12/12/09

I Dreamed a Dream of a World without Stupid Terminology Pertaining to Video Games

There's a NeoGAF discussion thread (that I found via the Hardcore Gaming 101 forum) wherein a bunch of gamers prattle on in pretend-intellectual speak about the words gamers use to define themselves and each other. I used to edit student essays for a college freshmen rhetoric class, so the tone of this discussion became terribly familiar less than half-way into the original post. But there's something admirable in much of what they say, even if some of the forum-goers aren't as capable of expressing it as others.

It does beg the question of what sort of "gamer" I might call myself. I hate the arbitrary term "hardcore," for all sorts of reasons, the least of which is that it doesn't denote anything concrete. The "esoteric gamer," the terminology proffered by the original poster in that thread, is even worse. Games are already esoteric to those who don't play them, and certain genres of games are obtuse to gamers who don't like them. The word casual now refers to people who play very simple games or buy non-game console software, like Wii Fit. I used to think of "casual" as a reference to people who play lots of Madden NFL 2Kwhatev, Halo, or some other simplified genre excursion. Those people are now referred to as "hardcore" by much of the gaming press, which I suppose is now comprised of little more than Game Informer, 1up, Kotaku and a billion amateur bloggers and forumites and youtube users.

But I also have to admit that I don't call myself a "gamer." Video games aren't my foremost hobby; I spend more time reading and watching movies than I do playing games. But even if video games took up more of my time (and I have been playing them more often, of late) I wouldn't want to personally identify myself with them. I wouldn't want to attach to my identity the title of "gamer." I've seen users on various forums and websites wondering why social networking sites have sections for favorite movies and books, but not video games. I never wondered that.

The matter of self-identification could easily solve itself. You're a "gamer" if you identify yourself as one. But that puts me in an untenable position, as I don't want to ascribe myself that kind of nomenclature, but I probably play more games than most non-nerdy people and know more about game history than the average Xbox Live loudmouth. The games that interest me are usually RPGs. I like dungeon crawlers and silly JRPGs with overly flashy graphics. I love Japanese developer Falcom, whom I make reference (and jokes) to pretty regularly on this blog. I'm also interested in arcade beat-em-ups, Koei/Omega Force games based on Chinese and Japanese history, and games from China and South Korea. I'm starting to think I'll give anything done by Vanillaware a shot.

My tastes are weird, and the games that I like are easily identified as games. I'm a firm opponent of the idea that games are art. (Not that they can't be, but that they aren't, generally) Am I a self-loathing gamer?

I think I've taken shots at Jeremy Parish, Christian Nutt, and Tim Rogers at some point or other on this blog. But really, I think that what they want out of games is more or less similar to what I want. I'll never agree with some of what Rogers puts on actionbutton.net, but I'm fairly (i.e. completely) certain he knows more about game design and the industry than I do.** I'll never agree with Nutt or Parish on some issues either, but the more I read of what they have to say, the less I think we're so different in what we like about video games. Yes, we all want a game that controls well and has fun/workable gameplay mechanics. But I think we're looking for some sort of human warmth as well. For me, that's Falcom's appeal, same for Troika -- even Blizzard at one point. I don't need a brilliant story out of Ys 7 or Temple of Elemental Evil. And I won't get them either. But those games feel as though they were made by people. People I might like.

There's probably a lot of people who feel that way about Valve, or the long defunct Looking Glass, or Treasure. Or at least, something like it.

Video games are made by people who have idiosyncrasies and personalities. I like seeing the evidence of this. Whatever title the game journalists, forum goers and other pedants and didacts would like to assign to this, I'll be happy to take it.

**Please Note: Rogers' site's design makes my eyes shout their safe word. If your eyes don't have a safe word, you should probably sit down and devise one before entering actionbutton.net.

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