It’s with an introspective tear in my eye that I look back on that evening. Remnants of Wotsits, Doritos and those chocolate-coated nut mixtures line the once-immaculately stitched lining of the sofa, my vision has languished into a hazy blur and the ex-colleagues I intended to meet for a late-afternoon hoedown several hours ago appear to have sent out a search party before pressing to have me declared legally dead. It’s all tits, though, because that’s the headlong, unpremeditated lifestyle of the gamer, son – a decadant, intransigent cocktail of uninterrupted twelve-hour play sessions and resounding middle finger salutes to the tawdry rigmarole of the outside world. Hell to the spunk-gushing yes, bro.
Seriously, though, is that a genuine scenario or have the dubiously labelled “hardcore gamers” been fibbing to me again? And yes, that’s a semi-honest question because it’s never a practice I’ve engaged in. Cast aside my regular stream of flowery rhetoric bullcrap and there’s actually a query in there that I’ve been itching to put forward for a good, long time now, but never got round to it because of global warming or something.
Twelve-hour play sessions? Are they really a thing? Because for the nonexistent readers who didn’t latch onto the basic principles of primary school mathematics, that’s half a day spent controlling an on-screen avatar by way of thumbs and index fingers, and when sleep, basic hygiene and other arbitrary chores are factored into the equation, we’re talking about a hefty chunk of one’s waking life ingrained in a virtual fantasy world.
“I’ve come across individuals who’ll routinely finish a game of moderate length, such as Dishonored, Bioshock or Assassin’s Creed, within a couple of days of purchase, and a good few of them wouldn’t even consider gaming to be their most cherished of pastimes.”
Now, I don’t know how much time you, the luckless nadger reading this article, pour on average into the video gaming medium, but I’d imagine that in most cases, it’s more than me. That’s because I’ve never, even during the school summer holidays, when I had bugger all else to do, played video games for more than three hours in a single day. And that was only once.
Let’s think about that for a second because goodness knows I’ve thought about it on my own for long enough. For a chap who at least spuriously purports to maintain an active interest in the games industry, the admission of never having gleaned pleasure from a discernable gaming marathon is a particularly confounding one, not least because it calls into question what the bollocking hell I’ve been doing all this time since Indie Statik’s inception. And frankly, you’d been well within your rights to eye me with mistrustful contempt, especially given that I’m somehow allowed to write and edit alongside boys and girls who demonstrate far more subject-specific knowledge and dedication than me. I know; it’s a head-scratcher.
Stuck To The Sofa
But still, even if I weren’t privileged enough to write with people I genuinely respect, along with a few we apparently picked up at the bus stop, playing games for such diminutive periods of time must be at least a tad unusual. I wouldn’t doubt that there are others out there who practice gaming habits similar to my own, and I certainly wouldn’t want to paint myself as a shining beacon of hope in a sea of mindlessly entranced dumbassery, but I know for a fact that it’s by no means uncommon for those enthusiastic about video games to play for significantly more than three hours a pop. I’ve come across individuals who’ll routinely finish a game of moderate length, such as Dishonored, Bioshock or Assassin’s Creed, within a couple of days of purchase, and a good few of them wouldn’t even consider gaming to be their most cherished of pastimes. Never mind the members of the die-hard, balls-out hardcore gamer fraternity, who might as well put down gaming as a second profession on their next census form.
Unlikely as my brash generalisations may render it, there’s actually a series of good reasons for my decision to shy away from lengthy gaming binges, some of which I’ll attempt to lay down here before my “woe is me” tank runs dry. You see, first off, I’ll be the first to admit that my attention span would struggle to rival that of a comatose adolescent attempting to converse with a triple-breasted ice cream saleswoman, which makes it more than a smidge of a challenge to remain focused on a single form of narrative for as long as it takes for said triple-breasted ice cream saleswoman to kick me in the sack for being such a twat. That’s bad enough when I’m trying to keep my eyes fixated on a mindless Western chainsaw-up-the-Jap’s-eye-em-up, but give me a game with a bombastic, convoluted plot, like a Final Fantasy or Xenogears, and my mind will be churning itself into an irreparable pulp in no time at all.
“I do realise that you’re supposed to take regular breaks, as almost every loading screen these days seems intent on ramming down our throats, but this is a problem that has an irritating tendency to affect me for hours on end…”
Perhaps that would be all well and good if I could find solace in a selection of simpler, faster-paced titles, but they’re probably even worse. While a sprightly little shoot-em-up, like Jamestown, or a euphoric action platformer, like the Bit.Trip series, might dish out scintillating bursts of adrenaline-fuelled awe, its transcendental appeal will inevitably find itself stymied by the lingering menace known as eyestrain, a bothersome affliction that routinely rears its head after around a couple of hours’ play. Predictably, what follows are the traditional sequence of headaches, nausea and dizziness, all of which combine to reduce the once-pleasurable gaming experience to an exercise that can be defined as something in between staring at the sun and trying to win a staring contest against the Ark of the Covenant. And before you ask, yes, I do realise that you’re supposed to take regular breaks, as almost every loading screen these days seems intent on ramming down our throats, but this is a problem that has an irritating tendency to affect me for hours on end, ensuring that the age-old “come back later” point of recourse ends up getting knocked on its righteous backside.
And then I suppose there’s that all-important factor of willpower. I’ve made a few excuses over the last few paragraphs, and I’m sure many of them come across as pathetic rationalisations from a bitter, bitter man, but it’s probably true that my brief forays into PC and console gaming are as much down to a lack of desire than anything else. Don’t get me wrong here; I have all the respect in the world for the folks involved in gaming development, and my current list of games to keep an eye on, both indie and AAA, is decked out with at least a dozen different names right now. But when it comes down to the nitty-gritty of turning on a gaming device, clearing some time from a busy schedule and playing long into the night, I find myself bereft of motivation and struggling to summon the psychological energy I know I’d need to stay glued to a screen for longer than a couple of hours at most. After a long day at work, I might be more inclined to spend an hour or two at the gym, soothing my mental lethargy with a bout of intense physical activity. I might want to watch a single episode of a short comedy series, with South Park being my favoured vice, just to bring a lonesome smirk to my hideous face. There isn’t always necessarily any reason or rhyme to my recreational choices, but the fact is becoming increasingly clearer that for me, gaming in whatever form usually ends up popping up in shorter, less fully-fledged intervals.
Curiously enough, I initially felt as though my appreciation for my Indie Statik superiors was in spite of my struggles to remain task-focused on the games themselves, but I now realise that I was wrong. If anything, it’s because of my status as an outsider-looking-in that I’ve developed a heartfelt appreciation for those who give me a forum through which to not only air my own unconventional views, but also to proofread and edit their own infinitely more fleshed out and considered viewpoints whenever I get the time. When I think about it, that’s a pretty amazing deal. Not only that, but if I was a dedicated gamer seeking out a long-term career in this callous industry of lies and backstabbery, perhaps I wouldn’t see things in such an appreciative light, instead looking at the very people who let me broadcast my haphazardly-constructed grievances as rivals, and possibly even enemies. Uncharacteristically saccharine as it may seem, then, being such a bumbling n00b scumbag might just have saved my sanity.
Maybe I’m unusual when it comes to play sessions. Maybe I’m a disgrace to the sacred traditions of a ritualistic discourse community. But maybe I don’t give a monkey’s because I’m happy with what I’m doing. I do, however, give a monkey’s, whatever that means, about your own views because I’d like to set the record well and truly straight and confirm that I have no desire to pass judgement on anyone who does enjoy a good, long gaming stint, either sporadically or each and every day. Because to be honest, as long as what you’re doing is legal and ethical, I couldn’t be more pleased that you’re engaging in some harmless fun, and I’d genuinely like to hear from any of you.
Except Angus. He’s a dick.