Let Off Some Steam: I'm A Hypocrite And A Coward

Welcome to Let Off Some Steam, the section where you guys get to discuss a topic of your choice. You can rant, you can gush - anything goes! Today's post may be one of my favourites. David Rayfield, AKA 'RayGun Brown' discusses mainstream attitudes to video games, and how he himself is part of the problem.

My Hypocrisy And Cowardice Are Hurting Video Games In my Mass Effect universe, Thane is dead. I watched him be carried off by a Collector swarm and was completely helpless to do anything about it. After I literally yelled his name as he was being killed, I had to stop and put down the controller before continuing with the final assault. I couldn’t believe he was gone. Leading up to the game and even after I purchased it, I knew the drell assassin would be in my space-faring party from the start. I would return to his room on the Normandy more regularly than anyone else and hang on his every word. He was just so…enthralling. After the game was over, his death was the most memorable part of Mass Effect 2. I was shocked how much it affected me.

Defeating Seth with my Fei Long was very nearly an exercise in futility. Even on Normal difficulty, the final boss in Street Fighter IV seemed insurmountable. A constant flurry of Super combos and EX special moves drove me back to the ‘Continue?’ screen more times than I care to remember. I practiced and practiced, determined to insert Fei Long’s fist-and-feet repertoire into my muscle memory. Following many more attempts, Seth made one or two misjudgements as to my newly acquired skill level and I finally bested him. Razor-sharp elation washed over me and I leapt from my seat, rose two fingers at the screen and burst forth with the kind of celebratory obscenities that would make Andrew Dice Clay blush.

Pointing a handgun in a man’s face never felt more real and important than when I did it via the hands of Ethan Mars. Even though the man at the end of the gun was a drug dealer and his appearance was once threatening, he was now cowering on his knees begging for his life. This wasn’t a faceless enemy that I was metaphorically strangling with the American flag in some military shooter, this was a man in his underwear talking about his kids. Scumbag though he may be, I couldn’t bring myself to shoot him. No matter the consequences, I left his apartment feeling a mixture of regret and relief. A lot of the moments in Heavy Rain made me feel overwhelmingly uneasy.

Just three examples of vastly different emotions brought about by today’s generation of video games highlight what many of us already know. Games create the kind of personal experiences that other types of entertainment could only hope to deliver in their wildest dreams.

But who am I going to talk to about it? Who am I going to share these incredible moments with? Not the majority of the general public, that’s for sure.

These deeply affecting gameplay sequences fade into obscurity when you’re talking to people who don’t play, or care for, video games. You can recommend that latest blockbuster movie to practically anyone and they’ll instantly take notice. That amazing book you’re reading? Everyone loves books. And wow, if that wasn’t the most hilarious episode of that sitcom ever then my name isn’t blah, blah, blah.

So, how about that video game you’re currently playing? You can’t just wax lyrical to the same people about such a topic can you? Neither can I. Whether it be relatives, friends or any other number of people who drift in and out of my life, I actively avoid talking about video games and how amazing they can be to more folk than not. They won’t understand what I’m talking about, or worse, they will question why a grown man is playing video games in the first place and my original point regarding their quality will be lost.

And it is not just people I know. On a regular basis, I overhear total strangers spouting off volumes of ignorance about video games. That they’re silly. A waste of time. Responsible for violence. One such example happened recently. I was calmly waiting in a doctor’s office leafing through a tabloid, learning how Olivia Newton-John’s daughter is drinking herself to death when my attention was suddenly diverted. Two middle-aged women, just having witnessed a news report on the waiting-room TV about schoolboys attacking each other with knives, struck up a conversation. I took notes afterwards and the following is close to verbatim:

Woman 1: “I reckon it’s video games that have the biggest effect.” Woman 2: “Oh yeah” Woman 1: “You know, a parent has to always be at home so they can’t play stuff like that.” Woman 2: “Yeah.” Woman 1: “It’s that Grand Theft Auto too. You can stab people and steal cars in that.” Woman 2: “Kids shouldn’t be playing that.”

In what resembled an almost unbelievably stereotypical exchange, these two women were safe in the knowledge they had solved the problem of the knife-wielding schoolchildren in mere seconds. It was video games. Regardless of the fact that the news report didn’t even mention the names of the boys who were fighting, let alone what they did in their spare time. Did they even play video games? These two women certainly thought so. Case closed.

Every single thing these two women were saying about games was misinformed. As I sat there listening, I grew more and more frustrated with their opinions. Opinions that were utterly baseless. But what did I do about it? Nothing. I said nothing. Later that day, I became aware of the excuses I made for such inaction. I didn’t want to cause a scene. It was uncomfortable. They wouldn’t listen anyway and instead question why a grown man would play video games.

These excuses weren’t the first. In countless other situations, I had reacted in the same way. A workmate claimed ‘stupid’ video games were ‘stealing her husband’. A relative heard some vague report about ‘the Call of Duty’ being a terrorist training simulator. A friend who enjoys the Nintendo Wii is unconvinced by the benefits of other consoles due to ‘not wanting to get into all that’. I didn’t say a word. I tell myself it’s not worth it. Not worth the effort to try to convince them otherwise. To try and tell them that video games in the 21st century are light years ahead of any other form of technology when it comes to innovation, evolution and overall amazement seems like a fool’s errand.

So I don’t bother. As a result, I’m harming video games as a whole. Sure, I can spout off on the internet for days about how that mainstream news report about the latest ‘controversial’ release is laughably inaccurate but I don’t actually verbalise it. I never verbalise it. Everyone else is watching that news report and taking that as the truth. And my failure to try my hardest to push against these falsehoods from my own mouth is the real problem. Video games will continue to suffer under tons of ignorance and misplaced hatred because of me and everyone else like me. I’m a hypocrite and a coward.

I believe in video games more than any other thing in the world. I would like to think I would fight tooth and nail against anyone who arguing against them backed only by lies and misinformation. But in reality, this simply just isn’t true. I can’t risk offending a relative or a friend, or indeed a stranger, just for the sake of an entertainment medium that has been consistently misrepresented since the nineteen-eighties. Can I?

Perhaps if I had the guts and willpower to do that, video games would begin to be accepted in modern society just like movies, books and television. Maybe if I had that kind of confidence, Thane would still be alive.


Comments

    Dude that was awesome. I regularly feel that way about many topics, my grandparents and technology, my sisters and music, my co workers and comics. Sure I could put my 2 cents i'n but I feel that starting an arguement about it wouldn't help.

      Well, just because you don't agree with someone doesn't mean that talking about it has to be an argument.

      If I get into that kind of conversation, I generally try to suggest a game for people to check out that I think they might appreciate - preferably one that avoids the aspects that they're vocally speaking against. The idea is to give them information that encourages them to re-think their point of view for themselves, rather than trying to change it yourself or outright telling them that they're wrong - either of which will almost always put them on the defensive.

      Remember, they're probably just as averse to boat rocking as you are. And, also, while they may question why an adult plays games, the more of us who openly talk about them the less that misconception will hold true.

    That was great. Good stuff dude. I feel for ya... though I've made it my job to prosthelytize the faith.

    It probably doesn't help that we tend to get ignored when we actually do speak out about issues, eg R18+.

    I've been in many situations where an ignorant person is making mis-informed and stereotypical comments and come to the rescue with the facts. Half the time I'm not believed - even after I provide written evidence or they just refuse to believe anything I say.

    To many of my so called friends i'm just a 32 year old kid because I play video games.

    Now I simply just call the person ignorant to their face and refuse to discuss the subject any further until they do some real research.

    Great write up.
    I'm pretty sure that rings true for a lot of gamers.
    It's hard for other people (and gamers themselves) to get over a whole generation of video games not being accepted in the mainstreams of society.

    I console myself with the belief that as gaming becomes more mainstream, it will become more socially accepted and more socially understood by people who'd rather remain steadfast in their uninformed beliefs than be a little more openminded.
    I can have a one on one discussion with someone and share my thoughts with them, maybe even educate them a little about the realities, but I find it hard not to rant and sometimes I feel I'm not the best representative to speak out about the unfair treatment of gaming classification by the government, the misrepresentation of videogames by the media and the bizarre strawman arguments put forth by groups such as the ACL.

    I find it harder when people discuss issues that they claim to be informed on when the information they have is either outright wrong, or skewed by the source - I am pedantic if nothing else and prefer that all the facts are presented, or none at all. Nothnig drives me wilder than half-truth because all it does is use a core of fact to reinforce untrue beliefs.

    At the end of the day, games - no matter how invested we are in them - are just another form of entertainment. All forms of entertainment have come under undue scrutiny in their lifetime - maybe videogames have taken more than their share of lumps but I'd say that's also in part due to the fact that they've also evolved faster than other forms of entertainment. The rapid advancement has drawn a lot of attention, and while we're playing and talking about games like Heavy Rain and LA Noire and what they're doing to advance interactive storytelling, the media are still talking about GTAIV, GTAIII, even the original GTA in terms of being awarded points for running down innocent pedestrians. They're talking about our precious children being exposed to interactive sex simulators like Mass Effect! I'm not saying we need to stop playing GTA or putting sex in games to shut these people up, because in time there'll be some startling new controversy for them to moan about - hey, Duke Nukem will be out in a couple of weeks, can't wait until they're discussing the shameless depiction of the sex indutry during Seamus' next appearance on Seven Sunrise.

    But eventually game content will stop making headlines and the next new social travesty will be the flavour of the weak.

    After all, it's not like anyone wants to discuss real problems in their free time.

    Loved the article. I think a great deal of this also comes from the mindset we have of "They're old, they'll die off soon, and then we'll be in power". If we can wait 30 or 40 years for the people who didn't grow up with games to be out of power, then everything will suddenly be fine. I personally don't want to wait that long.

    That was some fantastic writing by David.

    I guess what David has pointed out, is essentially the issue everywhere with almost every controversial or heated debate. When it regards religion, science, society, politics and ideology; the root of the problem always seems to be a very simple one: That people don't take a step back and try to understand, and even more upsetting, they seem like they don't want to try to understand, as if there's no value in seeing the world from a more objective or reverse subjective point of view.

    But for many, perhaps it's just they haven't been given the opportunity to learn the other's point of view or see it from another angle. And it's as if only we had the platform and the ability to have the people we think ought to rethink their position just give a few minutes of their undivided attention, and tell them that giving something a second chance, or looking at something from another perspective may be the key for a better understanding, appreciation and harmony to many of the world's problems.

    Whatever it may be, thanks David for sharing such a great read. :)

    Also, as a somewhat stereotypical gamer, I have to rub this in: Finished ME2 without losing a single team mate.

    A very interesting and moving point you make, one that certainly hits close to home for a lot of us.

    But you say your silence is what contributes to the problem of stereotyping gamers. I actually thought that your willingness to avoid conflict is what benefits us... more so then if I stood up and started angrily telling those ladies off for making baseless assumptions.

    Because if I did - if I do partake in such actions - wouldn't they just write me off as another angry youth, desensitised to conflict thanks to all the games I play?

      Yeah you're right but if I could, I'd try to respond in a quiet, sensible and measured fashion to make important points rather than explode with LISTEN HERE YOU DUMB BITCHES etc. :)

        Absolutely. As I mentioned above, don't tell them they're wrong, instead encourage them to re-think things for themselves. They'll get less defensive about it, and you'll be making a good example of gamers - something that there's precious little of!

        Sure, most of them won't listen, or will forget within a few minutes. But we've got to start somewhere, and the few people who do listen, or do open their minds even just a little bit, are a good enough start for now.

    I talk about games all the time...I get a lot of blank stares.
    It's comics that I have a hard time defending. Some people have no idea that Iron-Man or Thor was a comic.

    "Spider-Man comics? They still make those?"

    I have convinced many a non-gamer to take it up, after all the majority of games don't require much reading!

    I recall a conversation at work between a few staff members after I'd been asked what I was doing that weekend and said I planned on spending every moment playing my new shiney copy of Halo Reach. After 'what's a Halo Reach?' the conversation rumbled on why grown up men play games and didn't they realise how silly it was and that they should grow up, which I countered with the fact that many games were made with older players in mind, so the conversation switched to how games were either too violent for children or promoted a sedentary lifestyle (listening to women who watch five hours of TV every night and excitedly compare notes on Masterchef and Mcleods daughters every morning complain about games making kids fat and lazy has to be one of the most surreal experiences of my life).

    After twenty exhausting minutes they'd covered every stereotype and misconception about gaming I could imagine and despite my constant arguements they were unshakeable in their stance that games were somehow inappropriate for people of all ages and the world would be a a magical happy place if they didn't exist.

    Excellent post. Will read the comments/write more when I can.

    Great read and congrats on defeating Seth, I must've continued 30 times in one sitting and finally decided it wasn't worth the hassle, nor the impending anyerism - traded the damn thing the next day.

    SFIV was not meant for mere mortals to enjoy.

    Thanks for all the postive responses everyone. I really appreciate it. It's unfortunately a sad state of affairs.

    What an interesting article. I certainly don't make it a point to take people task for their misinformation regarding video games, but I certainly don't hide the fact I play them. When people ask me what I do for fun, I almost always reply with, "I like video games." or, "I'm a gamer."

    I'm a mostly well-rounded person who tries to be friendly. Honestly, yes I can easily be flustered by people and although I have at times thought that I might perpetuate the socially awkward, nerdy, basement dwelling gamer stereotype. I take solace in the fact I'm not the try-hard, all to eager, gamer brat, who's Kill/Death ratio is 10 inches long. My point being, I'm a mature person who enjoys gaming.

    I don't often feel the need to defend that. I have zero doubts that in a hundred years, people will study gaming as they have other artistic pursuits. The creation of imagery with limited technological resources, music, symbolism and gamings impact on culture will be an observed phenomenon by future historians.

    And for those who're impatient, I don't think we will have to wait all that long before gaming and what that entails is perceived different by the majority. Case in point, this article speaks of Mass Effect, Street Fighter and Heavy Rain. Which is a good slice of gaming for us. But to others gaming is Angry Birds, FarmVille and CityVille.

    The audience is already diversifying and evolving and I don't think those audiences will remain mutually exclusive. They will bleed into one another. Social and Casual gamers may venture into console territories and vice versa. Bringing with them new thoughts and ideas of what Gaming and Video Games truly are.

      Social and casual gamers wont move into console games because they are just that: casual gamers. They don't play games for the sake of playing games, they play games to waste time: whether its ten minutes of angry birds waiting for the bus, or an hour of farmville to avoid starting work on that new report.

        This is exactly what the mainstream does to anyone who plays any games: stereotypes. How are you being any better than the people we're complaining about in this article?

          Because I don't LIKE casual gamers. They make developers turn their focus away from the video games that I like to play in order to make cheap, disposable, crap. The casual gaming market is doing more to hurt video games than it is to help, and it looks like Itawa is one of the only industry heads that isn't blinded by the dollar signs and has actually admitted it.

          It's also not a sterotype because it's FACT. I know dozens of people who play farmville and don't even consider themselves gamers. In fact, most of them would be the kind of people that this article is complaining about, people who sneer at you for playing video games, not realising that their 'facebook/iphone thing' is in fact a video game.

          It's a stupid statement to suggest that people who play casual games will migrate to consoles and mainstream. It's like saying people that like playing pool or darts will migrate to football. They are completely different games for completely different purposes.

    Rings very true.

    Many people can't comprehend people enjoying games, and it isn't just the older generations. I'm 26 and have people I work with of similar age who just can't comprehend games. They get all excited about various sports they watch on tv, yet look down upon people who play games.

    Why people can't just be happy in keeping their own views to themselves. When someone starts talking about Masterchef from the night before, I don't get in their face insulting their choice, and saying it is a waste of time. Yet so many people think they have a justification to do this to gamers.

    You've only got to look at this community here (I may not be the biggest poster here), but it has grown in the last half year into a great community that is respectful to each other. You only have to read TAY to see this.

    Not a single day goes by where I don't strike up a conversation about video games.

    I talk about how fun they are, how they are often more engaging than movies, how GOOD i am at some of the more multiplayer focused one, and the people i work with eat it up, everyone has a video game that they love.

    Of course, I'm now a high school teacher in Japan so that's not really saying much... but even when I was back in Australia, I always talked about video games with pretty much everyone that I meet.

    If someone questions 'why a grown man is playing video games' i immediatley stop talking, and will probably never talk to them again.

    The key is to tell interesting stories, kind of like the ones you have listed. I garuntee that if you go out of your way to bring up great video game anectodes to these, even the most casual of gamers will take notice.

    Unless you live in Sunshine, then they'll just stab you and take your wallet

      When someone asks why a grown man plays video games, counter by asking them why they watch tv every night, after all according to them staring at a screen for hours on end makes your immature and stupid

        I've learned long ago that you simply cannot reason with stupid people. It's best just to smile, nod, and ignore them.

    Good article. Good blog too dude. I see your frustration over Aliens: Colonial Marines is as strong as mine! (if only we could manifest it into blue lightening and telekinetic choke holds)

      Angrily zapping SEGA executives Emperor-style? Now you're talking.

    GameInformer: "Fox news says that mass effect's pointlessly erotic scenes are..."

    Me: "Sorry I lost you at fox news says"

    But srsyly dude, well put. Its amazing what people have been fed out of ignorance. I used to play world of warcraft casually and copped an incredible amount of flack for the way i was "throwing my life away" by playing a game some nobody is quoted for claiming is as addicting as cocaine.

    As for the coworker video games stealing boyfriend thing, i remember inside gaming mentioning some morning tv show where some girl dragged her boyfriend onto a talkshow where some random celebrity model or something sprouted ignorant crap and got one of the hosts from g4tv to sprout more ignorant stereotypes about video games being for 14 year olds. Afraid i cant find the link tho, it was in an inside gaming video from late last year.

    Good article, nice to read something that has a personal perspective amongst the news etc.

    But unfortunately video games are just joining a long list of things that are being blamed for the evils of the world. Notable previous scapegoats include, TV, movies, comics, rock and roll music, stickball, marbles, hula hoops and just about anything else, ever that kids have liked at some stage.

    I kind of disagree with the point above re: that you arguing with them would've further reinforced their stereotype. There are ways to handle these things without being a cock, and if you're a confident and smooth talker all you'd have to do is ask them what video games they've played or how it is they think games have the negative impact they're complaining, and chances are they'd be stumped. Even if they argued against you, they'd be forced to reconsider a few of their own misinformed preconceptions. Can't hurt to try.

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