Some time ago, I was texting a good friend about gaming and whatever. We hit upon the subject of replaying old games, and she told me not to laugh…because she wanted to replay The Urbz: Sims in the City.
Note: this article originally appeared on Current Digital. I’m re-publishing it here because that site is closing down, and I’d like to preserve it. This also relates to the idea of subjectivity I touched on yesterday.
I laughed at that statement, not at my friend’s taste in games (which I think is similar to mine, but probably a bit better, if anything), but at The Urbz itself-a cool, hip, third-buzzword-having version of The Sims, complete with music by the Black Eyed Peas (in Simlish, which I think is pretty cool and hilarious).
Basically, the game…really isn’t for me. I’m not a big Sims player. That’s fine. My friend is into it. That’s fine, too. Because I don’t get to decide what people like, and neither do you.
We’re fortunate enough to be video game enthusiasts in a time where, for the first time ever, there’s truly a game out there for everyone. From the huge triple-A blockbusters (which are okay to like) to the smallest Twine games (which are okay to like). If you’re a “hardcore, passionate, competitive, gamer” (in other words, you’re a gamer), or you play Candy Crush a couple hours a week (in other words, you’re a gamer), you’ll find something to play, and enjoy, and love. Recently, I’ve even started throwing the term “renaissance” around, in terms of the nigh-unlimited creativity displayed in games today. We shouldn’t be actively combating this. We should be embracing it.
And yet there’s a constant narrative among gamers that one isn’t a “real” gamer specifically because one doesn’t play…shooters, for example. Or “hardcore,” game-y kind of games. What said narrative considers “real” games is, of course, a constantly shifting set of goalposts. But the general consensus is in favor of games which offer some kind of challenge or competition. Therefore, according to this logic, games such as Sunset, Life is Strange, or even The Sims or Urbz up there wouldn’t be considered “real games,” largely because of a distinct lack of…of what? Shooting? Online multiplayer? What? What makes a “real” game, people? Said narrative shifts the criteria every day.
A cursory glance at Twitter, a few minutes spent at your local GameStop, or lurking around the comments on IGN exposes you to this narrative. The complaints hurled at writers for covering alt-games (not to mention the developers of those games) exposes it. Hell, even the unending harassment towards people like, say, Anita Sarkeesian proves my point. And all she’s doing, in the grand scheme of things, is disagreeing with you. Somehow, this is grounds for banishment in an imaginary, ephemeral club known as “gamers,” where you’re only welcome if you’re playing what everyone else is playing.
Somehow, you’re less of a gamer for playing this game over that game. And, thanks to today’s hyper-toxic atmosphere, you’re somehow less of a person.
This position on gaming is complete bullshit, because as I said, you’re a gamer if you play games. If you consider what your playing to be a game, it’s a game. End of story. Because you, dear reader, don’t get to decide what’s cool, and neither do I, and neither does any Twitter rando. Or anyone. Last I checked, there hasn’t been an election for Arbiter of Coolness, and there probably won’t be. It’s that kind of gatekeeping culture that discourages creativity and stifles discussion. And it ruins gaming for people who might not want to virtually murder things all day.
And we can’t have that. Because gaming is for anyone and everyone. It’s not cool to bully someone for enjoying Sunset/Gone Home/Dear Esther, while it’s also not cool to belittle fans of Call of Duty/Battlefield/Gears of War. Same goes for everything in between: your Halos, your Five Nights at Freddys, your Assassin’s Creeds, your Depression Quests.
All of those are valid as entertainment or experiences. That’s what gaming is-as an art form, it’s wholly 100% subjective, and what you like is what you like. Don’t let anyone tell you what to like. It’s entirely up to you.
Just don’t gatekeep, because other peoples’ taste in things isn’t your problem. Gaming is not some walled area requiring you to keep out who you consider undesirable. It’s a hobby that’s never been more accessible for anyone and everyone to enjoy. Nobody ever said gaming or gamers were dead. Gaming, instead, is changed, and all for the better, I think. It’s a good thing, in my opinion, that gaming is more mainstream than ever. I don’t mean “mainstream” in terms of what some people consider “mainstream gaming” like Call of Duty, but rather “mainstream” in that it’s almost universally accepted as an art form. Combine that with the unparalleled creativity seen today, and…well, gaming is so damn great, isn’t it?
And so this viewpoint, that some gamers don’t count based on the games they choose to play, just…it hurts, because this hobby we all love is more open and welcoming than ever. At least, it’s supposed to be. I mean, like I said, I’m not particularly fond of The Urbz (it has a goofiness I enjoy, but I’ll not play it for large sittings or anything). But I’d never insult my friend up there for playing something I dislike, even if that’s the only game she plays. Because why would I do that? I’m not a jerk . If anything, I admire her for being so forthcoming about the games she likes. It sparks discussion. No such thing as a “guilty pleasure” after all.
What I’m saying is this: like what you like, and don’t let anyone tell you what you should like. And, no matter what games you’re into, maybe try something new! You might like [insert game here], it’s different!
That’s really what gaming is all about, isn’t it? New experiences. And, above all, having fun. Let’s try to be more inviting, okay?
Brian is a games writer on semi-hiatus. He’s got a Twitter you should follow.