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Happiness is a Warm Controller

Sean Sands | 29 Nov 2009 14:00
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Videogaming is very often an exercise as much in frustration as in joy. As the drummer and part-time lead vocalist for underground Rock Band super-group Moon Juice B**tches, I certainly know frustration from fun. At its best, this hobby I've chosen is as rewarding as I can imagine any hobby being, but as I struggle through unforgiving dungeons in Dragon Age or grind heroic dailys in World of WarCraft, I can't say that I'm exactly having fun.

Measuring my emotions at moments like those in WoW or Dragon Age, I come up with adjectives like determined, engaged, interested, stubborn, satisfied, intent and occasionally frustrated.

Fun is a word to me like innovation. It's something we all seem to claim that we want and expect from gaming without really having a sense of what in particular it is. So that problematic voice in my head questions me again, why do I game?

Is there an addictive component at play? Has 30 years of inertia just made the decision to game the default? Am I pursuing that moment of genuine fun like a drug addict begging for one more hit? It would be easy to devolve into artificial and overwrought self-analysis at this point - really embrace the gamer-shame and describe an industry that has me helpless in its clutches? Which post-modern tarot card will I be: the addict, the victim, the self-absorbed?

Boring.

The answer comes to me in a very simple way, and though it feels a little unsatisfying, it also feels right.
It is a decision made innumerable times over a handful of decades; a choice to invest myself and my identity into this. This is a part of the "me" that I've decided to construct. I am still a gamer because I choose to be one.

I realize that gaming is not always fun. It does not always cast me in the most impressive light. It is unlikely to win me accolades with a headstrong PTA crowd and will always make me look a little bit like a child. I'm banking on that being a good thing as I get older and find myself mired ever more often in the drudgery of being an adult. This is a way to stay grounded with the me that spent afternoons playing with Transformers in the back yard and rode his bike to school.

Fun? I'll pursue it happily, of course, but expecting it to be omnipresent is a foolish and pointless notion. It's not why I play - not in any general sense at least. I play these games because I have grown accustomed to and happy with the notion that videogamer is part of what I hope is a somewhat complex identity.

As an otherwise conformed adult living in the suburbs with a mortgage, a wife and two kids, it's nice to have something in my life that the carbon copies at parties sneer at a little bit. It may not be as extreme as facial piercings or a job in the adult film industry, but it helps me distinguish myself from the generic world around me.

In truth, I am a gamer in part so that self-important windbags at boring parties can fix me with a condescending stare and ask me, "You still play videogames?"

Sean Sands is a husband,a father, a writer, a son, an employee, a consumer, a home owner and a gamer. These are just a few of the ways in which he can be neatly categorized.

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