The Game Stash

The Game Stash: Show Some Respect

Steve Butts | 28 Jul 2010 22:00
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At the risk of angering those who, like me, wish that games were taken more seriously by the culture at large, I find the whole "games as Art" debate tedious. Nothing seems quite so desperate to me as the avid attempts to convince someone else of the objective validity of a purely subjective experience. In a way, it almost seems like those gamers who get the most passionate about defending games as art are the most insecure and are merely searching for some sort of external justification of their own interests. Quite probably that generalization is unfair to specific individuals, and I apologize to any of you who are motivated purely by high-minded generosity to the industry we love.

Moving for a moment from the general level to the specific, how many of us routinely seek out reviews of movies, books or games that we have already watched, read or played? Our individual points of view are essential to our humanity, so the desire to seek out other opinions that support, challenge or enlarge our own points of view is part of what makes us human. This is why I find it ridiculous when people avoid the opinions of game reviewers (or news pundits or whoever) they don't agree with. While it's desirable to evaluate the credibility of your sources of information, whether you agree with their opinions or not is an entirely separate consideration. They may be able to see or express a judgment that you can't comprehend from your own point of view. In this they are more valuable to you than people who merely reflect your own views back at you.

I find this in my own outlook. Whether it's my spiritual beliefs, my role as a husband and father, or even just my participation in various hobbies, people on the outside of any of those experiences often form impressions that reject or even contradict the reality understood by those on the inside. It's like group of aliens landing on earth and studying humans by only observing our actions and never penetrating our inner emotional or intellectual lives. It would lead the observers to mistake as mere habit those human actions that are driven by inner motives of morality or aesthetics. Those are, in my opinion, the qualities that make our life distinct, but they can't be understood except as a participant. In short, you need to be a human to understand humanity.

Maybe that's getting a little overly philosophical, but I think the same is true of gamers.

Why are we so desperate for the approval (or at least informed respect) of people who don't share our interest and, by extension, only experience it whenever the visibility of a game rises enough to pierce the mainstream consciousness? As bystanders, they have a secondhand knowledge of gaming and take interest only to the extent that the controversies or intersections that bring gaming to their attention reinforce their own beliefs. At best, many of these people see gaming as merely wasteful or childish. At worst, they see it as dangerous and perverse. News stories that fulfill those expectations just widen the gulf of misunderstanding.

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