Cold Dark Heart


Human beings are optimists, in general. Hell, we have to be. The slings and arrows life throws our way on a daily basis alone are enough to wither the heart of any living being without a genetic predisposition to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Pile on the soul-crushing weight of environmental catastrophe, war and bad weather and you have to wonder why we even bother to get up in the morning.

The fact that we continue to toil and struggle day after day, suggests that, in spite of it all, we humans believe that good will ultimately come of all of the bad. That’s why we work to educate ourselves, start families, establish homes and careers and forge into the various wildernesses to better our lots in life. We believe, we humans, that each new day just might be better than the last, and that it’s worth sticking around to find out for sure.

Gamers are like that, too. That’s why we rush to the next new game, cheerfully optimistic that it will bring a new experience, better than the last. That’s why we buy new hardware, invest in sequels and join online games. Although we know those experiences in particular tend to be fraught with pain and frustration, we hope against hope that we’ll discover the pot of gold at the end of those tortuous rainbows because we, like human beings in general, are optimists. We believe in the power of joy, and the ability of the gaming experience to bring us that joy, even in the face of disappointment, year after year and game after game.

There’s something peculiar about gamers, though. Something that sets us apart form the normal breed of human. Spend enough time with gamers or in gaming forums and you start to notice that the expressions of dismay regarding worse-than-expected gaming experiences tend to have a slightly gleeful edge to them, as if gamers take some sort of pleasure in expressing their sorrow. Look closer, and you’ll notice that the cheerful optimism is coated in a hard, crispy shell of cynicism and negativity, as if to protect the gooey center from the harsh realities of a cold, unforgiving world.

That’s understandable. Experience as much heartbreak as your typical gamer, who has invested countless dollars and an immeasurable amount of time chasing the great gaming high, and you begin to understand why one might need to erect a wall around one’s feelings and expectations. If you get your toes crushed enough times, then you’d be a fool not to invest in a pair of steel-toed shoes. So it just makes sense to harden your heart, too.

A curious thing happens when you take that too far, though. When you wall your soul off too thoroughly from the experience of pain, you insulate it from the experience of joy. Pleasure and pain are like the light and dark side of The Force; there cannot be one without the other. Close your doors to the heartbreak of disappointment and the thrill of ecstasy won’t bother knocking. You will have, in essence, neutered your soul.

What you end up with in that instance is what we see in a lot of gaming communities: a species of human who has allowed their soft, gooey, optimistic heart to petrify in to a shiny, black diamond of pure unadulterated hate. In this week’s issue of The Escapist, we explore the cold, dark heart of gaming as a cautionary tale. Matt Meyers investigates the fanboy phenomenon and how we gamers react to outside sources challenging our pastime. All jobs in the gaming industry are great, right? Mur Lafferty shows us how those positions are still jobs. Bryan Lufkin wonders why gamers have an aversion to “noobs” and Chuck Wendig rants about how PC gaming makes him want to punch a baby seal.

We hope you find these articles of use, and please, stay cheerful out there.


Russ Pitts

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