Ever dug out your 6th grade pictures? I did recently, and boy, I was an awkward-looking kid! I had it all: thick glasses, bowl cut, and pimples. It’s a tough time for most kids. I think we all go through it because the humiliation makes us better people, or maybe we just get better at making fun of other people and taking the heat off ourselves.
Like people, gaming has been aging (albeit more slowly) and going through its own growing pains. Let’s run down the stages before I get to gaming’s current puberty.
1971-1983 – Gaming is mostly concerned with blocks and bouncing balls. In 1983, gaming fell over face first from fatigue and fell asleep for awhile.
1983-1990 – Gaming takes its first awkward steps. Some games are hard due to a lack of fine motor control. Other games are too easy. Some games leave an indelible mark on gaming, setting precedent (and fond memories) for decades to come.
1990- 1994 – More graphics! More colors! Fights on the playground about SNES vs Genesis! Games got bigger and louder and more energetic. We also started to see gaming on the go.
1994- 2000 – Worlds expand with the advent of 3D gaming. Gamers are given a little more freedom to explore their new worlds. Gaming really hits its stride in terms of popularity.
2000- present – The awkward adolescence.
Gaming culture right now is a lot like puberty. Here’s a couple of ways I’ve noted.
1. Trying to be taken seriously
Whether it’s the argument that video games are art (Remember when Roger Ebert kept getting trolled because he said they weren’t? Let’s face it, some of the responses to him were extremely childish and not at all well thought out.) or the need for gamers to justify their hobby (At least I’m not drinking, smoking, or doing drugs! It helps my hand-eye coordination!), many gamers feel a need for non-gamers to take their hobby seriously. They want others to see it as a legit form of expression and amusement.
I still feel the need to justify my gaming habits to skeptical adults. But really, it doesn’t need to be justified to anyone. I like playing, so I do it. I try to do it in moderation and not let it take over my life (gaming as lifestyle rather than hobby can be a big problem), and it gives me a little bit of joy. ‘Nuff said.
2. Gamer entitlement
I’m a frequent reader of gaming blogs and magazines, so I’ve noticed entitlement creeping into gamer culture for a few years now. It really came to a head earlier this year, when Mass Effect 3‘s ending was kind of lame. There was outcry, threats of lawsuits, and numerous articles written in favor of changing the ending or leaving it as is.
This morning, I was on the Facebook page for the great little indy game Terraria. It’s basically a 2D Minecraft with a lot more actual game to it. It’s wonderful; the gameplay is nearly endless. It’s been out only on PC for a few years, but word is that another developer got permission to develop the game for video gaming consoles.
This is when the crap hit the fan.
You see, Terraria’s original creator decided to stop updating the game… but these new guys were going to add new stuff to the console version. This made the PC guys very angry. I can see why… kind of. Realistically though, most of these guys have probably gotten 100 hours or more out of Terraria, a game that costs 10 bucks. This whining strikes me as extremely selfish.
I have a bit more sympathy for the Mass Effect 3 players. They payed $60 for a game that didn’t deliver on its advertised promises.
We don’t have to whine about everything. Gaming will mature when gamers can understand the business of making and shipping games, I think. Like a child that doesn’t understand everything their parents have to go through in order to feed and cloth them, gaming culture still has some growing up to do.
3. Misunderstanding what mature is
I’ll tell you what maturity isn’t: it isn’t lots of boobs, guts, and violence. It isn’t constant cursing, or acting the way you want to at any given moment. Maturity is knowing when to act and how to act at any given time. Like I said, I’ve been reading gaming forums for a long time, and while I’m seeing a lot of maturity, I’m also seeing a huge lack of it.
Gaming culture will eventually mature. When it does, video gaming will be taken seriously by the mainstream. Before that happens, gamers will have to take it seriously, though. I hope you know that takes much more than simply dedicating large swaths of their life to playing games. It takes an understanding of how games are made, the consequences of playing them, and a less entitled attitude.
I think all of that will happen…eventually. These growing pains will be good for us.
Until then, be good to each other.
(Note: The Featured Image is of me and my friend Chris circa 1992. Sorry, Chris!)