Do I Still Count As A Gamer?

Next month I'll be going to PAX. I like PAX as an idea because it reminds me of everything I love about gaming and game creation as a creative endeavour, even if it reminds me of everything I hate about gamers as a subculture. The sexism, the entitlement, the ego, the lack of hygiene, none of these things are obligatory when you play a lot of games as a hobby. It's absolutely possible to enjoy the hell out of video games and be a socially well-adjusted adult. But there's also plenty of people who are kinda shitty and unpleasant at shows like PAX, who use their imagined persecution as an excuse to put off self-improvement. Fuck those guys.

I play video games a lot less at this point in my life, but I still feel a connection to the process and the fun and I like to keep going to these shows. I think that what I've most lost my appetite for is the grind. Call of Duty is an absolute monster of a franchise because the perks and the levelling make it really addictive, but any progression is illusory. There's nothing around the corner except more of the same. Making the numbers go up isn't the same as making progress. It's a damn waste that having dumped dozens of hours into the game over the years, a match I play today is, from a mechanics standpoint, barely different from the first match I played back in 2007. Run, ADS, kill, repeat. It's accessible, which is nice as a gamer without a ton of time to spend on a game (why I never got into StarCraft or Dota), but that comes at the expense of depth. SpyParty nails the balance between the two beautifully.

The design and refinement of game mechanics over the years still interests me. Seeing how behaviours and unexpected consequences come out of the decisions made by developers is fascinating, and how those evolutions drive changes in game design is really cool. I want to see emotionally engaging and mature storytelling, satisfying character/skill progression, and yet... there doesn't seem to be a lot of that in the industry right now. If there is, it's not sitting at the top of the best-seller lists. But that's why I go to shows like PAX - to find the next great thing and champion the hell out of it.

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