Friday, October 10, 2014

The fractured mainstream

In the tiny pantheon of people I know there are precisely three people who play video games. One is a member of the PC master race, at least he was until an SSD in his rig took a shit, and now he recommends melancholy indy titles that will I play eventually. Another plays nothing but NCSoft handheld RPGs, taking the occasional break to invest ludicrous amounts of time in Dragon Age games. The third plays nothing but first person shooter with friends. He was thrilled when I started Destiny, decidedly less so when I put it away because I had had my fill after around a week.

The people that I see most, at work (ugh) have no idea what I do in my free time. When asked I usually deflect the question with half truths like rock climbing, which I do but only once a week, or not answering at all. I am not embarrassed of the fact that each and every evening ends with around three hours of screen time but trying to explain that to people whose definition of 'fun' is so different would be next to impossible.

Word of my trip to Chicago for UFGT leaked out two years ago. I had told one person who almost understood and he of course told the boss. When I got back he asked how I did, which was easily answered (terribly) but I could tell that he wanted details. He and I don't have enough communal vocabulary to make this possible. If I say Street Fighter he has no idea what I am talking about. If I say competitive fighting game he thinks I am donning pads and stepping into a ring. This is not his fault, he is around sixty five and from a different world, but the disconnect is astounding.

Not that he doesn't keep trying. Just yesterday he asked what I did over the weekend, then made a joke about playing games. I couldn't tell him that I play every night, that I ran through Horizon 2 in a week, he just wouldn't understand. So I lied, told him that I play when there is time and that I was currently working on an open world racing game.

As 'mainstream' and common as video games are there is still a massive chunk of the population who have no interest in or understanding of them. This is not necessarily an age based discrepancy. Yes, I am on the upper edge of years for people who play games consistently, I got in on the ground floor and never stopped, but there are people significantly younger than I whose entire gaming experience has been on phones and tablets, to whom owning a console would be an inconvenience. It is a fractured pass time unlike all others.

Television and movies at least offer common ground between preferences. I don't like horror movies but I know what Saw is and why I will never watch it. I don't have cable but I know what Game of Thrones is and that I really should find a way to see it. Ask someone whose definition of games is Candy Crush Saga and Bejeweled what he or she thinks of the last Call of Duty and you will either get a blank stare or be told to talk to the kids.

Thank goodness for the internet, a place where I can say 'No Russian' and someone will know what I am talking about. I can complain about Yun's bullshit or unwarranted Blanka nerfs and be instantly greeted with cheers and jeers. Places like this don't exist in the real world.

At least I don't think they do. At least not in the Midwestern fly over states.

Gaming isn't mainstream yet. It is accepted but not embraced. It means different things to different people so it may never be. The guy who buys nothing but Madden every year has nothing to say to the JRPG enthusiast with the waifu pillow pre-order bonus. Neither of them are wrong, they just don't speak the same language.

To be clear, I do not think that anything needs to be fixed. It is wonderful and broken like vanilla Sagat.

Look it up.

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