The Social Gamer

I recently started a new job, and though the work is hard, there is always a bit of time for conversation. In my first few days, this was pretty limited. In fact, we didn’t say much beyond “Hey”, “How are you”, and “What’s your name again?” Once we started to get a little more comfortable, there was a lot more actual conversation, which led to one of those inevitable “So, what do you do in your spare time” icebreaker questions. After about the third time I answered the question with “Videogames” I realised something: I have turned into a social gamer.

Since those initial icebreaker questions, I’ve used videogames as a topic of conversation almost as much as I have actually played them. Sure, I’ve played a whole lot of games in the past – I have been a student for the last few years, after all – but since I started this job, that time has been cut down a pretty significant amount. I’ve played a decent amount of Smash to prepare for a tournament I’m going to, but apart from that the only significant time I have spent was on the morning that I started writing this very article, during which I dug my old Playstation 2 out and spent some serious time with some nostalgic games.

On the other hand, I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that a quarter of my conversation at work is about videogames – and you can get a ton of conversation into a ten hour shift. Depending on who else is on my shift, it could be about anything from Street Fighter to Pokemon, but you can bet that we’ll be talking about it for hours on end, which is more than I can say about actually playing games, recently.

I actually tried to play against one of my work colleagues the other day, in a heroic but ill-fated attempt to be genuinely social. It didn’t work out, but the point stands. Some of the most effort I’ve put into gaming of late has been with the entire aim of being social. It wasn’t that long ago that I could count the number of people I’d played a game with online on one hand, and now I was chatting on Facebook, trying to work out why our games were refusing to communicate with each other. If anyone was wondering, it was because of DLC. Dammit Capcom.

Where did this social gaming habit come from? Long hours, sure, but maybe it also stems from the fact that there isn’t much about that I’d like to play. Over the last few weeks, my Xbox One has been used more for watching television than gaming – Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag being the exception – because there isn’t much I want to play. It should say a lot that, on a rare day off from work, family or social responsibilities, the console I made a beeline for was the PS2, now almost a decade out of date. Even so, it wasn’t Shadow of Mordor I wanted to play, it was Tony Hawk’s’Pro Skater 4, and Yu-Gi-Oh! Capsule Monster Coliseum. The latter is an especially great game, and I will happily fight anyone who wishes to disagree but, despite the fact that both games are amazing, it’s a bad sign where I’ve spent more time playing games from 2002 than from 2015.

Maybe it’s because I spend so much more time working – especially in comparison to my life as a student – but I do feel as though I’m starting to value my free time a lot more now. A game doesn’t have to be amazing to be worthy of that free time, but it does have to grab my attention and very few games have managed to do that recently. Certainly very few games from the first quarter of 2015 have managed to do that. In fact, Mortal Kombat X is the pretty much the only one that springs to mind, and I haven’t even bought that yet because of how prohibitive the cost of a shiny new fightstick would be for my shiny – somewhat less new – Xbox One.

Still, that hasn’t stopped me talking about how excited I am about it at work. Just like the very limited time I’ve spent with Street Fighter recently has yet to stop me talking way too enthusiastically about how my main character is, without a doubt, the only logical choice in the game. Neither has my very rusty Pokemon knowledge stopped me evangelising the team I built a couple of months ago, to the dismay of my sceptical colleagues. So maybe my limited gaming time is stopping me from being quite as hardcore a gamer as I used to be. That’s okay, especially if the games I have played continue to be an icebreaker and conversation starter over my next few weeks or months. For now, it seems, I just have to accept that I’m a social gamer.

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