L is for…. LucasArts

This post is part of the A-Z Blog Challenge.

This is going to be a quickie (I’ve spent the day hillwalking in the beautiful peak district, and am feeling non-bloggy). I wanted to mention that LucasArts (my all time favourite game studio when I was growing up) closed down on 3 April. True, point-and-click games are a thing of the past (although Kickstarter is bringing at least one back!) but in my youth I adored them.

You can, thankfully, play a lot of the old games by using ScummVM. I heartily recommend it, if you haven’t played classics like Day of the Tentacle or Full Throttle before.

See you Monday with a music themed post!

G is for… gaming

The letter GThis post is part of the A-Z Blogging Challenge.

I am not a gamer.

That is hard to say, when games have been such a massive part of my life… and my identity for so long. But here’s the truth: the last game I really played was Bioshock. I didn’t beat it. I made it about half way and then just… drifted away.

Not because the game was bad. The complete opposite in fact, Bioshock sucked me in and kept me playing after many other games had failed. The honest truth is, I am just not a gamer. Not anymore.

What happened?

I grew up hooked on games: I started with an ancient atari console and ended with a Playstation 3 and visited three different desktop computers on the way. I’m not going to name check the games I played – suffice to say, there were a lot.

I wrote video games. I even managed a (paid) job in the industry. I interviewed for a game writing job. But the truth was, by that point disillusionment had set in.

I love games. I will always love games.

But the truth is this: gamers are privileged. And gaming culture sucks. Let’s take a quick look at the reasons I quit:

1. It’s expensive

A Playstation 3 currently costs over £300. That’s a lot of money to sink into a console. And they are not reliable. My first PS3 I got second-hand. About six months later it died. With no warranty, I had to grit my teeth and get another one. That one I got new. A year later, that too died.

Then there’s the controllers: I’ve lost count of the number my spouse and I went through.

If you are a serious gamer; someone who wants to make a career out of it, who engages with the culture, one console isn’t really enough. You need to keep up-to-date. So you get two, or three. Maybe a DS. Maybe a wii. Maybe a high-end PC with a great graphics card.

Finally, of course, there are the games. £60-70 new. On average, I probably play around 10-15 hours on a game. Sure, some games I play for 100+ hours, but those are rare.

Of course you can keep the costs down. You can play old games, on ROMS. You can download stuff. You can stick to free-to-play. You can opt for second or third hand games and keep trading. You can use a library, or join Game Fly. But if you want to join in on the conversation, you need to be up to speed. That involves having beaten Tomb Raider, Bioshock: Infinite, maybe even having an opinion on the latest Sim City.

The truth is, I’m just too poor to keep up.

2. It’s time consuming

I used to love World of Warcraft. I played it a lot. But there came a point when I realised that if I had twenty minutes to spare, I literally could not accomplish anything. I might travel to where I needed to be, but that was it. After I left University and got my first full-time job, more than twenty minutes at a time was a luxury.

Did I mention I was poor? At one point I worked seven days a week: 50 hours Monday-Friday on my gaming job, and then a further 18 hours Sat-Sun at a supermarket. Combined, the two jobs just about gave me enough to live on. Somehow I was also meant to find the time to stay current with games. I’ll be honest – it didn’t happen. If you couldn’t play a game in satisfactory twenty minute chunks, I just could not scrape out enough time to play them.

Of course there are casual games. I’ll be honest: casual games are fun, but the reason I truly love games are because of the immersive, puzzle like storylines. I’m an explorer and a solver, not an adrenaline junkie. I still play Sonic the Hedgehog from time to time, but on the whole I’d rather be playing Fallout.

3. The culture sucks

Not all of it, I admit. But here’s the thing; when I started gaming, the internet was a lot smaller and a lot friendlier. Women seemed more welcome. Things weren’t so cliquey. When you met someone who liked the same game as you, it was a connection, something to celebrate. Multiplayer games worked by everyone sitting in the same room, around the same console.

Nowadays? Not so much. The hatred poured out towards everyone and everything is hideous. Depressing. I don’t want to play a game where I have to sit and listen to people calling each other foul names. I’ve got no intention of ‘manning up’. Casual racism and sexism is not okay. A competitive spirit I can deal with; having rape threats screamed at me? Not so much.

There are great bloggers out there, and interesting discussions going on. But time and time again the conversation devolved into attack and defence. I was tired of being outraged by the way women were treated, tired of the constant stream of negativity.

So… what next?

I’ve quit gaming. That’s saddening, in a lot of ways. But I still have many of the positives that gaming left me with: some fantastic friends, a problem solving mind, an obsession with manga-style artwork. And, somehow, letting go of the need to ‘keep up’ is liberating. Since I quit being a gamer, I’ve installed Super GSNES on my phone and discovered some old classics. I draw comfort from the fact I can always go back and play my old games if I feel the need. And I know that when I hit retirement, there will have been some awesome games that I will finally have time to play.

Are you a gamer? How do you make it work for you?