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Saturday 21 May 2016

Dirty Casual, Filthy Tryhard

Remember when we used to play games for fun?

I'm not saying games aren't fun. They are. Well, some of them. Everyone finds fun in different places after all. It shows in how the games market has - in the past thirty years - broadened itself massively, and crept into every single aspect of life in some small way or other.

Remember when you could play Beehive Bedlam on your Sky box? Hell, maybe you still can. I burned literally hours on that game at my mate Josh's house. Imagine - I had my very own PC at home, a Sega Megadrive and - after a point - a Sony Playstation; and yet, we still ended up playing Beehive Bedlam.

I'm not sure how or if that ties into the point I am going on to make. It's just a memory I wanted to evoke. What it shows is this: games were already available in all sorts of places, in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Never has that been more true than today, this very moment.

There's the very obvious Triple A market, with its third-person adventure-action style games and first-person shooter shennanigans. There's the race-driving market, the RPG market, and the strategy market, both of which are vaguely niche, both of which are absolutely huge and possess incredible amounts of variety in and of themselves. Then there's the smaller games, the more indie titles that run the gamut from fairly-short-visual-novel to lovingly-crafted-farm-simulator. Looking at games specifically for mobile phones, there's subgenres a-plenty. There's crossovers all over the place.

No wonder, then, that as a community - as gamers - we are internally divided.

I'm not very good at video games. There, I said it. I'm not. I am usually surrounded by people who are better than me. I mean, I have my talents; I like a good turtle in a strategy game, and I'm fairly convinced that my unholy lust for sniping has led to some practice (as a self-deprecating and yet vaguely honorific nickname I sometimes refer to myself as Sniper X, usually just before I miss three body shots in a row).

If a game is too hard, it will take something very special to make me come back to it time and again. Because of this, a lot of games that are classically considered hard - Binding of Isaac, Dark Souls - don't draw me in at all. I'll give them a run, find them very unforgiving, not have much fun, and put them down again. Also, my attention span isn't great; I'll often find myself playing three or four different games of an afternoon, unless I really sink my teeth into one of them.

I think that makes me a casual gamer - but then, honestly...where's the shame in that?

Then there's the tryhards. Oh yes. The tryhards. I have tryharded myself, more than once; often playing something I consider myself quite good at, let's say Supreme Commander or Civ. Running at the higher difficulties, throwing in additional challenges because something something challenge, discarding fun strategies for efficiency and lethality.

...but where's the shame in that?

Honestly it seems to come down to a damned-if-you-do damned-if-you-don't scenario. It's not like both echelons of gamer aren't catered to, in the wide world of video games.

You want to talk about division, though - what's your favourite shooting game?

I can predict some of the camps for this one. If I had to set up several different camping fields at FPS-Fest 2016, they'd probably be BattleField, CODField, HaloField, DoomQuakeUnrealField, OtherField and I Don't Play Shooters (parking only).

The savagery of the rivalry there is something to behold, which I think is summed up quite succinctly by this remarkable bit of roasting in regard to the COD Infinity / Battlefield One trailer piss-off. (In terms of the roast, this is actually fucking art. Like even if I was a COD fan I'd have to appreciate it.)


Boundaries everywhere,'s the thing. The way I see it, it works the same way with metal fans.

Now I'm not a HUGE Pantera fan. Nor am I massively enamoured with Megadeth. If I can't read the name of the band in the logo then I may make a noise through my teeth before giving them a listen. I'm no fan of Cradle Of Filth, Marilyn Manson post-Mechanical Animals leaves me cold, and I may get shot for this but I don't think Iron Maiden will ever top Flight Of Icarus.

However. If I see someone in the street wearing a Megadeth shirt, I know that - in one regard at least - we are on a level. We like different flavours of sonic apocalypse, but we like the apocalypse nonetheless.

Got a Green Lantern shirt on? I'm a Marvel man myself but - ay. We COMIC people. So you're more into Gundam SEED than, well, any OTHER Gundam. That's fine, cos we're Gundamaniacs or whatever the term is for us. Vampire the Masquerade? Roleplayer. Bard? Adventurer. Sebastian Vettel? F1.

I see you, Decepticon fans. I see you, Trekkies who are more into Voyager and Enterprise than DS9. I see you, Lexx lovers. I see you, folks who prefer Scotch to Bourbon. I see you, anyone who would pick a Pokemon that ISN'T Psyduck.

I see you, gamers.

There's a saying that I picked up an age ago. Nobody Beats Up My Brother But Me. I think it holds true. Like I'll lightly grill anyone that swears down that Call Of Duty is the pinnacle of gaming (and that you should only ever play it on a PS4), but I'll stand phalanx-fashion with them the moment the anti-gaming brigade roll out their lawsuits.

All too often we focus on that which makes us different. We dismiss people because we like to feel superior, we like to feel that the thing we are part of is exclusive, and that is a weakness; it's a hollow satisfaction that we gain from putting others down.

So the me that spent an entire afternoon playing Bee Bedlam rather than studying for his A-levels isn't that different to the me that was once called a "good shield guy" for sterling turtle play on SupCom, and the Terran in me isn't so different to the Protoss and Zerg in my buddies Tom and Chris. We're gamers. Different flavours, but gamers nonetheless - and if everybody looked the same, we'd get tired of looking at each other. if only we could get the industry to be more inclusive in and of itself...but that's for another blog.

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