I should admit, throughout my time writing—even as far back as when I began watching and playing games—my outlook was always skewed to the wrong side. I constantly have to reel myself back to where I need to be, my focus often creeping towards convincing people that what I love has value, rather than focusing on the value of what I love. As I enjoy doing, it would be best to dive backward to look forwards and figure out:
Why Write About Video Games?
I remember a conversation I had with Ken Levine, the amazing and talented writer of Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite. We were conversing about video games, the journalists who cover them and the many art forms that are subtly tucked inside of our favorite games, be it through design, character development, music, or, as in Levine’s case, the strong writing. Unfortunately, the conversation was not recorded in any way, so the best I can do is paraphrase. As we spoke, he mentioned the need of video game journalists, as he saw it, to find validity in what they did. I shared this perspective, but he went on, saying (more or less) that he had seen what felt like it was a ‘Look, mom! I am a real journalist!’ outlook; people reporting to show that their reporting had value.
I froze; it suddenly hit me, in that moment, talking with someone legendary, that what I was doing had been exactly that.
Of course, it was not that alone, part of me wanted to dive into art, which is what the podcast was aimed to do: gather amazing people in and around games and give them a platform to talk about our passion. At this time, it was the second week into the podcast. If I am as honest as I was in that minute with myself, I was pushing all of my creative power into something worthwhile; something I could show my family. Something that could show artistic validity in my precious video games.
‘Look, mom! I’m a real journalist!’
I remember one other time I felt as vindicated in my passion: the very start of college, my first semester of my first year. I was in English 101, given the assignment to write about something that people may have had a wrong outlook on. It just so happened that, not long before, Congress had ruled that video games were to be protected as art, just like movies, music, and paintings of all types. I wrote hard and fast, my assignment fusing with my passion, the power of law fueling something that I so adored. The project went well, earning me good grades all through the class, but it makes me wonder; who else feels this way?
This is not a time of confession, more of a reflection, looking into games and the amazing people around them. I find frequently in games, old and new alike, that there are special moments, much like in music or film. Playing on Atari, I doubt I’ll ever forget using the paddle in a racing game to fly back and forth across the screen, careless to everything I was running into. The moments did not stop as games moved forward; I played on my Super Nintendo at 4 am, so I could get adequate hours in before school on weekdays. Oblivion on the Xbox 360 brought the same feelings too, as I entered an Oblivion gate; the sight of Hell in a game overwhelmed me and left me feeling alone in a forbidden land. These were not just my moments, but, surrounded by people who had a love for the art of different mediums, it was hard to convey the emotions I had at each of these points, I finally had an art that spoke to me.
Jumping back to my conversation with Ken, I managed to do what I consider the ‘right’ thing. I captured that moment of fear -the thought that what I was doing was a pointless scream for affection- and bottled it up. I hold that fear inside now, using it to propel myself further from the need for validation Instead, I push myself towards seeing the value. I try to be more genuine, listening to those around me when they talk about their moments in games. I produce the same Matturday podcast still, but I ask fewer questions about the featured person’s ties to games, focusing more on them, as a person. The focus of video games, as I have it, is no longer about proving that what I love is worth loving, but rather, making sure I value what I love, be it mere moments in a game or conversations around an entire series.
“The focus of video games, as I have it, is no longer about proving that what I love is worth loving, but rather, making sure I value what I love.”
It is a genuine inquiry, wondering if those who develop games feel the same way about their product. If their art or programming is looked down on, or if we have finally built a community that makes people feel valued as they should while creating such amazing moments. It is not something I can answer, personally. I believe that, through the rise of eSports, long-tail media, people becoming more connected and so on, video games, as a whole, will continue to be given more room to be art. It is not a process that is easy or will come quickly, per say, but I hope it continues to happen.
Lastly, it was my mother who let me play the aforementioned Atari. She was the one who let me buy the games I was waking up at 4 am to play, silently, sleepy-eyed and sleep-deprived. She may not have realized it, as many parents often don’t, but she was not placing in me the need to play games or even the ability to play; she was teaching me how to love something. How to find a form of art I could appreciate and let it consume me, even when ‘normal’ people would be sleeping.