Words By Greywolfe
When I was a far younger wolfe, gaming was quite different. You could buy magazines where you’d have to type in the code for one of the games offered in the magazine by hand [and no, we aren't talking about a 10 character download code, so God help you if your significant other accidentally tripped over the computer power cable], games boasted sales of “50,000 units!” like those were big numbers and everything was in monochrome.
One of the side effects of the gaming industry being so small was that people who were gamers clung to each other. They really didn’t have anyone else. If you started up a game and your friends happened to have it, too, then that would fuel endless hours of debate about the best party, or things you’d seen in the game, or heck – even just debating what game to buy next, because you couldn’t always trust magazines to be honest.
But that, alas, is all gone now.
Remember the console/computer wars? Alas. We still have those ;)
The Internet Stole My Playground
One part of the problem – with regards to gamers being social – is that the internet stepped in. Naturally, the internet has lots of venues for people to talk about various topics, and so, of course, most of those conversations started to migrate online. But the bigger problem here is that some of those conversations didn’t exactly migrate.
One thing that I used to enjoy doing was poring through magazines, looking at screenshots of upcoming releases. It was especially awesome to do this with a friend and then to imagine, perhaps, what might happen in that game. Or to imagine what mechanics we might experience. Naturally, some things in all the screenshots stayed mostly the same. You could almost always point out if something was a life bar. But what was this funny face symbol? Was that how melodramatic you were?
The other problem with the internet is that sheer immediacy. If you’re sitting with a friend and you’re both playing a co-op game and you happen to accidentally fall into a pit while she makes it all the way to the end of the level, well...she can taunt you about it right there. Certainly, things like internet telephony and the like have made this a little more tangible, but it’s not exactly the same as having that friend in the same room at the same time.
Finally, the internet has always had the problem of inflection. If I’m sitting with my friend right now and I say something as a joke, she can hear it in my voice and tone and she can laugh along with me, whereas, the joke might fall completely flat on the internet because there is no [or very little] clue as to my tone, as I’m typing the words.
Sometimes, it feels like I'm gaming on a desert island. I know my friends are out there, but...we pass like ships in the night.
Gaming Has Become A Very Solitary Hobby
At face value, that heading sounds a little strange. How is gaming solitary when I have all my friends on Steam?
Some of my very fondest gaming memories involve me, some friends, a bunch of notepads and a game. We would sit in a group and try to piece together things that we needed to do to win. Oh, there’s an amulet we need to re-assemble? Someone will sit with the map and try to figure out where the two pieces are.
Our other favourite past-time was to create self-imposed challenges. Many a long night was had, huddled around the character creation screen for Master of Magic, with someone laying out how many white picks we were allowed or whether we should all play diplomacy.
But that style of interaction has vanished as well. Very often, people get gaming challenges from places like Gamefaqs – or see things online that they’d like to try – [like Final Fantasy V’s Four Job Fiesta or the Nuzlocke Pokémon challenge.]
Right now, if you want to play something, you sit alone at your computer, start the game up and away you go. There’s very little sharing going on – even if you happen to be on Steam and your friend sees you playing, nine times out of ten, they’re not going to bother you and ask you what you’re actually doing – gaming doesn’t work that way anymore.
Modern gaming feels like a "maze." It looks like there are many paths, but there's really only one "true path."
Linearity Ate My Conversations
Another big part of the problem – and I’ve lamented about this before – is that games don’t often create true worlds, or thought provoking situations. They create linear, corridor-like experiences that take the player from Point A to Point B with very little world building happening in-between. Think about the last time you got sucked into a game for its universe. Now, think about all the games you’ve played subsequent to that. Chances are, you can only think of a few recent games that built a fully functioning world for you to explore.
Naturally, this leaves people very little to talk about. If everyone’s departing from Point A to get to Point B and they’re all going to see the same stuff in-between, then the only thing that [vaguely] matters that can come up in conversation is the different skill-sets you and your friend might use.
Linearity can be a wonderful thing, and sometimes, games like To The Moon make us consider the deep, meaningful ramifications of the story being told, but for all its amazing penmanship, everyone is always going to play exactly the same game with exactly the same outcome.
That leaves very little room for conversation. Part of what makes a Skyrim so great is the stories you stumble upon – those moments you share with your friends where they haven’t even found that secret area yet, or where they may have done the quest in a completely different way to the way you did it.
All of this – this lack of conversation – is a little sad. That is, in some part, why I like the idea of the Twinstiq Game Club – it allows all of us to share an experience, together. Bringing us together as a community to discuss the game – to share little stories about how we might have approached things differently. To that end, I certainly suggest you take part in the Game Club, Who knows? You might find some interesting topics to talk about.