Relax, It’s Just a Game

I’m going to give you a peek behind the curtain here at ZTGD. We just started a new series called, “Your Game Sucks.” It’s intended to be a purely satirical look at gaming criticism from inside and outside the community. We’ve now published three of these pieces: one on Street Fighter, one on Gears of War and the most recent on Batman: Arkham Asylum.

Now, here’s the thing that you might not realize (but, I sincerely hope you already do). Derek “Punchfister” Deebag is not real. It’s shocking, I know. A guy with the last name of Deebag, who acts like a D-bag, is a caricature. Now, we had all hoped that the obviousness of the joke would be such that people going in would know what to expect. Unfortunately, the comments on the piece seem to indicate the opposite, even when we’ve clearly responded that the pieces are intended as satire.

It could just be that we’re not funny. But even if you don’t enjoy the humor, it should be impossible to ignore the attempt. Still, there are those that insist we are being serious. Drew, who wrote the Street Fighter piece, loves Street Fighter. I took on the Gears of War piece because I enjoy that series. Ken was behind the Batman piece we published on Friday. He has stated, in no uncertain terms, that Batman: Arkham Asylum is the best superhero game ever made. These came from a place of love. I promise.

Unfortunately, as I look around at the gaming community, I have a hard time believing that our failed careers as standup comics are purely to blame. I believe that we are losing the “game” part of videogames. We take the hobby very seriously but, worse, we’ve become so invested that we forget that we’re supposed to be having fun.

When Microsoft introduced Achievements, no one knew how big the concept would become. There is something that tickles our brains’ gratification centers every time we earn one of these intangibles. The harder the achievement, the better we feel. Whether you use your Gamerscore/Trophy count/Steam achievements to compare against yourself or egg on your friends, they are a great addition to gaming. Or… they were.

Not so long after the XBox 360 launched, reports started coming in of astronomical Gamerscores that just didn’t seem to be legitimately possible. Sure enough, it was determined that people were artificially inflating their Gamerscores. I admit to finding myself confused. Why would anyone do this? You can’t trade Gamerscore in for anything. You don’t get the satisfaction of actually earning the Achievements yourself. Is your need for an ego boost so severe that you have to resort to cheating at something that doesn’t even matter? Clearly, given the amount of people who found their scores reset when Microsoft got wise, this is a widespread affliction. Did we forget? It’s just a game.

Sites have sprung up all over the place exposing the seedy underbelly of the gaming community. Whether it’s Why Was I Banned or Fat, Ugly or Slutty, there is an unbelievable amount of evidence of gamers behaving badly. We aren’t nice to one another. We don’t play fairly (and, I might argue that the word “play” doesn’t even apply to some of these antics) and we go out of our way to prop ourselves up by tearing others down. We seem to have forgotten why we started doing this in the first place. I certainly hope that the reason was “because it’s fun.” If not, I hope that people who play videogames, but don’t enjoy it, take my advice to seek professional assistance. If you aren’t having fun, you might be a masochist. Also, you might have forgotten that it’s just a game.

I can’t help but look at the world and see how often videogames are blamed for violence. Here’s the thing, fellow gamers, the moment we take ourselves so seriously that “gaming” is no longer the proper way to describe the hobby, we leave ourselves wide open for every narrow-minded pundit to attack us. If we can’t laugh at ourselves, poke fun at the games we play and enjoy the competition (even in the throes of defeat), I fear that we are adding fuel to the “videogames are evil” fire.

My hope for our community is that more of us kick back and just enjoy the hobby. We spend so much time complaining, bickering and insulting one another that the joy is being drained out of a medium originally intended to be purely fun. It doesn’t matter what genres you like, which platform holds your allegiance or whether you prefer to play solo or online. It’s just a game.

Michael Futter

Mike is the Reviews Editor and former Community Manager for this fine, digital establishment. You can find him crawling through dungeons, cruising the galaxy in the Normandy, and geeking it out around a gaming table.

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  • mookie

    Well said. Bad auras arebt welcome so better off not to waste your time on them.

  • mookie


    • Michael “Red Pen of Doom” Futter

      Thanks, Mookie!

  • Kelsey

    A very strange fact: I agree, but the other people I notice making the same point are griefer apologists. Their point is that, by forcing us out of immersion, they push us to reflect on the game-ness of the game, with the intended effect of bringing levity to those to whom its available, and grief to those who can’t stop taking their game too seriously.

    I loathe griefing, but find it instructive to think about how this justification runs together two kinds of fun: lighthearted goofing off and “flow” experiences. I have the impression that gaming is increasingly about the search for flow, and that anything which forces people into reflection about the game, rather than immersion in it, makes this pursuit more difficult.

    I also wonder whether this helps capture part of the difference in perspective between a gamer reviewer and a mere player. It’s very difficult not to keep the high-level critical evaluative faculty from altering the experience of play–flow is largely about total immersion, while criticism necessarily involves keeping a part of oneself engaged but not immersed.

  • Kelsey

    Uhhh…”game reviewer”. When I saw that typo and tried to imagine what reviewing gamers would mean, my first thought was the XBox live feedback mechanism, and my second involved a runway and unwashed basement-dwellers strutting their stuff.