Saturday, December 25, 2010

game forums

I love videogames, but not just playing them. I also love reading about them, criticizing them, and examining videogame-culture as an art movement. I intoxicate myself with news of upcoming releases and detailed anecdotes that appear on gaming sites and magazines. It's a fix for me which lacks the ability to ever truly satiate. I love playing the games too, but participating in game discussion is a different form of entertainment and the one that is pertinent to what I am going to try to say.

Every year, many different gaming sites will announce their game of the year, abbr. "G.O.T.Y". Stating your game of the year is really fun. It allows you to summarize the entire year of news, releases, and instances of joy experienced in gaming activities. Everyone has a different opinion of what should be considered for game of the year. I personally believe that the game of the year should represent the game release that you are happiest for knowing about. For those who just play games and don't read about them, this would amount to the game that they had the most fun playing. But since I read about games as much as I play them, the effect that the game had on videogame culture is also important to me.

I tend to think that if people play videogames, they play for the same reasons that I do, but this is not the case and every time I discover this dissonance, it makes me feel lonely. This year I realized that the game of the year announcement from different publications was an excellent way to gauge whether or not the writers of those publications were playing for similar reasons to my own. I realized this because of this article on Kotaku, a site which I frequent the most.

The nominations were so incredibly disappointing to me. I played three of the nominees and loved them, but to me 2010 was an incredible year for videogame culture, and not because of refinement in established genres and styles. There was so much innovation in so many directions this year, that it was absurd to me that four games who just put more advanced asphalt on the road we've been walking for the last 4 years should be nominated, when completely new directions were established.
One game in particular seemed to change my perceptions the most; minecraft. It changed my perceptions in a lot of areas for a lot of reasons. I began responding to the nominees on Kotaku, but received a lot of resistance, not from the writers, but from the readers. And that was when I realized that I was in the wrong place.

Everyone can enjoy their pick for game of the year, but to me, this was a sign that I needed to find a source of information that had a similar agenda to my own. I want to participate in a discussion where I am furthering a focus rather than arguing over motives and definitions. This ability to engage with people who share your interests is what makes the internet such a great thing. I realized that the majority of readers on Kotaku were playing games for different reasons than my own and I wanted to find a place where people were playing for the similar reasons as my own.
I started looking around and soon remembered that had an interesting tone to it and seemed to provide me with info about games that I wasn't getting  anywhere else. There was a podcast called "idle thumbs" that did similar things for me, but they stopped making it. I made a conscious decision to look at rock paper shotgun when I would be going to Kotaku and found that i was getting news that satisfied me and inspired me with content rather than suggestive and ultimately misleading headlines. They commonly refer to smaller games that were doing more interesting things and larger games that I just wasn't hearing about from other publications. They also seemed to have an interest in the way a game changes and contextualizes the artform as a whole; totally my type of thing.
So for their game of the year, they have an advent calendar where they list their 24 favorite games and announce their favorite on the 24th of December. here is the article in which they announce their de facto game of the year:
I almost cried when I read this. The emotional response probably had something to do recent experiences and frustrations with strangers online where I have failed to communicate the need for sympathy and compassion to hateful bigots. This article, in the context of my isolation on the forums in which I participate, made me feel an incredible sense of belonging. For some, this may seem trivial because it happened on internet forums, but the medium does not invalidate the experience for me and I wanted to share it.

Videogames are important to me and I am incredibly interested in how the culture and perspectives that surround their development and consumption form. Finding evidence of a place that can express my views about one game and why it deserves G.O.T.Y so accurately, makes me feel like I'm part of something.

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