Sunday, 19 September 2010

A Summer Without Games

Written on holiday in Spain, typed/remixed in the early hours of the very last day of my summer holiday; an attempted explanation of why I've barely done any writing about games recently, even as I begin to try my luck applying for games journalism work.
None
It wasn't meant to happen. I didn't plan it this way, honest. But things went the way they did and I'm left with a summer in which I have bought precisely two videogames and played (thoroughly) one. One lousy game. One lousy brilliant game.

The reasons are as numerous as they are boring. Multiple holidays; nomadic lifestyle; dead 360; little access to surviving consoles; having a life; no* good games for the Wii...

Let's grab 'having a life', again. There's a lot of talk at the moment of where the medium's headed, whether games are going to make it in the canon of mainstream art forms. The common comparison is comic books, that other artform not for anyone with a life. But I don't mean it in that sense, the ugh it's for geeks sense of comics. We're past that now, surely.

I mean: have games got no place in a busy life?

This might be why they're looked down on. When you're in, you're in hard. Half-day sessions, looking up from the controller and suddenly it's light outside. Long term commitment in a single fixed place (I'm ignoring, for the sake of this argument, handhelds likes the DS, as well as the world of casual games) without the saving graces of those mainstream media. Films require sitting in one place, but for a relatively short period of time. Books require lengthy investment, but are portable, with value as a potential status symbol/signifier. TV is long-term commitment split over an extended period of time, in small bursts. Music, arguably the most pervasive medium of all, is both portable and short-burst/disposable, if you so wish.

Even comic books have got many of these virtues. They're held back by an image problem, both from the public and from within.

We're just different. That's our problem. I'm not saying the interactive nature of the beast isn't a roadblock to new users. I'm just pointing out that even to someone within the fold - a connoisseur/addict, like me - the very nature of games requires effort to be kept up with. And what's less cool than effort?

7 comments:

Jakkar said...

Way to make me want to cry, Alex. I'm already at this stage, and I don't even have a job, or much of a life. I think time is simply moving faster every year >.>

I no longer have time to do anything before the sun is setting already. Or rising, as the case may be..

Anonymous said...

The job/life part of growing up is probably the biggest hurdle to gaming itself growing up. Gaming critics often bemoan the stuck-in-college attitude a lot of AAA games have, but it's because older gamers simply won't buy a game they only have the time to play a few hours of. We're left with the 13-22 crowd controlling the console market.

Handhelds provide a direct response to this problem. Many deride handhelds as casual, but their form factor and instant-sleep ability fit perfectly into a busy older gamer's schedule. It's no wonder handhelds have a staggering variety of titles, many of which are "hardcore gamer" oriented (Castlevania, Persona, MGS, Monster Hunter, etc.).

Switching from gaming in front of a TV/computer all day to gaming on a handheld during pockets of free time does take getting used to, but it's worth it. The increasing power of handhelds helps as well- according to reports, the 3DS is much more than a DS with a 3D gimmick. It might not be in glorious 1080p on a 50" TV, but it's solid gaming, and that's what counts. You don't have to smother the gamer inside you- find a new way to game!

Harbour Master said...

It's nice to know that I'm not the only one with this problem. I'm in my late thirties and this problem has only really reared it's head in the last few years.

I'm not sure what we can do about it, apart from setting light to the blue touch paper of the internet and hope she go boom, never to return. It's the internet that often abuses the fleeting pulses of spare time that I turn up.

Gregg B said...

I'm with you HM, but you already knew that.

My life is as simple as a grown-up's can get: 9-6 job, short commute, comfortable mortgage, 'low maintenance' partner, no kids, no other time-consuming hobbies (other than writing now and then) and I still have difficulty playing through my ridiculous list of games. I blame the internet; without it I'd be sat in a lovely bubble of blissful ignorance playing games instead of reading (or writing) about them.

Alex said...

Thanks for your comments guys. I'm incredibly slow at the moment (it's been a weird couple of weeks).
The internet is a crazy time-eater.
But this whole debacle has inspired me to: A) get my 360 fixed and B) finally take the plunge into DS-ownership.
Yay!
x

Alex said...

I have just realised that I accidentally linked to my piece on Shrek 4 rather than Mario Galaxy as I intended to. D'oh!

Now fixed. Too late, probably.

xtal84 said...

Nice article, Alex. You're not alone, that's for sure.

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Videogames, film, music, comics: feed them into the Alex-Spencer machine and out come neat little articles. Like the ones you're looking at here.