Monday, August 25, 2014

Super Cereal

It's just a game, right?

No need to get mad, bro.

You'll get it next time.

Ahhh, the tired and true words that everyone has heard or read at least once in their gaming lives. Typically when it's a team-oriented game and your side has failed to complete the objective. You didn't capture the blue team's flag in Halo. A comrade couldn't protect the base alone, and was swarmed by the enemy. You forgot to equip your mana potions. We have all been there.

Does being competitive by nature of the product make gaming a serious activity? Most of the YouTube gamer rages will most likely involve multiplayer mode. I'm going to guess Call of Duty and World of Warcraft are going to be the most tagged. And are we really surprised by that? They are two products played consistently that any "anger" moments are likely to occur in those games. Oh! League of Legends. Can't forget about LoL.

While I would agree that competition can help fuel the serious nature of gaming, spending hours, days, weeks, months (WoW) building up your character and to be defeated is quite a blow. But it's not the sole reason.

As the medium has grown, so have the products. "Serious" games make up a chunk of the marketplace for a multitude of reasons: storytelling, character development, player interaction, etc. Think of some of 2013's biggest games, such as The Last of Us. That isn't a game driven by competition, but by the characters. We became so invested in their lives and outcome that it turned into a thoughtful game, even with all of the zombie dismemberment. It's a different level of "serious," one that isn't focused on anger or "rage quitting" but created by the developers to provoke emotional responses in the gamer. It's the type of earnest that we have involved ourselves in for decades, but you're not likely to see a Vine video about a kid crying over Aeris/Aerith getting killed in Final Fantasy 7. These are internalized in other ways.

Just because you are not in a "competition" game does not reduce the serious nature of it.

That may seem obvious to a lot of us, but for the general,  non-gaming public, it's an eye opener. Games can talk about mature topics and express emotion? No way. I thought it was a bunch of teenagers and kids throwing their controllers when they lost a fight?

Well I know a few people who have done the same thing in The Last of Us (damn Clickers). Frustration is part of the issue, but you also feel real guilty letting your rag-tag team of zombie hunters down when the character dies. That is "nerd rage" on an emotional level.

So when you pick up your next game, it's okay to play it seriously. You're investing time and energy into the story and characters, just as if you were reading a book or watching a movie. You can play a game for fun, and have it be austere.


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