There’s a Game Out There for Everyone: Rethinking Games and Who They’re For
People are almost constantly surprised by the movies I haven’t seen. From Guardians of the Galaxy to The Breakfast Club, I have managed to avoid some big names in ‘must see’ cinema. It became a recent point of discussion amongst some of my oldest friends. They asked me questions, probing me in the hopes of understanding why I had such curious gaps in my movie knowledge. I had no real answers. It’s something I’ve often wondered myself.
Suddenly, my friend Liesl came out with the question: ‘Is it because of games? Are games what you do instead of movies?” I can’t remember how I answered at the time, but she gave me a lot to think about. I certainly think she’s on to something.
One thing that struck me about this question was how alien my experience felt to her. It wasn’t that I think she doesn’t respect my hobbies or my passions, but that I think she feels removed from them. This is true of quite a few of my friends really. Videogames are not common social or cultural ground with them. While I’ve never found this to be a problem (a perspective I’m sure they share) it has gotten me thinking about games, who consumes them, and why.
There’s a game out there for everyone.
This is something I believe very deeply. A mantra I repeat. A sentiment I value to the point where my goal when setting up the video games section here at The Tertangala was to attempt at constantly presenting this statement with the follow up; I’m here to help you find yours. If I could find games that resonate with the Liesls of the world, the people who don’t feel a connection to videogames culturally, then it would be great if my section could become a place where new sorts of gamers could grow. If I could convince just one person to fall in love with a single game, against all their expectations, then that would be worth more to me than the respect of a thousand established gamers.
There was a time gone by in which the way I thought about videogames and videogame criticism was fairly black and white. A game was either good or bad; right or wrong; fun or boring; worthy of your time or a waste of it. I was the kind of person who dismissed Facebook, mobile, and browser games as shallow and pointless. A game was either a “proper game” or not, based entirely on platform biases, arbitrary standards, and my own personal tastes. While sure, there are some design choices made in game development that detract from the product in some way, but there is so much more to videogames than an itemised list of pros and cons. A game is a system that generates experiences when players interact with it. Much of gaming criticism today is focused almost entirely on the functionality of the system (are the load times acceptable? Are the controls efficient and responsive? etc). But we ignore the personal experiences of play in the pursuit of chasing an objective truth to what is ultimately, a form of digital art.
Games are becoming easier to play and more accessible. You no longer need to buy expensive consoles or become literate in the use of complicated modern controllers. Cheap, easy to play and relatively short games like To The Moon are capable of creating meaningful, beautiful experiences for the player without requiring them to do more than click on things with a mouse. Games are everywhere. Every social media platform is a game. You build networks and share stories in an attempt to rack up enough “likes” to beat your own high score, or rival the high scores of others in your network. The app for Audible, the online audiobook store, has achievements for you to unlock based on your listening habits. Racking up hours, listening across consecutive days, even finishing an entire book in a single sitting; these goals set by the app aim to change the way we experience stories by turning the act of listening into a game.
Videogames are capable of orchestrating experiences in ways that no other kind of media or art can. They’re exciting, new, and diversifying rapidly. I write this in the hopes that I can encourage those who have given up on games as either too hard or too trivial, to think about them a little differently and maybe play something they’d never have played before. Games are not as hard or inaccessible as you think. You’ve been playing video games your whole life after all – even if it wasn’t always obvious as you tweeted along with a hashtag or swiped left and right on Tinder. Video games are on your phones, on your PCs, in your web browsers, and sometimes even in your search engines – if you happen to catch Google on a good day. No matter who you are, you already know how to play.
There’s a game out there for everyone. You just need to give yourself a chance to find it. While you do that, I’ll start working through my movie bucket list. Deal?