Justify your credentials

In the opening column for Wireframe #42 (which is an excellent magazine that you should read if you don’t already, you can download it for free or subscribe to having a print copy delivered), James Moran talks about how a lot of games have RPG mechanics in them now, and how that’s not his thing. However, regardless of whether I agree or disagree with his overall point, one thing did stand out:

“I just want to play and have fun. I’m no casual
gamer, or a fake geek boy. I’ve earned my stripes.
I had the Grandstand 5000 Deluxe console back
in 1977, with its ten almost identical games. I’ve
sat waiting 20 minutes for Sultan’s Maze to load
on my Amstrad CPC 464 tape deck. I’ve played the
75-second demo of the first Gran Turismo repeatedly
until 4am on the original PlayStation. I fought with
your father in the console wars.”

Here we have someone who is best known for his work in the movie industry, but clearly has a passion for videogames (why else write a column in a games magazine) justifying himself to other games-playing folks. I’ll state now, this isn’t a criticism of Jame Moran, this is a criticism of culture and communities in general. Why, when faced with discussing or criticising something, do we all feel we have to justify that opinion by providing a history of our involvement with that community? I’m as guilty of it as anyone, recently in my Hotshot Racing review I was name dropping games that I felt influenced Sumo Digital when they were creating their great little racer.

The more I thought on it the more I came to realise its not a healthy thing, it’s just not good for your mind, to feel you constantly have to prove your worth to a community. This applies to many, many things and its a really complicated thought process and leads to other issues. Take being a “gamer”, a label that I carried for years and years, I had it on my original Twitter profile, I’d tell people that’s what I was, then when talking to other games I felt I had to reel off either really popular games I liked or something obscure, depending upon the person I was talking to, to prove to them just how much of a gamer I was.

I’ve since dropped labelling myself as a gamer, there’s a variety of reasons for that that I won’t go into today as it’s moving away from the point, but it did create an unhealthy obsession of feeling unworthy because I hadn’t sunk hundreds of hours into a Super Robot Wars game that was only available in Japanese, or because my K/D ratio in that year’s most popular shooter was really low. It detracted from my enjoyment of games and not only that it led to me feeling I had to keep up with what was currently in vogue.

Hell, just this morning when dropping the kids off at school, one of the mums was saying to me that her partner had spent all night trying to get a pre-order for the PlayStation 5, even though they’re planning a very expensive wedding. My response was to say “doesn’t he only play FIFA?”. Now, that’s not all he plays, but that’s not the point, my immediate thought process can be boiled down to “why does he need a next-gen console just to play a football game?” and that’s wrong, if he wants one, and can afford one, then it’s totally up to him what he uses it for. Does it make his purchase any less worthy because he won’t be using it for a ninth-generation remake of a seventh-generation game (Demons Souls)? Of course, it fucking doesn’t and it’s wrong of me to judge.

This happens within other things too, “film buffs”, people who only “love the first album” that they “have on vinyl” of some underground non-chart friendly band, crafters who only buy a certain, really expensive brand and that whatever you’ve created can’t possibly be as good because your materials are cheaper, and so on. We, as a race, seem to have to get one over on each other or prove ourselves to each other all the fucking time and it needs to stop.

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