Thursday, 25 July 2013

The way we love games

 We are gamers. It is in our nature -- as humans  -- to learn and develop skills through ludic activities, right from our early childhood to the future of our lives, wherever that may take us. Were we playing purposefully with our hands and feet even before we were born or were we preparing for our emergence in life? What about the times we played with our brothers, sisters or with our friends and we got all competitive? Did we love the game more than the people that are close to us? Was it that important for us to win and prove that we are better than them? For us it was, for all of us, even for our brothers, sisters or our friends. Our genes tell us it was important, our parents agree, the society agrees too, as long as things don't escalate too much. That never meant we didn't love them. And we loved to play. We played all kinds of games with family and friends, from hide-and-seek, charades and board games to video games and sports, helping with our social skills, enhancing our ability to communicate with others, sharpening our dexterity and focus, bonding with our loved ones.
Then there's someone you like… very much. During your first kiss, have you thought of a game? Of course not, that'd be weird. Anyway, you both walk slowly in the park, holding your hands, making small talk, debating politics or just enjoying a silent day, and barely noticing your fingers started playing their own game. You realize you love the one that's near to you and decided to spend your life playing that game together, your own little game, while watching small ones become competitive at their own. Living lives, playing games and loving it.
And sometimes we play alone. It's not sad, the world is still around us, but we all need our alone time once in a while, or it's a single-player campaign. We also love online multiplayer or local co-op video games and, technically, we don't play those alone. Yeah, let's just dive into video games. We can play other games, like sports, cards or board games, but we are gamers and we love video games more than any other games. However, games are not humans, they're just data written on a hard disk, but that doesn't make them hard to love. Either casual,  hardcore gamers or everything in between, we are passionate about gaming just as a philatelist is passionate about stamps or how a painter sees his art. Either creator or collector, we play games because we love to, not just as a mere hobby, but as a passion.
 We also despise games. As for the industry, we hate it for what it has become. We grew with it -- the ones who did -- and see it grow, with our help, growing slowly from a sweet child that many "grown-ups" dismissed before as having any kind of future or mocking its airs of art. We gave it our whole love, watched it bloom and slowly forgetting about us, as it adorned itself with jewels and pearls, the dower we happily left it. And we understood. That's exactly what we wanted, wasn't it? But now, it claims for more, much more than we can bare, and still we bare, because we have to. What else should we do? It's like the celebrity child of an old dying man, a man that knows his child is actually a prostitute in disguise. Is it okay to hate the industry for what we made it become? Somewhere, along this time, we must have made something wrong, making it believe that it's okay to be materialistic and selfish, without even knowing that we made ourselves believe the same. Is it okay to hate Clementine for growing up to be more like (the early, arrogant, finicky, wise-cracking) Lara Croft, instead of Elizabeth, in the harsh world she's living? But instead of thinking of the gaming industry as our child, we should relate to it as the entity that governs our gaming world, a world that we helped build by paying our taxes regularly (well… there might have been some embezzlement here and there), while helping the small local businesses grow as well. The industry is more a home to developers and publishers, the ones that founded their companies and create/publish the games that we love, the games that we hate and the games that don't appeal to us. We are here only to discover them and find the one that deserves all our dedication.
 Besides the games that harmed us in a way or another, made us fall for them, only to take all our money and leave us with a shallow heart, or the games we choose to hate just because we feel like doing so without any specific reasons, besides these games are the ones that we care about. As any collector, I can only assume that physical copies are the ones that we care about the most, because the caring becomes physical too. Once in a while, you need to clean the dust on the shelf. What did you thought? The first games that we ever played are always the greatest in our hearts, just like our first crush. They might not be as pretty as they were back then, but it's fun to meet again once in a while and catch up. Franchises don't count here, Super Mario Galaxy is more like the grand-grand-grand-nephew of Super Mario Brothers.
 Moving forward, you find yourself seeing more and more pretty games that you'd like to play, but you can't have them all, because you might not be able to afford them all or that expensive console everyone talks about. Who knows? One of those games could be the one that you can play over and over again without ever getting bored, holding it forever in you library. Maybe you passed that game by the retailer's shelf, maybe you smiled at it and move on or maybe you will never even know that game ever existed, the game that could make you proud and happy to be a gamer.  But you're a gamer and you have to play games, many times over. Some games are just too needy or too greedy, they always ask you for more after playing it once, coming back with more content and disappointing new endings, with season passes and downloadable content, expensive outfits, guns, skills and even experience points (really?). You say no or you say yes, it doesn't matter. They're here to stay. Once you played that game, even if you let it go afterwards, it'll always be a part of your life. You should now be wiser, more mature in choosing your next purchase and if you're not, don't worry, we'll all get there someday.
 And one day, we find the game we were always looking for, the game that we can finally answer to our friends and the whole community when we're asked about: this is my favorite game. It may have been that first trailer, that first leaked artwork or it may have been that you finally decided to find out what's all the fuss about. And it was perfect. It has the most beautiful atmosphere, the most charismatic and lovable characters, amazing voice acting, original and stupendous story and the most polished and engaging game play; the game you always wanted to play, the game you could come back to every time you need to know why you are a gamer and why you play games with that passion. It won't probably age well, knowing how graphics are always pushing the boundaries of polygons to achieve photorealism, but you also know that this game will be yours for as long as you want it to be.

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