As I see it, gaming as we know it has gone through several eras, or phases if you will. While you can measure gaming by it’s console generation (with PS4/X1/WiiU being the eighth generation), it doesn’t really encapsulate the zeitgeist of the gaming scene. In an hour of boredom I thought out a different way to break down the history of gaming.
I want to focus on the currently emerging era; Identity.
The previous eras I won’t go into too much detail for right now… For the most part they are pretty self-explanatory.
- Phase 0: Discovery. The proof of concept period. (Phase 0 because it’s really proto-gaming)
- Phase 1: Spectacle. Arcades, high scores, and enjoying the whiz-bang of realized concepts.
- Phase 2: Cornerstone. Challenges, narrative, and experiences unrestrained from quarter-gobbling motives.
- Phase 3: Community. Online, social, and direct competition. The experience is focused on interactions with other players now.
- Phase 4: Identity. Questioning who you are, your view of the world, your place in it, and your role as a player.
“No Nintendo console is allowed in my house. They don’t know what they’re doing with that thing.”
Late last year that was the thought my wife had when I was getting intrigued by Nintendo’s latest console. I couldn’t really argue her point. Nintendo didn’t seem like it knew what to do with the GamePad or how to organize an online infrastructure still. Third parties are scared to invest in Wii U support with the disparity between it and the PS4/X1. Yet, Wind Waker HD had a limited edition bundle and with Super Mario 3D World on the way it had finally started to become something I was interested in. Everyone knows Nintendo’s strength is in it’s first party titles and they were starting to seriously roll them out. Shiny games were enticing me. Fast forward to Sunday night as she and I were driving home from Toys R Us with this in the back seat.
Gaming is an odd duck sometimes. You see a game being played and think that it’d be a boring ride. Why bother spending hours playing some derivative throwback when there are tons of new games you haven’t experienced anything like them before? In this case, why play Mutant Mudds over Towerfall: Ascension or Final Fantasy 14? Somehow that “12-bit” platformer built to utilize the 3D effect of the 3DS just went from zero interest to all trophies earned inside of five sittings for me, and I’m not even sure if I enjoyed it?
If you identify yourself as a gamer of sorts, chances are there is something that you really can pinpoint to where it took off for you. Maybe a time period, a long-lasting franchise, or maybe a one specific game. The key thing is there was a turning point where it went from “this is kind of cool” to you thinking about the game after you were done playing it. Maybe a bit of daydreaming at work about getting back home to make the weekend raid, or passing the time in class doodling Crono, Robo, Frog, and Lucca? Did you start to worry about your villagers wondering where you have gone? Games became more than just a way to kill time. They became a hobby that you actively sought out and planned for.
I realize these are large, broad ideas, and I’ve read plenty of other’s thoughts on the topics. I’m still unsure personally if it’s a matter of compulsion, laziness, craving meaningful experiences, or wanting something familiar… Or unfamiliar. Just finishing Mass Effect’s campaign had me wondering what to do next.
- Do I replay it again on a harder difficulty for different experiences?
- Do I chase down some trophies by doing another play through?
- Do I move onto Mass Effect 2?
- Or do I just end the experience now and go on to other games that I haven’t played yet, like Shovel Knight?
- Also, why did I feel the need to replay ME again anyways, if I just played it a couple of years ago and have a massive backlog to begin with?
(this article was originally written for a series that Marie the Bee hosted on her blog. She helped me edit it into it’s current form)
Growing up, video games had always been around and an integral part of my identity. A lot of my hobbies spawned from gaming. Through games I came to writing, anime, skateboarding, and programming. Games even shaped my interest in music.
The reason why games were so prevalent in my life? It was an escape from a rough childhood. I was the youngest of three growing up in a household with an alcoholic parent. My siblings were old enough to always go out with friends when there was trouble at home, but I was six years behind them. So, I had to endure my father’s unpredictable temper and mood swings. Then, when I was 13, my mother finally left him, and I was stuck in the middle of the divorce. My parents went back and forth vying for custody, with me overhearing and knowing it was because whoever had me collected child support from the other. Growing up in that environment combined with feeling like the only worth I had to my parents was a child support payment, I had no self-esteem to speak of and just wanted not to exist. I also still had to deal with the consequences of my father’s alcoholism. He couldn’t keep a job; we moved a lot. At 15, I dropped out of high school when he moved us away from my friends. He didn’t even care, he was so wrapped up in the bottle.