Saturday, February 15, 2014

Not a "Real" Gamer

It's amazing how easy a trap it is to fall into, really.

As a working parent of a 6-month-old, there's always something to do. I pick her up from daycare on my way home from work, and my evenings are a maelstrom of dinner time and bath time and bed time and cleanup and setup for the next morning, when my alarm will go off at 5:59 and I will do it all over again. And as many other parents of young children before me have learned, the first thing to go is the idle time. Hobbies aren't gone forever, but they're on the back burner for a while.

Last night I was about to lament, "I haven't played a video game in months." The problem is, that lament is false in every way.


I got a 3DS for Christmas. A purple one. I love it to pieces. Not a day has gone by since the morning of December 25th that I haven't picked it up.

When my husband gave it to me, he also got me Phoenix Wright: Dual Destinies, and a few days later I bought myself Animal Crossing: New Leaf.*

I've been prancing around my town fishing, planting trees, and talking to the neighbors every day for six weeks. But I haven't played a video game in ages.

I've been working my way through a soap opera of ridiculous cases in a somewhat unhinged version of the Japanese justice system for a month. But I haven't played a video game in ages.

I've been playing games on my phone--Candy Crush Saga among them, I reluctantly admit, but also loads of Triple Town and Plants vs Zombies 2--with my free hand while holding the baby to nurse with the other every single day for six months. But I haven't played a video game in ages.

Despite knowing exactly what the pitfalls are, despite analyzing this problem for a hobby and onetime for a living, despite thinking of myself as a person who works really hard to be open and inclusive with gaming, I've fallen into the trap.

Not a big-budget AAA game that you play with a controller? It's not a "real" game.

Something women play with one free hand while wrangling the kid with the other? It's not a "real" game.

It's so insidious. The culture sneaks up on you so easily. And while I watched my husband finish his personal-canon Mass Effect trilogy replay in the evenings, I sat and stewed and lamented that I don't appear to be a gamer anymore... while holding my 3DS in my hand.

Maybe I'm not a gamer. I probably never was. I probably never will be again. But whether I'm bouncing around waiting for Dragon Age: Inquisition, or whether I'm defending my brains from zombies column by column, I'm playing games.

And if I can't remember that for myself, I sure as hell can't expect the broader culture to remember it for me.



* 1048-9696-0755. I still haven't visited other towns or had visitors to mine. Feel free to leave yours in the comments, or to DM/e-mail it to me. ;)

6 comments:

  1. I can relate to this so much (well, the gaming part, not the baby part). I think, though, this can be not just a matter of what KINDS of games we play, but the WAY we play them. Like, I recently lamented to my wife that it'd been SO LONG since I'd played video games ... despite making moves in Smallworld 2 on my iPad several times a day, AND testing a first-person shooter at work every day. Testing is work (even on a "real" game), occasional moves in Smallworld 2 are a pastime, but Dragon Age Inquisition will feel like my hobby (when I can finally get my mitts on it).

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  2. We got a SuperNES in about 1989, my kids were born in 1990 and 91. There was very little gaming of the electronic sort for us until 1996 when the N64 came out. Seeing as how I worked for Silicon Graphics at the time, I got one of the first ones and played the crap out of Mario 64, as did MrsJay. FPS games hadn't really been invented yet, but they were soon on the way. So there was none of this business about "real" gaming. Lucky for me.


    Anyway, my message is "it gets better". And then the kids do it with you, and that is wicked awesome.

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  3. You're playing games on an input device, which happens to be a handheld console. How are you not a gamer playing games? I don't get it.

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  4. ah, I know what you mean, especially when it seems like all the dialogue about videogames isn't about the games you're playing (which are also REAL games). Maybe it's something about playing a game for 6 hours straight (which is impossible for many people) that makes the experience seem more immersive, that leads us to distinguish between how hardcore a play style is. But if you beat an epic JRPG in 30 minutes a day rather than a marathon session, is it really that different of an experience?

    I'm pregnant with my first now, so it's heartening to hear that you're still getting a bit of gaming time in as a mom! My friend code is 5241-3341-9231 and my animal crossing town has been kinda neglected for a while... but I should visit it again :-).

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  5. I added you! My friend code is 4313-0375-1409. You GOTTA get Fire Emblem Awakening. I hate strategy games but this one is literally one of my favorite games. And since it's turn-based, it's possible to pick up for just a few minutes (although you won't want to stop...)

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  6. ... Y'know what's even weirder about this?

    I'm a man, and it would never occur to me *not* to count these as games.



    I don't *know* if it's the gendered aspect of my experience that changes my perspective, but I expect it is.

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