I'm a gaming hobo. While my bindle is digital, I'd still like to pretend it resembles a red and white handkerchief slung over my shoulder as I meander from game to game, from genre to genre, in search of "home." I've pondered the aspects of my nomadic rambling before, dueling fanboys and pragmatists, while defending my position that I'm not a picky whiner but someone in search of a gaming identity. Realization of my search came a few years ago, when it hit me that it just didn't make sense to play Quake III when Quake II was so much better. Good luck justifying that epiphany to the collective crowd that is mainstream gaming; according to the groupthink, "it's better because it's new, and you're a grognard if you can't adapt." I never really earned the "gamer" title because I couldn't fall in love with anything put in front of me.
I don't consider myself a gamer; I consider myself someone who does things, and sometimes plays games. I read and talk and write about them more than I actually play them; I'm a fan of the ideal, the hype, the promise. I've argued design theory with masters of code to the point of profanity, but when the games finally hit shelves, all I could do was read the box quotes, shrug my shoulders, and wait for the Next Big Thing.
I know I'm not alone. I've seen entire tribes of refugees during my travels, people fixated on one dead game or another. There are die-hard Ultima Online fans, SubSpace freaks and Fallout geeks. As the Great City of Gaming builds itself on top of its history, an undercurrent of homeless gamers wander between high-poly games, in search of their previous gaming peak. Rarely do they find it. The tribes converge from time to time, occasionally trading stories, their artifacts from ages past. The common theme is always the same: Where's home?
So many games are going by the wayside that even The Great Ones are starting to fall off the map. As with anything great, it's hard for us to say goodbye. The games become a strange version of home, a personal place into which people channel themselves. And the ones without crap on the walls are hard to let go, because you're never quite sure when the next one you'd show off to your friends is going to come around.
Some people have just given up. They're the disgruntled faction of "classic gamers" that peaked during an ancient era and refuse to modernize, whether it's because of an objection to new commercialism, the new emphasis of graphics over content, or to a controller with more buttons than an arbitrary figure they've allotted in their heads. They're the old timers of gaming, the people who liked it better when "then" was "now," and make no bones about telling everyone why.
The online era has only made things worse. Other hobos can now congregate and lament over new games together, and even delve into those ultra-addictive MMOGs, only to be left wanting months later. A few lucky ones find what it is they're looking for; World of Warcraft (WoW) has garnered numbers like nothing else, which has injected hope into the ranks of a surprisingly optimistic crowd. Curmudgeons rule the community, but the majority of gamers are more than willing to give anything a chance. They were genuinely interested in Molyneux's Fable, even though it didn't meet anyone's expectations. You can't find home without searching, or so the vibe goes.