For some reason that I don’t quite understand, I actually watched the Game Awards this year. It didn’t take long for me to figure out why I stopped doing so in previous years. It was a lot of white dudes celebrating a lot of shooters sandwiched between a lot of marketing, all the while continuing to perpetuate the narrative that games are escapism and hold absolutely zero intrinsic value beyond that. I wasn’t really sure if they were simply out of touch or if I had too much faith in a consumer base that hadn’t really done much to earn it. For the sake of my sanity, I hope that it’s a least a combination of the two, that my initial impressions of a bunch of awkward businessmen going “hey fellow kids” was as cringeworthy to some others as it was to me.
Of course, I have to admit that I’m saying all of this as some sort of self-justification as to why I turned my brain off to play what can best be described as an Attention Deficit Shooter, even going so far as to chug Mountain Dew at the same time like some giant hypocrite. The issue for me was never one of vapid escapism existing, and as I’ve stated before, I’m a huge supporter of the benefits of such, but it’s more about my desire for some contrast. The reason my time with A Fistful of Gun worked so well today was because I happened to be in the sort of scatter-brained headspace to make an experience like that seem fulfilling, even if I knew there were a stack of much more cerebral indie games that I wanted to cover before the end of the year. On this evening, I just wanted to blow some stuff up.
Does that make the experience less valid? Of course not, and I think we have a tendency to do a lot of hand-wringing around the perceived lack of… respect, for lack of a better word, that comes with the medium because of our need to continually validate it. Some, of course, take this too far. I think there’s a happy medium between advertisers still seeing the entire consumer base as one giant collective Dorito stain and the segment of the population that identify as “gamers” to the exclusion of everything else, including basic human decency.
The point is – people have a lot of reasons to play and consume games. I just wish we didn’t so much focus on only one of those reasons. Turning one’s brain off is really only to the benefit of those that generally enjoy using them most of the time.