Monday, November 23, 2009

VGA 7-1 [Gamer Genealogy]

Over the weekend, I got the chance to give the Google Wave beta a try and after a couple of hours with it, the idea for this entry popped into my head. I just couldn't resist the compulsion to urinate in the gaming industry’s gene pool. Now of course gaming ‘in its basest form’ has been around for ages, but its electronically-powered manifestation is roughly about as old as I am --- give or take a few years (possibly a decade, depending on how you look at it). The power of arcades, PCs, and consoles didn’t really start taking their cultural baby steps until the mid-to-late eighties. During that time, most of us were introduced to not only the joys of ‘play’, but also the means to relate those experiences to those around us. It began within the proximity of infamous options such as ‘1P’ & ‘2P’ and has since evolved to reflect a society placing the cart so far ahead of the horse, it may as well be waterskiing on land. Seriously, contemplate the evolution of communication & play and how it has developed into say --- the modern MMO. Quite a bit of ground has been covered.

This is an odd argument for someone like me to make, as I’m very touchy about the time I get to spend alone during any activity, let alone playing a game. In the end though, there’s no denying the social struts that gaming is built on. It’s been present since whomever --- wherever decided to replicate an activity for someone else to enjoy. There’s always going to be a degree of repetition in human development, but the fun is in how this tends to update itself upon presentation. Gaming’s biggest and most influential update is obvious; you’re reading this on it, the computer. In just the past ten years, the computer has become one of the most (if not the most) significant technological entities on the planet. It has permeated the everyday life on how people operate things for themselves. Sure, it’s not blanketed on a global scale quite yet, but the fact that this blog exists --- the fact that it even has a ‘why in existing’ is most telling of a significant cultural revolution, far beyond my own involvement in it.

So if you look at any gamer who is passionate in their enjoyment of the medium, I’m willing to bet there’s a rich ‘digital’ history behind their involvement with both games and fellow gamers 'online'. Now I could go on some long-winded analysis aimed at how close I could parallel this growth to basic genetic understandings (which is probably what most would pointlessly want this to be), but where the hell would the fun be in that? Instead, it’s more communicable and worthwhile for me to relate my singular experience, leaving the reader to contemplate their own edges for how they fit into the puzzle as well (defending my freedom and your own there, appreciate it). Consider it show-n-tell, but with me laying out my own ‘gamer genes’ for all to see (it’s not like we have ‘family trees' quite yet).

Using that introduction as a template, I’d ask the reader to earnestly consider the following questions. Ideally, one could even muse over them in the comments.

  • 1 - Where exactly does the first computer that you used/owned tie into your experience with games?

  • 2 – What related ‘social trees’ have you gone through in the past ten years?

  • 3 – What related communication tools do you prefer now?

  • 4 – What actually dictates those preferences?

  • 5 – How do your current ‘social trees’ affect your balancing between single-player and multiplayer games?

    You’d be surprised at how common it is for some jackass to point out the paradox of a blog titled ‘Misanthropic Gamer’. When some actual thought is applied to the notion however, it makes more sense for someone like me to regularly post than it would the most gregarious person on the planet. By definition, I’m someone who chronically holds people in contempt and distrust (for the obvious reasons we’ll cleverly avoid). To build up the required emotions for such things, a basis is required. In this case, such a basis uses social interaction and is required in order to harbor such detestation (who the hell hates people without first knowing people?). I don’t care how trivial, weird, or screwed up something appears, when there’s human perception behind it, there’s always some reason buried around --- somewhere, we just can’t always see it. My musings here just happen to be based on the premise that I’m still young and stupid enough to find amusement in playing with other people. I’m assuming from experience that my stances will just continue to exacerbate themselves over time, so that makes my little web-space here that much more precious for the time being.

    Answer to #1 – America Needs to Go Offline

    That said, my primordium if you will, begins mainly on AOL. Though online chat systems such as IRC have been around since the late 80s, my first involvement with them began nearly a decade later, in the late 90s. During those prepubescent years, I spent a good deal of my free time floating around AOL chat channels observing people argue, flirt, and exchange rather banal experiences with each other. Around the turn of the millennium, I fell into lurking amongst the more gaming-focused chat rooms. Most notably, from 1999-2005, I was usually caught simply staring at dialouge between the Playstation and Nintendo chatrooms. The former was a playground for self-important teenage socialites and the latter was a breeding ground for juvenile bursts of gaming passion. Needless to say, I was drawn to the volatile puerility of the Nintendo chat. I also unwittingly picked up a rather prominent reputation for suspiciously lurking around the conversations going on. Anytime I was directly addressed, I often responded with some mocking statement aimed sharply at whoever was speaking to me. It didn’t take long before people started infamously acknowledging me as ‘sLs, the reclusive asshole in the Nchat’.

    Answer to #2 – The Digital Mercenary

    Fortunately AOL’s popularity amongst my circle ended a while back, as we all had to grow up (to some extent, anyway). I’m not even sure if the chatrooms still currently exist as they did all those years ago. People got tired of paying for the service as many other more efficient online options began popping up left and right (I never paid after a certain point anyway, I simply manipulated those annoying ‘free discs’ that used to come en masse in the mail). With everyone departing, I found myself annoyingly tied to the generations shifting and moved onto contacting fellow gamers through AIM, AOL’s instant messaging client. Just as my little AOL era drew to a close, Gamers.com kind of shifted into what is now known as 1UP. Initially, I fell into repeating my own process by lurking around the site for a few years before deciding to blog for myself. Afterwards however, I found the blogs to be a far more worthwhile and personable experience rather than what made me cringe from general forum use. Taking away the real-time feature of IMs fostered more room for subjective and original thought (rather than the transient veil of objectivity seen on most forums now). So, I got myself caught up in that trend, which continues into present day. The most curious development in this arena is something like Twitter, which I find works as a useful tank to dump thoughts in. Thanks to the structure, 140 character limits, and plethora of worthwhile desktop clients, it’s actually as close as I’ll ever come to posting regularly on forums.

    Answer to #3 – The Tastes of My Typing

    By default I use AIM, as the general usefulness of it as a default client remains stalwart. It keeps things easiest when it comes to contacting others, be it about a game or just me wanting to arbitrarily yell at them for being people. It’s free, it’s more than functional, and it remains the least ostensible of the major IM clients. My next preferred tool is Twitter, which was something I was opposed to initially since I --- like many others, pigeon-holed it to being a mere indulgent tool which people use to make themselves feel less like shit when they were on the toilet or something. In actuality, it’s just another one of those make-it-what-you-want-it deals. I find it’s more useful as a slower-paced IM client for people who aren’t really much for the instant messaging. It’s also the only thing I’ve come across in the past ten years that makes the news for me generally interesting. It’s always nice to have that lurker allele in me satiated once in a while too. Twitter does that more than anything else now.

    Answer to #4 – The Attitude of API

    I’m easily seduced by anything that fosters individualism, which is why I use this blog as a hub for everything else I’m into (MG reflects my presence on the internet, not the other way around). I still carry an annoying magnetism for people it seems and the only way I can even remotely dissipate it is by openly acknowledging the d├ętente I’ve always had with the common notion of a ‘community’. Things are always fluctuating these days, but as it stands, AIM and Tweetdeck are the only two things I manage to load up with any consistency right now. I suppose Twitter allows me to cast the net wider in terms of associating with gamers I find interesting enough to keep with; AIM just gives them access to me when they need it. Something else to be noted about Twitter is how easily it breaches the ‘status boundaries’, or how easily it strips the perception of what one sees someone like a celebrity to be.

    Answer to #5 – Bolstered Blogs

    I haven’t logged into XBL or PSN in about a year, and my obstinate dedication to single-player games is mostly why. Most likely, my appetite will start to grow again after StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty releases, but the only thing I’d even be interested in logging in to play right now is Guns of the Patriots’s multiplayer. With things like split-screen play becoming such a dying art, it’s no surprise that I keep moving further and further away from plugging an ethernet cable into my systems. As irrational as it may be, I feel if I take my eyes off the single player ideal for even a second, somebody is going to fuck something up, making its worth lose ground somehow. I would never forgive myself if I wasn’t there to abrasively bitch about it.

    A common and rightful fear that many have for games now involves them going the route of what the modern comic book has fallen into. This is where they’re not exactly irrelevant, but have become trapped in a cultural ghetto that’s ruled by its insular fans. Those fans don’t care about the medium’s ‘forward movement’, only their adherence to being entertained in their free time. Fortunately games seem to be pretty forceful in how they’re sticking around; the possibility of becoming stuck in that fan ruled world is pretty unlikely (things like the Wii are actively forcing the natural law of video-game's biodiversity), though it’s still a threat worth keeping an eye on. Using Google Wave was kind of shocking because it reminded me that gamers have tangible substances that extend beyond something as nebulous as memes (something I played with in VGA 6-4). Social systems and computers suggest more of a correlation with genes, even to the point where their detriments show parallels as well (see genetic flow, pollution, erosion). Hell, even looking at Wave’s potential merger of e-mail, instant messanging, forums, and chatrooms only manages to suggest exactly what I stated at the beginning of this post --- an update.

    Essentially one could write the damn thing off as a far more complex (and free) version of AOL, another system stuffing the aforementioned communication tools under one umbrella. It will be interesting to see if the thing flies or falls over the next few months. One could even point out classifications akin to hybridizations for gamers these days. It's far more complex than the simple tags of hardcore, casual, and girls...far more, always has been. Social sites even as trendy as Facebook have their hands in this cookie jar too. Fortunately for the time being, gamers don’t know the amount of force they have in engineering the industry’s gene pool.

    ~sLs~