Getting Younger

Blaugust 6th

There’s a talk I can’t wait to have with my children when they’re out on their own. It’ll be about how it feels as a kid to only ever get younger, and never grow older.

Those of you who are of my generation know this feeling. You hit about 25 before you start to realize you’re no longer getting young. Geting younger is that feeling of always growing up, always getting better, feeling stronger, feeling infinite. Because for the first 25 years of your life that’s exactly what was happening. You were growing, physically, and you could feel your strength increasing, see your talents developing. For 25 years (or more) you feel like you’re ONLY getting better.

But then one day you wake up and your back hurts. Or you hurt yourself and you don’t bounce back in a day like you used to. Or you get sick and you really need to lay down for a week before you strength is back. This is when we realize we’ve finally stopped getting younger and started getting older.

And with that comes thoughts of our legacy. Who we used to be, who we are. Who will we become. Suddenly we realize that getting older means eventually leaving this place and we concern ourselves with leaving our mark. No more looking at tomorrow as an infinite promise, something that youth uniquely allows us to envision. When you’re a mature adult you realize that truth of the words “tomorrow isn’t promised”. You see for yourself that your physical strength isn’t increasing, that you’ve peaked and all you’re doing now is maintaining as best you can. Your experience makes the world feel like groundhog day, the same thing over and over, never changing. You don’t see new things as much as you used to. Everything looks like a copy of a copy. You start to wonder what the hell is going on and where did the World of Ever New Horizons disappear to.

But I found a fountain of youth years ago. People.

People are a bottomless pool of optimism. They show you that things go on, even infinitely. They make you stronger, give you energy, and give you the will to go on. This is especially true of loved ones and even more so of your children. To this day I remember two very distinct mes: the person I was before I met my wife and the person I am now. The former has been consumed by the latter and that gives me new life, more youth, a means to see everyday as new. Just as I did in my youth.

My children make it easier to envision what growing older will look like. I see myself in them, all of them. I remember me at their age. Some memories are painful and inspire passion to be an even better father, and some are light and I can vicariously enjoy their new experiences of the world without worry.

Relatively speaking, I’m still very young but mentally I’m no longer the youthful me. Yet I don’t feel older either. I’d say I’m floating fluidly in that space in between and all of my days ahead are still shimmering with the excitement of my youth, but with more familiarity and knowing. I’m looking forward to seeing the hairs on my head turn white. My wife is too.

Getting older is weird, but oddly comforting.

Scree Tags: #blaugust #gamertalk

The Development of Genres


“Street Cafe” by Raben Aas of Deviant Art

I’ve never been able to put my finger on why genres always seemed awkwardly named or labeled based on its core gameplay mechanic. Even Extra Creditz has sort of mused on this question, but I think I get it now and I also think it makes perfect sense to continue it the way it’s currently trending.

EC used the comparison of other media, such as movie genres, to show that the way we label games is …awkward, and possibly inappropriate. For example, there are horror, sci-fi, and drama genres for film. Games instead look at the core gameplay mechanic for names: First Person Shooter, Role-playing Game, Real Time Strategy. If we look at what’s being relayed via this naming mechanism we can see that games tend to name type of fantasy or simulation they do. And if it’s trying to describe genre of fantasy or to pinpoint the name of the simulation, then this is entirely appropriate.

When we view games as virtual worlds, even offline games, even single-player games — we can see that naming genres based on the experience is valuable. If I were to walk into a VR Bar 100 years from now, I may have to buy a ticket at the door and then choose from a menu the kind of fantasy I want to experience. Those fantasies might be named Sandbox Venus, First Person Shooter, Maze Sim, and so forth. Games are virtual reality without the peripherals (yet). Can genres be refined into even better descriptors of the fantasies they represent?

New genres seem to pop up every year, really. Developers are trying hard to really nail down precisely the experience the player will have with their games.  This might also be why the Action/Adventure genre continues to be one of the most ambiguous. This can mean so many different kinds of fantasies. After all, even an FPS is an adventure of sorts so what does the Adventure genre really indicate?

Anyway, there’s some food for thought. What do you think of the way the industry labels games?

Scree Tags: #virtualreality #gamertalk #aboutgenres

Conversation Left Overs: Ethics of Gamers

This week’s leftovers have gamers pondering the justice or injustice of it all. For the past few weeks, Jester over at Jester’s Trek has sparked some great discussion about whether player behavior in Eve is ethical and, equally important, if it’s hurting the game. I highly recommend reading the article and all of the comments in each. The comments is where most of the interesting responses to this question can be found.

Eve Online SSOne side discussion that didn’t emerge, but which I think is even more interesting, is the idea that this new player paid for over $1600 USD in gear. But what makes a player spend this much on a game they don’t understand?

Imagine this: You’re looking for a virtual world to entertain you on the evenings (an MMO for all intents and purposes; we entered the VR phase of gaming pretty much with advent of the internet). Your ultimate fantasy land is somewhere in the deep reaches of outerspace. You find Eve and not only is this the most beautiful game you’ve ever experienced, but it’s got features that, even though you don’t understand them, you just know it clicks with you. You find out that getting to the shiny ships takes months and even years. You’ve got money to throw away and the game will let you skip over the boring part and jump right into your dream ship. You shell out the money, feeling confident that this virtual world will be your simulation of choice for years to come.

Spending hundreds of dollars, in this context, seems like a pretty good investment — if you view it as the purchase of a fantasy, and not a game. And people purchase fantasies DAILY. While gamers like me still view Eve as “just a game”, I think we’re already entering an age where online games are seen as virtual reality gateways, where people increasingly want to invest their time and money into worlds that satisfy their sense of belonging. I don’t know which is scarier: that people are decreasingly finding that sense of belonging in the real world, or that MMOs are becoming increasingly an indulgence for the rich only. Would you spend $1600 on a virtual simulation that offered you the experience of your personal choice? On the other hand, treating a fellow gamer like this is pretty criminal in my opinion. This idea that he “deserves” it has the nasty, egotistical implication that those players had a right to dish out the deserts. Dispicable you, indeed, Eve’ers.

The Penis as a Weapon

RustLogo-BlockI wanted to write about this at the time that it happened, but better late than never. Rust, an open world survival game, recently had a band of players running around naked calling themselves the Penis Brothers. Inside the game, these players record themselves chasing down individuals, stopping them, and giving them a choice: join the brotherhood or die. To join, the player they chased has to strip naked and endure simulated gang rape. Just slightly raises a question of ethics among gamers. Where is the bar for behavior? Is there no standard we strive for in the community? What do you think of this?

Scree Tags: #ethics #rapeculture #gamertalk