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Happiness is a Warm Controller

Sean Sands | 29 Nov 2009 10:00
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"You still play videogames?"

It is a question with far more inferred by the tone than the meanings of the words themselves can contain. It is not simply incredulity that seeps into the tone; there is the vague hint of genuine offense, the same kind you would expect had I just explained that I distill my own urine back into drinking water.

I feel like I should stress at this point that I do not do that.

I come from what I suspect may be the last generation to not accept the cultural mainstream of videogames. I share with many of my brethren in their late 30s a clear memory of a time when being a videogamer was as far from chic as paisley bowties and the comedy stylings of Emo Philips. And this muted but unmistakable derision is a sentiment that has certainly been tempered by the decades, but not one that has disappeared entirely, so that when I am exposed at a party as a rather dedicated gamer, no small contingent of those present are best described as aghast.

I fix my wife with an expression that is meant to say, "this is why I don't like going to these sorts of gatherings." But, instead of later telling her that we really need better part-time acquaintances, what I do is begin to really examine this gaming life I have chosen, because there is also a part of me that occasionally asks exactly the same question with exactly the same disgusted tone.

You still play videogames?

Gamer-shame is nothing new. In fact, I dare posit that much of the aggressive posturing that has come to define the hardcore gamer is a drastic overcompensation for gamer-shame, but I'd prefer not to derail my current point with armchair psychology. Still, the question has merit. Why do I play videogames? Is it such a simple question to answer?

For many, the comfortable knee-jerk response is satisfying enough. We game to have fun, of course. End of line. Anything more is just pointless pontificating. I don't necessarily begrudge this perspective, but it seems conveniently simple, if not outright wrong. Do you really just play games to "have fun?" Were that the singular metric, I'd be playing a hell of a lot fewer games. If I'm honest, I'm probably only having something like genuine fun playing videogames a quarter of the time, if that much.

Frankly, I believe that anyone who claims to be having fun more than half the time hasn't given the question much thought or is outright lying.

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