Gaming Anorexia

One definition of a glassy stare

Gaming as a hobby is one of those odd things.  While at the same time as being inclusive and something to share, it can, at times, be an oddly isolating and lonely experience.  I’m not talking about those little cliques that you get in multiplayer games when you’re the only stranger playing, or how the more ignorant and conservative media arms view the hobby and all of those who have embraced it, but rather about being on the outside in terms of what I play…or more to the point…what I don’t.

Given my constant flirting with apathy, rolling around with laziness and depression on the side, the list of games that I have played, compared to others in my small gaming circle, is alarmingly short.  It isn’t even that I have missed out thus far on some stunning games, but rather that it leaves me in the odd position of an outsider, standing on tip-toe and peering through the frosted glass as indistinct shapes converse and share and ultimately move away while I am left behind.

You see, if I haven’t played anything, then I have nothing to talk about (and ultimately nothing to write about).  Sitting down to start a blog when you have nothing to explore or no experience to dissect with words is a stale and oddly unsettling experience.  For weeks, I have procrastinated in front of the keyboard, drawn countless cocks on the back of envelopes, made up stupid voices for the little duck perched on my speaker, and counted the cracks in my office ceiling.  No article was magically waiting on my screen after those lost hours and all I could do was drift mournfully to bed to grieve for them.

The worst is reserved for those times where the people are more than names on comment threads.  When in company, I sit on the fringes while at the same time being central…the phrase alone in a crowd was never so apt.  Last year, my partner and successive gaming friends would repeatedly wax lyrical about the destroyed beauty of Fallout 3’s wastelands, while all I could do was listen, laugh, and nod while a sinking part of me fervently wished that I had bothered to play.  That way I might better know what they were talking about, would have had stories of my own, would have touched the soul of that game and had my own experience, the like of which had become so engrained on their gaming consciousnesses.

Lone on the range...

Watching from the shadows is an odd feeling…absorbing the animated conversations about a variety of games that are still sitting under a shroud of dust on my shelves, listening to reminiscences and exploits, adventures and tales of ingenuity while others chuckle or nod in agreement, quick to jump in with stories of their own.  Between them, solutions and glitches are shared, along with emotional discoveries; an exquisite gaming buffet is laid out in conversation…none of which I have ever tasted.  The danger, apart from stagnation, is that by the time I get to the table, there is only chewed meat left, the bones of conversation having been well and truly picked clean.

I suppose, it is true of anything in life though…if you have never travelled beyond Butlins in Skegness, then you feel oddly out of place in conversation among those who have travelled the world, run a gauntlet of diseases, and brought back various bendy souvenirs.  And if all you have to talk about is that one trip to Skeggy then your talk-tank is going to run very dry, very quickly and in the inevitable repeat conversations when the same folk re-meet, your pitiful handful of experiences seems sadly embarrassing, further forcing you into the shadows.

Assassin's Creed - hidden easter egg level

Games are the same.  The media like to pretend that gaming is a warped sub-sect of society inhabited by the lost, damned, and homicidal, but really it is a mirror, held to their own face, with all the same flaws, nuances, divisiveness, and awkward social situations…only the context changes.  One person’s lone travel experience to the wilds of Torquay while their mate travels to Machu Picchu is a gamer’s trip to the streets of Masayaf in Assassin’s Creed while their friends have finished hurling themselves around the lush rooftops of Venice in the sequel.

This apathetic, self-induced gaming anorexia is admittedly hard to kick, but for all the proclaimed cures in the world, however many tasty titbits are dangled in front of you by well meaning friends, only you decide when to bite and what.  As for the rest, they say talking about a problem is half the battle; writing about not having anything to talk or write about is a paradox which I find perversely satisfying somehow.

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  1. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    I can relate to this, but on a slightly different level. As you know very well, much to your frustration when it comes to buying me games, I am the most difficult breed of gamer to please and most game synopses are met with a less than enthusiastic “naaaaah” while I continue my search for “the next good game”.

    Whenever I’m in the company of gamers, I too listen to their tales of high adventure and ponder the possibilities of playing the games that they enthuse so much about… but I never do. I was about to thumb my nose at Fallout 3 when, after around ten hours of playing, I still couldn’t find anything to do but I convinced myself to stick in at it and fell head over dusty heels in love with it. I tried Mass Effect and it didn’t grab me, I played Arkham Asylum in the company of friends but haven’t touched it since, I scoff at EDF (and rightly so!) and wouldn’t even dare try Mirror’s Edge.

    I must admit, however, that Assassin’s Creed has sparked my interest even though it does appear to be repetitive. As a stealth player, that sort of game would suit me down to the ground and so maybe I’ll have something else to talk about. As it stands though, by the time I get around to playing my current stack of unopened games (Brutal Legend, Dragon Age: Origins, Divinity II, Borderlands and a few others) they’ll be old news and I’ll still have nobody to talk about them with as they’ll have moved on.

    You know what though? I’m happy with my choices. I like that I game at my own pace rather than allow that “release date assimilation” to take hold. Resistance isn’t futile, it’s good.

  2. Pete says:

    I feel your pain there Lorna! I’m probably even more in the wilderness than you are! ;)

  3. Kat says:

    I also empathise with you although I’m sure for slightly different reasons. I haven’t actually played many games in the past and feel left outside when gamers are talking about Fallout 3 or Pokemon or Final Fantasy games. Lately it’s been Mass Effect 2. I don’t really have any interest in the game but I still felt a pang of being left out!

  4. MrCuddleswick says:

    I know a similar feeling perhaps with PS3 games. There are a handful of exclusive titles I won’t be able to play until I can get a PS3, but I guess I’m excited that I always have MGS4 on the horizon.

  5. Lee says:

    come on guys group hug :D

  6. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    You just want to grab my cheeks, don’t you?

  7. Samuel The Preacher says:

    I get to feeling like that a lot. I tend to overcompensate though, and get louder and louder the more insecure I am, depending on the size of the crowd I find myself in. If the crowd is too large, or when I inevitably make a fool of myself, I then slip away and escape the situation entirely.

    I much prefer being in a small group, no more than about five or six, with people I know. Who won’t necessarily judge you for what you have and haven’t done. You can still feel inadequate in such company, but there’s usually at least one friend who will pick up on it and try to help you out. If that doesn’t happen, it can get very lonely indeed, but at least you shouldn’t be frowned on too much if you try the wrong approach to getting more involved.

    I’ve felt outside the people around me almost my entire life. Even with family, I stand apart, both through choices and because of natural inclinations. Despite preferring this solitude for the most part, there are times when you just wish you could feel comfortable with another person and be able to just interact with them without constant worrying about making a fool of yourself, or running out of things to say. Sometimes because the experiences you have had, other people can’t relate to, other times because you’ve not done what everyone else has yourself. I often resort to putting a DVD on in the background, or a podcast, so that it at least seems that other people are in the room. I feel closer to certain characters more than the people who are really here.

    If you ever want to talk, about anything, or nothing, just email me. Despite how I come across sometimes, I’m told I’m a good listener, perhaps because I’ve been through a lot myself. If it’s important enough, I’ll shut up and hear someone out. Mark has the address. I may not be able to help in any meaningful way, but I’ll still try, for a friend.

  8. Rook says:

    The conversations about things I know nothing about have been many. News, politics, music, books, servers, pc building, it all goes over my head, let alone not being able to join in. Games are something I can join in with.. but not always. Sometimes I remember bits of games but don’t remember characters, levels, the end boss. Whatever ths situation, it has to be the right group of people to be relaxed enough to talk inanely about gaming experiences.

    There are also games that I cannot talk about because of not playing them too, this is also down to stockpiling and then having either too much back catalogue to play or having something new and shiny come out that I want to play first.

    And I’m sure there are games and experiences that you can talk about that I can’t join in with. Now you just need to get Markuz and Fred locked in the gaming room with only EDF and 53 levels to play before he can come out and there’s a whoie other conversation to share. You know he wants to. :p

  9. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    Oh no he di’nt!!

  10. Ste says:

    I see where your coming from and thinking back I’ve been in similar situations. One of the lads in the office keeps banging on about Dragon Age, whereas I know I’ll never bother with it. I’ve only just got onto Batman: AA where as alot of my friends finished it ages ago. On the flip side though most of the people I know have never played a game on a pc, and never felt the joys of the original Half Life or “Proper” RTS games like Total Annhilation, I could go on. I’m sure there are tales that you could tell which they would have no experience of.

    I suppose it all boils down to whether this bothers you or not? Me personally I couldn’t care less. I enjoy the games I play and if a friend rants and raves about a game then I’ll get round to it in my own time.

  11. Jayden says:

    I totally Get you Guys!, I can so relate word for word what was written by Lorna!
    What a nifty expression to be used “Gaming Anorexia” that should right about sum me up in a nut shell!
    It’s like i’m completely numb and can’t even move an inch, let alone function in Norm Society if I don’t get my daily ‘fix’, an injection of high-octane unadulterated adrenaline fueled Action that transports me into total bliss gaming heaven!..time has no precedence when it comes to some “me time”.

    I thoroughly enjoyed your article and am real chuffed to know I am Not Alone, now If only my friends/ family could jump on the bandwagon and maybe just maybe they will finally “Get Me”. This coming from an 18 year old’s point of view!

  12. Lorna Lorna says:

    Thanks for the comments everyone :) Much appreciated!

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