Those Who Play Video Game Tic-Tac-Toe Will Be Judged

Can we who play great video games not cast judgment on those who dabble with lesser games? I saw a man playing Tic-Tac-Toe on his iPhone on the subway yesterday. Did I sneer? Had this man done something wrong?

I've been involved in debates before about whether something like computer solitaire should even be considered a video game. Let's assume it is, or at least that iPhone Tic-Tac-Toe is a video game.

But if iPhone Tic-Tac-Toe is a video game, then we may consider that this man, seated on the F train, keeping himself occupied as we rode to Brooklyn, was gaming. And, hey, I do that too! In fact, I was doing that while he was gaming. I was playing Link n Launch, a new downloadable game on my Nintendo DSi, a bona fide video game, no doubt about it, because it was both on a gaming console and made by a real game development studio, Intelligent Systems.

Other evidence that what I was playing on my DS was a game: It was fun, it required some skill, and, well, let's be honest... I'm not listing attributes that define every video game, but I sure am listing attributes that I thought then and still think now that iPhone Tic-Tac-Toe can't possibly have.

Yes, we gamers judge other gamers. It can't be helped, not when some people play games that just don't seem to have the values of the things we typically consider good video game.

An hour before I got on that subway, commenters on Kotaku were apoplectic about how critically acclaimed Bayonetta, a collection of programming code that I am sure we can all agree is a video game, did not make it into the top 10 games sold in the U.S. in January. Gaming was falling apart, these commenters said.

People have no taste? Perhaps that brings us back to Tic-Tac-Toe man. He was playing a game that I thought you can't win. (This version of iPhone Tic-Tac-Toe, by the way, in case you want to be that man yourself.) Surely folks beyond the age of 12 know how to lock Tic-Tac-Toe into a draw every single time, that the outcome is just about never going to change and that the path to that outcome isn't going to be interesting, varied or... fun, right? Who would play a video game version of that?

But this guy, he always played the lower-left corner and sometimes he beat the computer. Sometimes he lost. Sometimes he had a draw. He was playing at an eye-blink pace, tapping through session after session. Maybe he was having fun. But what was he doing playing Tic-Tac-Toe on his iPhone? Why hadn't he downloaded, I don't know, Canabalt, Spider, Need For Speed, Call of Duty, Wordfu, Peggle, Dungeon Hunter, etc?

Maybe this man was having fun. Maybe Tic-Tac-Toe on the iPhone is all this man needed to satisfy his video gaming jones. Maybe I'll have to live with that, because, really, why should I care?

Keep playing, Tic-Tac-Toe man. I'll try not to judge you harshly, even if you make so little sense to me.