Tales Don’t Tell Themselves

talesdont1I’m not the sort of person to force my views on other people. I certainly respect everyone’s opinions and understand that we’re all individuals. I can certainly understand that videogames aren’t for every single person out there, though – that’s just the reality of society. We are, after all, a diverse and multi-cultural bunch. I know plenty of people who “don’t see the point in videogames” or “think it’s a waste of time” and I respect those views, to an extent. Where I draw the line is when people start speaking about one of my greatest pastimes, thinking they know it better than I do. “It’s just pointless violence”, “it ruins the younger generation“, “it’s just another addiction” and some would even go as far to say “it has a negative overall impact on society”.

This is where, in the past, I would start pressing my opinions on these people, whether they be internet trolls or respected academics. But I’m tired of defending the art that I love, (and it is an art). This doesn’t mean that I won’t defend it stoutly if threatened, because now, more than ever, people are quick to make assumptions thanks to the lightning fast exchange of information in the global media. However, I feel now is possibly the best chance and time for a rapid change in tactics and an all-out assault on the opposition.


Does this mean you need to leave your desk, your sofa, your workplace, grab the nearest weapon and take to the streets? Are we going to march towards our major capitals, London, Washington, Berlin, Paris, Canberra, Tokyo, all demanding equality and understanding? Let’s make society pay for its ignorance, its narrow mindedness! No, sit back down, sit down now, especially you with the crowbar. You’re not Gordon Freeman. Besides, if society is to be believed, you’re all obese, lacking in upper-body strength, and destined to become killers anyway. Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy. No, what we need to do is something radically different.

There are people in this world who hate videogames. They despise everything about them and view them as nothing more than a waste of time. Those people, we can’t really change, as much as we may want to. Some people just have an opinion ingrained in their personalities, whether it be an original thought or just a mass ideal they do actually agree with, or, at the very least feel they have to. These people cannot be helped, but with constantly changing face of videogames, their opinions are becoming more obsolete as technology, and by way of that, videogames, becomes increasingly integral to society.

talesdont3However, there are people on the fringes, people who don’t really have an opinion on games or who view them with a casual interest. Those are the ones we want to involve more in our hobby, because it’s important that people see the amazing things that games can do. It’s important because all these fringe people are hearing is bad, bad things, and have been for years. Think about it for a second – when was the last time you excitedly told a non-gamer about our hobby? We, as gamers, don’t need to bother anymore, do we? The fight is over and we’ve won, right? Well it depends how you look at it really, but I believe in the old adage ‘the higher you climb, the harder you fall‘, and while I don’t think any single thing could derail this industry, given its ridiculous success over the last twenty years, that could be one hell of a fall from grace should it ever happen.

So we need to continue to tell people about our great hobby, because all they’re going to be seeing and hearing is the latest piece of unpleasantness, or ‘scandal’ about violence and sex in games or how a seemingly ‘normal’ teenager killed a dozen classmates because he saw a screenshot of Animal Crossing. If they’re not getting it from the media, they’ll get it from the fascist pricks who think they know our hobby better than we do, and the worst part is they won’t know any different. They won’t visit GamingLives, Eurogamer, or Rock, Paper, Shotgun to chortle at how misguided and misinformed society is, and these people could well become misinformed themselves.

The problem is that gamers are so great in number now that we don’t have to arrange a meeting under the shadow of moonlight, masquerading as a group of perverts, swapping copies of ‘Savile’s Greatest Hits‘, because we can only discuss our once-taboo pastime with virtually anyone – but I can almost guarantee none of us do, because gamers are creatures of habit, sticking to the forums, exhibitions, and LAN events that kept us safe in the past. To speak out before would have us branded as anti-social losers, so why take the risk now?


We need to start sharing our wealth of stories and adventures, because we’ve got twenty or thirty years of experience to draw upon. Not only that but it’s years of stories better than ‘last night Mabel finally beat my high score on Pac-Man‘. No-one gave a fuck about Mabel’s high score twenty years ago because it was beaten the next day and meant nothing in the grand scheme of things. Equally, when you start recalling your experiences, stay away from how you ‘pwned some noobs on Halo last night‘ because no-one gives a flying fuck about your perceived greatness or the shit game you’re peddling as a example of how its done. Halo‘s still shit – you know it, I know it, and I bet even Mabel fucking knows it.

talesdont5Instead, I want you to draw upon the knowledge you’ve gained, the experiences you’ve had – how much richer your life is because you experienced something in a virtual world, a world which disappeared when you switched off the computer or console, but which left an imprint on you as much as any other life lesson. It’s these things that we need to be telling those people about; people who are unsure about what videogames actually are and what they can achieve.

Almost everything I know about plants I know from games like Oblivion and Skyrim. If asked ten years ago what arrowroot and foxglove were, I would have had no idea, but thanks to those games I know they’re plants. Certain people would argue that this knowledge is largely useless, but it is still information based in reality, learned from a computer game. It’s no more or less relevant in my life than the knowledge of trigonometry or photosynthesis – things I learned in school and which have no practical application on a day-by-day basis. Of course, if you’re banging on about these amazing seeds you found in a fantasy world you’re likely to get some odd looks, but the point is that not everything we experience in games is unworthy of the attention given by those who have never experienced them. It’s not about how amazing or cool a game can be, but about what you can see, experience and learn without having to purchase another brain training game for a Nintendo DS.

So I implore you, tell non-gamers about what you’ve experienced in the last twenty or thirty years; the decisions you’ve made and the memories you’ve forged. Tell them about how you mulled over the philosophical writings of Ayn Rand in BioShock, how you began to appreciate a basic understanding of physics in Portal, how you learned how to read a map and use a compass in Arma, and how you started to appreciate the ridiculous amount of mathematics involved in a moon landing in Kerbal Space Program. Of course you can throw in the headshots, the last-gasp wins, and bitter defeats – those have their place in gaming – but they’re so commonplace, so stereotypical, and exactly what they’ll be expecting.

Instead tell them about the importance of the hundreds upon thousands of planets, cultures, and worlds they could only dream of ever seeing. Those sorts of tales don’t tell themselves.

Last five articles by Chris


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