The End Game

I experienced a moment while playing Diablo 3 recently that made me very reflective on the state of video gaming. This moment was not really special in any particular way, it was just, wrong. It felt wrong for me I suppose. As someone who started playing as a “hardcore” gamer around the time of Ultima Online it was difficult for me to realize I had just become a casual player. A “carebear” for those of you who understand the gaming community.

When I started playing video games…I was merciless. My friends and I in middle school were extreme PvPers and relentless pursuers of our own brand of fun. We were quite the scoundrels at times. This pretty much overflowed in to just about every game I played from then on, from GoldenEye to Diablo to Star Wars Galaxies and everything in between. I was a dedicated gamer. I expected nothing given to me easily, no easy ways out, no gradual learning curve, and no mercy. I saw something broken and I either exploited it or sucked it up to do the best I could to work around it. Why? Because the gaming construct was just the beginning, it wasn’t the end. It was the framework for me to express myself. I made the game great by the effort I put into it and not letting external factors which I couldn’t control dictate my enjoyment of an alternate reality. Just because I didn’t always get what I wanted it didn’t mean that I should.

I understood this and reveled in the fact that I wasn’t the center of the universe. But that I could still carve out a unique part in this universe. Enjoying it as I would a unique moment in  my life, appreciating the surprises of success when and if they came.

So suffice to say, when I found myself getting upset at how Blizzard had not coddled me during this brief difficult moment in the game, I was taken aback. I wanted instant justice and an easy solution with minimal effort. This moment got me thinking about how I’ve changed and how others who play the types of games I enjoy have changed.

I’ve been reading through some of the various forums in which I frequent and it is definitely startling to see how gaming communities as a whole have morphed into something quite different. There is a distinct disconnect between the games we play and our attachment to them. We are definitely losing our sense of perspective.

Gone are the days when we expected things to not be perfect and to work with the limitations we had. Gone are the days where gamers had patience and perseverance. Gone are the days where I didn’t need achievements to validate my gaming.

I am extremely frustrated with how things have become. Gamers have this attitude where if there is no instant gratification then the game must be messed up. This age of arm-chair developers who want a game to be catered to them and them alone. All reward and no risk. The style over the substance. So many gamers are so quick to point out every minor fault all the while thinking of the next game on the horizon. It has become this crazy lifestyle where you are bringing home the prom queen every night then kicking her out of bed when you see her without makeup. Never satisfied or appreciative of what you have, always looking forward to the next best thing. If the sequel doesn’t do everything better in every way than the first, then it’s crap. If the ending isn’t exactly to our liking, then it’s crap. If there aren’t enough raids on launch day, then it’s crap. Never mind the fact that this game has ten times the things previous games had at their launch, it’s still crap.

I don’t say this as someone who isn’t immune to this either. I too have changed along the way. I am far too quick to toss a game aside or whine about a difficult challenge in leveling a character. Or even how the grind to get an armor set is a pain in the ass. I have become too preoccupied with the idea that everything must fit into my preconceived notion of how the game will end for me. Where is the 8th grader who enjoyed the journey and didn’t put too much emphasis on the fake shiny stuff at the end? I’m not saying you just accept a bad game, I’m just saying that we used to be more tolerant and connected to our gaming communities. Our feedback used to have more meaning and were not just threats and angry temper tantrums. For many gamers the games we play have become a background noise, the TV you leave on to help go to sleep. We don’t play them like we used to. Now it seems, it’s just to have the medal around your neck saying you did it.

It’s not the game that is important, it’s how you played it.

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