As most of us prepare for some holiday rest, we reflect on the year ahead and the year to come – while you're doing that, here's some resolutions you could make to be a better gamer in 2011.
When you found out there was a book coming out called ‘FarmVille For Dummies', you made the obvious joke: ISNT THAT AN OXYMORON, WHO ELSE WOULD IT BE FOR, et al. Here's a thought: What'd FarmVille ever do to you? This year, Facebook made it so that you only have to cope with friends' feed stories about games you're playing yourself, so if you'd like, you can pretend FarmVille doesn't even exist. Who cares if other people are having fun with something you don't like?
Is this about how everyone used to make fun of you for being a gamer, and now that games are mainstream, you're resentful, or you want to establish a social hierarchy? C'mon, guys, do we really need to be like that? In 2011, let's decide we're gonna just ignore games and gamers who don't really match up to our ideas about our hobby. Better yet, let's welcome them.
So an article was too long to warrant your attention, but you can focus long enough to leave a comment complaining about that fact? Dude, you just look dumb, needlessly angry and sad. It'd be great if, in the coming year, we could all try to be a little bit nicer and more constructive.
Why? Well, first of all, it just makes more sense — is posting snark a useful expense of your time? How many hours per day do you spend looking at or doing stuff you actually believe is so idiotic or wrong that you want to spend time expressing your anger about it? Is it really worth it?
Second, I'm kinda tired of the whole "gamers are antisocial losers" meme. By quelling our nerd rage, we can look a little bit less like we deserve the criticism. And we'll probably all have more fun on Xbox Live by not being a gloating homophobe, right?
Games are my favorite. I would rather play a game than watch a TV show or a movie, most of the time. On plenty of occasions I mean to read but I take my DS to bed instead. I've wasted tons of beautiful days in the neighborhood lying on the couch playing Xbox 360. If you're reading this, you've probably done the same.
Let's not be quite so proud of it, okay? I think we're in a little bit of a cultural rut lately, and that's because we're lacking a wider framework to help us contextualize and discuss our experience of games. And that affects the kind of things we demand from the industry.
We get crabby and frustrated when all we get is more of the same, but we don't really know what we do want, and when something different comes along, many of us shy away from it in confusion. It risks us all becoming kind of blurry and soulless as a group, don't you think? Being a gamer is great, but it's better for everyone to try to be an interesting person at the same time.
You're a consumer. It's not a great economy. Everything's expensive. If people are going to try to court our dollars, they absolutely ought to ensure we are satisfied. But in video games there is kind of a funny overlap going on – they are "technology products" or "entertainment experiences," but they're also people's creations. In most cases, they feel quite personally about their work.
Tempting, I know, to tell people they suck if you feel like they wasted your time. But bad games (in most cases) don't happen because people wanted to fail, to deceive you, to ship late, or any of that. Behind every bad game are usually a fleet of exhausted, anguished people who succumbed to circumstances beyond their control, be it bad management, insufficient budget or an unrealistic publisher.
Next time you feel like publicly ripping a studio apart for its work, try to picture how bummed those people are that you don't like what they worked for months upon months on, that what they poured all that work into didn't come out well. You don't have to like their game, and you can be angry about your wasted money. Just remember it's always more complicated than it looks.
I write a lot about how saying "it's just a game" is dismissive of the potential in interactive entertainment. I write a lot about how "fun" isn't really the true point of game design. And I very much believe those things, but at the same time, we're all "in this thing" because we love to play. More and more of us are sharing games with others and playing online, or with your family in the living room, things like that.
Some people say they don't make games like they used to, that gaming isn't as fun and exciting anymore as it was in the days of the old school. But maybe it's because we've forgotten about our joy. We were easy to please in the days of less advanced games because we didn't expect much. Now we expect the moon and we boil over when we don't receive it. We blow ambivalently through legions of AAA titles and talk a lot about 2011, 2012 because want to know when the next great thing is coming. We watch the business and the finance of the industry as if it were a sport.
Let's try to remember, at least sometimes, how much we really love gaming. Let's open up our imaginations so that play can capture them again. If your family celebrates Christmas, spend the holiday together with them and show them your favorite games. Sharing them with cousins or nieces, showing them off and describing them to nephews and hometown friends might help you hang onto how happy you are to be a gamer.
Feel good about it in 2011; be good about it in 2011. Thanks to all for reading my columns this year, and here's hoping each and every one of you has a warm and happy holiday season.
Leigh Alexander is news director for Gamasutra, author of the Sexy Videogameland blog, and freelances reviews and criticism to a variety of outlets. Her monthly column at Kotaku deals with cultural issues surrounding games and gamers. She can be reached at leighalexander1 AT gmail DOT com.