I Hate Loving Video Games
Too often, I’m afraid to share with others that I love video games. On the outside, I’m nothing more than Joe in an oxford and jeans. Look a little closer and you’ll see an array of geek culture items stuffed inside my cubicle; namely from the franchises of Lord of the Rings and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Look just a little bit closer and you’ll come across an original Game Boy, a Mega Man amiibo, and Monument Valley mini-posters.
Seeing as they work in the world of tech, I’m happy to share my passion for games with my closest colleagues, but only those who have expressed an interest in video games. Even amongst my closest friends, I endulge in game-related-talk with strategic delicacy. I continually apologize to my wife for my insatiable craving for video game news and related events. (House of Cards, Season 3 has been a source of frequent discussion.)
Recently, a handful of events within a matter of days made me realize just how embarrassed I was to share my passion for video games and the industry at large.
It began with a trip my therapist. I had/have been experiencing bouts of extreme depression and decided to, again, seek help. We had had a few talks, but during one particular session, I had squeamishly let out that I had blog. And for a bit, I beat around a the bush in avoiding that the blog was centered on video games. I did my best to cover it up as an obsession for the business of video games and the social issues surrounding the industry, but in the end I supposed that all she was heard was, “video games, video games, child, video games.” However, if a supposition was all I had created, it mustn’t have meant much at all.
Then I met with an esteemed colleague. It was a candid conversation, but nonetheless not a conversation I felt I deserved. (In fact, I still haven’t offered my formal “thanks” for the talk.) Worst of all, prior to our conversation, this person had been informed that I wrote a blog. I was absolutely mortified to learn that they knew of my passion for video games. (By the end of our conversation, they informed me that they had not read my blog, thank God.)
Days later, I decided to set aside writing. It began as an experiment. Would I feel happier without blogging?
Furthermore, I unfollowed any and all video game related Twitter accounts. (Okay, okay… I continued to follow them, but only exclusively from my blog’s Twitter account.) Would it ease my desire for dipping into the video games industry?
On the flip-side of my social media purge, I decided, if anything, I would not forgo my desire to play video games. (To be completely honest, lately, there hasn’t been a huge desire to play anyway, but that is a story for another blog post.)
It turns out, after a (short) blogging hiatus and unfollowing gaming Twitter accounts, I felt much happier and, in fact, played more video games.
As of a few days ago, I decided to dip back into blogging. I need to write, and there is nothing that flows more freely than writing about video games and the related industries and technologies. Though, as I have learned, this comes in extreme moderation. Only if something is truly gnawing at me will I blog about it. First comes family, then work.
During a jog this evening, listening to the TED Radio Hour, I stumbled upon the problem I’ve been trying to solve: I am embarrassed to love video games. It is a passion that is difficult to share with my wife, my family, my in-laws, my therapist, my boss, my friends, etc. And yet, it shouldn’t be.
Video games are a multibillion dollar industry that have always been at the threshold of emerging technology. They have pushed consumer tech, inspired education, and connected communities far and wide, tight and isolated. Certainly, there is plenty of controversy the indulgence of video games has sparked, but breaking education around the medium has been fascinating, enlightening, and encouraging.
Aside from Mega Man 2 being my first memory, the experience of seeing Sonic tap his foot during an idle animation sparked a fervor of imagination and inspiration. There has always been an unknowable, untouchable magic behind video games and I have always aimed to get close enough to never fully understand where the magic comes from; to tip-toe the line between creator and player; to never peak behind the curtain.
I hate loving video games because I cannot succinctly and accurately express their importance in this world. Those who grew up with them enjoy them, but those who didn’t, in my eyes, still don’t understand. They may have played Candy Crush on their smartphone or Farmville on Facebook; maybe they read a piece about video games in the New York Times or giggled at the joke about Solitare in You’ve Got Mail; but to me they still look at a lover of video games as an alien with unbalanced priorities.
As I write this I cannot tell you why it matters that gobs of people pay gobs of money to keep playing video games that will amount to what seems as some vapid personal satisfaction or gain, but there is something there. Something more than addiction and mindlessness. Something more than agency and narrative. Something more than technical bliss and inspiring art. Something that I have yet to put my finger on and hopefully never will; but I hope I get close enough to express its importance in a perspective shattering way.