Is there any meaningful difference between raising a family in Sims and beating Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the NES? Does owning every Zelda game created make you “better” than someone who has only ever owned a PS2? Is there a “gaming elite” and are there things that every “true gamer” should know?
Spoiler: No. Stop that garbage.
Superiority infects game culture, leading many to not play for the fun of playing but to play for the momentary ego validation of beating someone. With a cheat-to-win mentality, you see this in the prevalence of game exploits within days of a game’s launch, you see this in the ranking systems that have become a staple for online games, and you see this with the popularization of Major League Gaming.
Winning isn’t a bad thing and neither is having skill or being knowledgeable about a topic. However, using those things to define and motivate players has resulted in a large amount of dysfunctional and negative behavior within the community. The rewards and admiration that come with winning games bring out the worst in many and these incentives further embed weak and petty ideas into game culture with time. Skill level says nothing about the profoundness of someone’s perspective.
Commonly, someone’s validity as a player is defined by how much they play a certain game or if they have played it with a certain play style, or if in playing they gained certain knowledge. This understanding is toxic; identity as a game enthusiast should be defined internally. In this community, no one should have to be met with standards to meet in order to relate to their peers. The interactions people have with each other should be positive with things such as bonding though shared moments in games or creating wonderful things with others. Sure, these things happen but I see the potential for so much more.
Games are fun, that’s why people play them. Yet, the standard response to someone not knowing something about a game is hazing and ridicule. There is an ever-present need to appear dominant and to dominate which leaves no room for pleasant learning or enjoyable conversations. These game structures feed fragile egos and reward hatefulness instead. So many great things could be happening but instead players and game makers perpetuate the need to win.
Some might argue that it is in the nature and history of video games to compete and be the best. It is easy to think back to the origins of games and consider how much of that experience was wrapped up in competing. With the popularity of games like Pong which promoted competition and the staple of having a hi-score system in many early arcade hits, it leaves room to argue that competition and superiority are simply what games are but I believe that that thought process leads to shallow and meaningless achievements. That sounds too much like what people face in life’s grinds and games are magical in the ways they are different from that. My goal is to have fun and make memories and those who seek something else should not influence the main future course of game-making.
I truly love videogames but it is a fact of life that there is nothing hardcore about playing one. To me, putting extra effort into something fun to the point of making it not fun is criminal and people should isolate themselves when engaging in that masochism. Elitism is invalidating the experiences of most players by defining what it means to play games. It is divisive and promotes the negative judgments that we already see too often. I believe much of the game community craves games that lean away from that emphasis on winning and that bring more focus on having a good time, the player experience. We want to build and truly connect with others. We want to have our emotions engaged and tension created. We want to laugh and have memories that we can carry through our lives. Calling someone a slur online doesn’t have that effect.
No one should care that you have some digital awards. There are a million games out there. Make some real memories and have some fun.
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