scheduled soccer match? Of course not. But he seems to think forcing that same son to abandon his team in an online game is different. Why? Is there a reason video and computer games are treated differently?

I'm guessing it partly comes from lack of parental involvement. When was the last time you heard about a father sitting down to watch his son play in a CPL Counterstrike tournament?
posted by ymgve at 2:59 PM on March 31, 2008


Ugh... if theres one thing worse than people who think videogames are the root of all evil it's people who formalise videogames into some kind of crappy "sport".
posted by Artw at 3:02 PM on March 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


whoops, "an editorial process" somewhere between interviewing parents willingly adopting an ubiquitous form of computer-mediated communication and the print, the story was coerced into a traditional political frame.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:02 PM on March 31, 2008


Ugh... if theres one thing worse than people who think videogames are the root of all evil it's people who formalise videogames into some kind of crappy "sport".

I got three words for you:
South Korea & Starcraft
posted by slimepuppy at 3:21 PM on March 31, 2008


Ugh... if theres one thing worse than people who think videogames are the root of all evil it's people who formalise videogames into some kind of crappy "sport".

Why? A good FPS player utilizes some of the same skills - knowledge of the environment and awareness of other players, fast reaction times, ability to think out of the box, persistence in the face of defeat - that are key ingredients for making a good player in sports like soccer. And it requires a lot of hand-eye coordination and practice to get really good, just like in any physical sport. And Starcraft is basically chess with an added component of resource management, and many people consider chess a sport - it has international tournaments, etc. So why is labeling some games an "eSport" such a terrible thing? I really don't understand that vehemence.

P.S. Sorry to tell you ymgve, but the CPL is dead.
posted by gemmy at 3:46 PM on March 31, 2008


Gemmy - Because “computer games as sports” enthusiasts are all utter bores on the subject, not to mention hyperdefensive, and suck all the fun out of gameplaying.
posted by Artw at 3:56 PM on March 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


Ah, that makes more sense. Pretty much anyone who gets hyperdefensive is a bore. I guess I've never run into any such enthusiasts myself.
posted by gemmy at 4:09 PM on March 31, 2008


Growing up, all my best friends were gamers (if you could call a 12-year-old who's really good at Super Nintendo a gamer). It usually meant that in order to hang out with them, I had to endure the near-constant torture of watching other people play video games. Crossing over into actually playing video games myself never happened successfully, because for me -- having not laboriously studied every issue of whatever gaming magazines came out each month -- playing video games like Mortal Kombat meant randomly mashing buttons until I ran out of lives. It was an altogether unsatisfying exercise for all parties involved.

I'm glad I never stuck it out.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:17 PM on March 31, 2008


Sys Rq - I think possibly you just needed less stupid games.
posted by Artw at 4:49 PM on March 31, 2008


Regarding BioScock, I'm going to have to disagree Justinian. Yes, you never have any real choices, but that is the point! You NEVER have had choices in video games, and even when you think you do, your only choices are to do what the designers allow you to. I think there are even some interviews w/ Ken Levine (lead designer) to support this idea.
posted by The Castle at 5:22 PM on March 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm an avid gamer and I've got the completely useless Bachelor's in Education degree, so, since you asked:

Games like Moby Dick? Well, there was a game called Ecco the Dolphin for Sega that was remarkably similar, not just in the aquatic theme, but because it was so frickin' long it seemed like an eternity before you finally got to the end.
posted by misha at 6:04 PM on March 31, 2008 [4 favorites]



Sys Rq - I think possibly you just needed less stupid games.


...or a bunch of friends who were also just mashing buttons randomly:

"Holy shit, did you see me do that fireball thing? How did I do that? I'm going to mash buttons randomly again and yell when I do something neat. You watch my hands and tell me what I just did."
posted by juv3nal at 9:31 PM on March 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


If I were looking for something new to do and be good at, maybe I'd try some video games.

But I'm not, you see. I'm already all growed up and am into lots of other things, and I'm pretty sure I'd be better off if I spent less time in front of a monitor than I would if I spent more time in front of a monitor.

All things considered, I'm pretty glad I'm good at reading books & playing sports (and playing music, and making people laugh, and gardening, and making out, and public speaking, and making omelets, and camping, and dressing cool, blah blah blah) instead--mainly because our society tends to value these activities more highly (but also for intrinsic reasons: reading skills helped me in school->get a good job->make more money with less pain and stress, sports skills helped me stay fit->be healthy->look good->get lucky, you know the drill).

I guess I could trade one of the things I like to do for video games, but is that really all? Judging from the video game people I know (admittedly a limited sample), it appears that successful video gaming is more of an investment than making omelets; I might have to do less making out, too, and, well, we both know where this is headed.

Nothing against video games, you see, just something for other activities.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:27 AM on April 2, 2008


All things considered, I'm pretty glad I'm good at reading books & playing sports (and playing music, and making people laugh, and gardening, and making out, and public speaking, and making omelets, and camping, and dressing cool, blah blah blah) instead--mainly because our society tends to value these activities more highly (but also for intrinsic reasons: reading skills helped me in school->get a good job->make more money with less pain and stress, sports skills helped me stay fit->be healthy->look good->get lucky, you know the drill).
...
Nothing against video games, you see


Right, because skill in video games is anathema to looking good, social interaction and trolling for pussy, at which, you are a champion.

Yeah, Nothing against video games at all.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 6:14 AM on April 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Come on now, Uther Bentrazor, give the guy a break. He's good at reading books. That's a rare talent. Most other people simply either read or don't read. He's taken basic literacy to the next level because of all the free time spent not playing video games.

I sort of see his point, though. I'm sure I'm missing out on lots of things because of video games, but so is everyone else on the planet, for their own reasons. Life is short and I want to enjoy it. For me this means I'd rather complete Call of Duty 4 on Veteran difficulty than go folk dancing, learn throat singing or give incest a try, though all of these are invaluable life experiences for some people.
posted by slimepuppy at 7:11 AM on April 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


How refreshing to see the stereotype broken by such delightfully sociable conversationalists.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:41 AM on April 2, 2008


Imagine if we were talking about cycling. Here's your comment adjusted to that topic:

If I were looking for something new to do and be good at, maybe I'd try some bicycling.

All things considered, I'm pretty glad I'm good at reading books & playing sports (and playing music, and making people laugh, and gardening, and making out, and public speaking, and making omelets, and camping, and dressing cool, blah blah blah) instead--mainly because our society tends to value these activities more highly (but also for intrinsic reasons: reading skills helped me in school->get a good job->make more money with less pain and stress, sports skills helped me stay fit->be healthy->look good->get lucky, you know the drill).

I guess I could trade one of the things I like to do for bicycling, but is that really all? Judging from the cycling people I know (admittedly a limited sample), it appears that successful cycling is more of an investment than making omelets; I might have to do less making out, too, and, well, we both know where this is headed.

Nothing against cycling, you see, just something for other activities.


Or playing the tuba, smoking weed or any single activity you can think of. It's just that you've decided that your limited sample gamers somehow represents the majority of us. And to imply that you'd have to give up being fit, funny, popular and well-dressed to play videogames is more than a little insulting and does not invite delightful, sociable conversation.
posted by slimepuppy at 7:57 AM on April 2, 2008


Reading all the comments on this thread makes me eager to have kids. Video games were always a great bonding activity for the three men in my house (mom was a pinball girl). We had an Intellivision, which my father played fanatically (I mostly watched). When my dad bought the NES in 1987, the salesman sold us "The Legend of Zelda" by telling my father that it was more of an adult title. I, then 7 and much too much of a smartass for my own good, overheard this and took it as a challenge. Dad and I were in furious competition over this 1-player game, frequently checking each other's saves (Mom's save slot, #2, somehow fell rapidly into disuse, though she liked multiplayer NES Pinball) to see who was ahead. I still remember his outrage at seeing me about to beat the game while he was still looking for the Red Ring (I decided to skip it and take Gannon on with the blue ring; I think he was just as pissed that I was thinking more laterally than he was). The bastard (rest his soul) grabbed the controller from me so HE could fight Gannon.

I can't wait to have kids.
posted by Eideteker at 8:12 AM on April 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


People who don't play videogames think playing videogames is a waste of time. Film at 11.
posted by Dantien at 12:18 PM on April 2, 2008


Why the fuck are we still trying to vindicate gaming?
posted by joedan at 1:54 PM on April 2, 2008


joedan: Because we like games, we like to play games, we like games that are fun and fulfilling to play, and we don't like people dismissing things we like as worthless, crude, and damaging to children.
posted by flatluigi at 2:09 PM on April 2, 2008


I get your point, but why should I care about what the haters say about gaming? I mean, it's not like we're combating anti-gaming legislation anymore--the precedent in favor of videogames being a constitutionally protected form of expression is fairly well-established by now. So what if someone doesn't "get" gaming? I mean, if someone is interested in understanding the appeal of gaming, I'd be happy to explain it; in fact, I think that many people in this thread have done a great job of explaing the appeal of gaming in a way that a non-gamer could understand. However, there are always going to be people who dismiss gaming as a whole. Why should I give a crap about what they think?

Essentially, I'm saying this.
posted by joedan at 3:02 PM on April 2, 2008


Because they might, for instance vote people into power who have an inclination to mess with folk devils in order to score points, and if said folk devil is our hobby then it's going to come in for a bit of a kicking?

Also it's fun to just chat about games.
posted by Artw at 3:08 PM on April 2, 2008


How refreshing to see the stereotype broken by such delightfully sociable conversationalists.

Oh, come on. Your comment, even if it was not intended as such, was just another 'you silly people who play games are wasting your time, while the activities I choose to pursue (while assuming spuriously that people who enjoy gaming don't also pursue those activities, and might actually be as good or better at them than I) are more valuable, more noble, more societally significant.'

If you said 'I enjoy X' and someone else's rejoinder was 'Well, X is kinda worthless and wasteful of valuable time; I do Y and Z, and that makes me a better person' do you really think you'd take that with complete equanimity?

Personally, I love computer games. I'm also a better writer, better sportsman, better lover and drinker and conversationalist, I'm tougher and smarter and more capable, I know more about more things and have a wider variety of interests, skills, and activities, I've read more and seen more and lived more and loved more and travelled around the globe more than anyone could ever have dreamed who saw me as a callow youth sitting in front of my TRS-80 Model III back in 1979, coding up my own damn games. I like gaming, sure; but you'd be a fool to think that somehow defines me as a person.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:36 PM on April 2, 2008 [3 favorites]


How refreshing to see the stereotype broken by such delightfully sociable conversationalists.

You like sports. Would you appreciate being lumped together with brain-dead thick-necked football players who barely have the neuronal fortitude to form complex sentences? Or with speed-walking jackasses? Or with leathery-skinned narcissistic bodybuilders?

You 'dress cool'. Are you an insipid, cackling, gossip-hungry, mall-crawling fashionista? Perhaps an ignorant preppy tool who spends more time gelling his hair just so and making sure that his polo collar is popped to correct angle than he does thinking about current events?

I could draw those all overreaching conclusions about people who like sports and dress cool, based on very limited samples. And I'd probably get a similarly delightful and sociable reaction if I asserted those stereotypes in a thread about sports or Fashion Week.
posted by CKmtl at 6:04 PM on April 2, 2008


How refreshing to see the stereotype broken by such delightfully sociable conversationalists.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:41 AM on April 2 [+] [!]

You're right. I should have been more tactful.

When you mentioned all the things that you are great at, being in shape, meeting girls, having a social life, I incorrectly assumed you were, in spite of your "nothing against videogames" caveat, linking videogame skill to a lack of skill in those key areas. This displeased me, as I know this not to be true, at least anecdotally, as I am good at all of these things too, AND I'm good at video games.

Perhaps in my haste I reacted harshly. It's good to see you turn your personal shortcomings into a positive! Good on you!
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 5:30 AM on April 3, 2008 [3 favorites]


The Adult Crime Game Kids Love
posted by Artw at 8:08 PM on April 26, 2008


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