Note: This is a repost of a particularly meaningful post here on LC that was part of the Last Great Purge.
Being a gamer is a choice. It’s a lifestyle. It’s a hobby. It’s a passion. It’s a source of inspiration. It’s also a source of anger.
It’s thanks to the Internet that we’ve found one another, which is something we tend to forget. There are those who are too young to remember the days when talking about video games in public was verboten, lest you be shunned, or even beat up. Believe it or not, there was a time when it was hard to find other gamers. Video games were sold in toy stores, which were the domains of little children, not teenagers or even young adults. If you had a modem, you might find other gamers on a BBS, or if you had a local users group, you might be able to find kindred souls in a church basement or unused library room.
The internet has allowed us to come together at the same time as gaming is maturing. Having expended it’s store of geeks and nerds, the industry turns to the mainstream, pulling the stereotypes of those that decades ago wouldn’t admit to playing video games: the moms, the jocks, the females. Being a gamer now is acceptable, and verily borders on commonplace when shopping meccas like Wal-Mart and Target get their own “exclusive” versions of pre-release titles. Anyone with an Internet connection can jump into the fray, playing online with strangers, talking about their favorite games, and coming together as a community.
But what has brought us together also can push us apart. Differing opinions were never much of a stumbling block in the early days of gaming because there wasn’t enough stock to diversify opinions, and any opinions to be had were rarely heard in large numbers. The Net has opened the doors for people to toss their hat into the ring to express their opinions, and to confront and engage those of differing minds. This freedom can, when executed in a controlled, civil manner, make us all better though exposure to points of view, if we’re willing to accept them on their own terms. When discourse turns to debate, and debate into partisan sniping, we lose what gains the Internet has given us: connections, friends, and solidarity.
If you’re old enough, think back to the times when heated exchanges over video games was impossible because there was no one to have them with. Remember when it was far less socially acceptable to talk about video games because they were considered toys that tethered children indoors and to the television. Remember how much of a relief it was when you did find another gamer that you could talk to about the things that you wanted to talk about, but otherwise couldn’t with the people around you. If you’re not old enough, then try it: unplug for a month. No blogs, no social networking, no news feeds, no digital downloads, no online gaming, no trips to GameStop. Engage your non-gaming friends, family and co-workers in discussions about gaming, and record their reactions, and then pretend that you can’t get out of that loop.
We’re lucky that things have turned out the way that they have, and in a way and at a pace that we never could have imagined back when we enjoyed our gaming in isolation. We can’t take it for granted, though. This hyper-connectivity isn’t a conduit for anger, sarcasm or combat, and shouldn’t be used to isolate ourselves and others behind arbitrary walls of unwavering opinion. We’re all together now, sharing our experiences both good and bad. It’s the kind of togetherness that we wished we had when video gaming was first taking off, and that is something that we should not forget.
Just a footnote: We tend to get into some heated discussions on the net, which is perfectly fine because it signals our passion for the topic, but because it’s all walls of text, it’s often times difficult to really make the exact point that you want to make the way you want to make it and not have it read in a totally different way by people on the other side. It’s unavoidable. The key, then, is to remember that we’re all talking about things that we love, and while we all want to share our enthusiasm, the net is in imperfect vehicle for conducting our excitement and passion. We’ are all very lucky to be able to be able to have these discussions these days, and with the kinds of people we always wanted to have them with.