All About JonathanL
Im not sure how many people still track my updates, but those who knew me back when I kept a journal probably remember CrimsonpugTwo from discussions across the forums and our OGU game nights. CrimsonpugTwo passed away from cancer on Sunday morning after keeping it at bay for eight years. He will be missed.
I've been mildly obsessed with Summer of Arcade darling Bastion of late. The game itself is quite good, of course, though perhaps a touch on the actiony side for me, and a little light on that whole RPG thing, which is really tied more to the isometric perspective and visual similarities to genre hallmarks like Landstalker than it is to how the game actually plays. Anyway, I was first drawn to the game because Greg Kasavin was a part of it, and as we all recall, Greg presided over what I would still call GameSpot's Golden Age, if for no other reason than it saw a perfect score awarded to the best game of all time, Squaresoft's Chrono Cross (ahem).
As I played it, I became more enamored with other aspects, as well. Sure, Logan Cunningha's knowledgable yet jaded rumble was one of those hooks that got into you right away, but Darren Korb's music and Jen Zee's art really took it to the next level, and the very idea, of a small team putting out a game together, of the focus and creativity and quality of the end product, make the game more than the game. I bought the soundtrack, and my young son both recognized and enjoyed listening to it apart from the game itself. When I tweeted this, I did so out of pride, watching my young son appreciate not only gaming culture, but a wide range of music as I expose him to everything from Vivaldi to Smashing Pumpkins, Neil Diamond to Yasunori Mitsuda. After I tweeted this, Greg responded about how one of their goals was to make the game age-agnostic. While the game is rated E10, I don't think the game is as violent as the cartoons that air every day in America, the use of "alcohol and tobacco" far less prevalent than an old Disney movie (seriously, watch Peter Pan, a rampant tear through racial and sexual stereotypes, alcohol, and tobacco abuse - it's kind of amazing that this used to be acceptable when anime has been cutified to "tea" or "coffee" as a mysterious beverage for ages).
Age-agnostic is the holy grail of artistic design. While I enjoy lots of entertainment appropriate for my age and (im)maturity level, some of the greatest artistic endeavors I've been able to enjoy are those that I loved as a kid and still love today, or that I've discovered as an adult but can already share with my son. Calvin & Hobbes, the modern standard of all newspaper comic strips, is age-agnostic. Monsters, Inc. is age-agnostic. Neil Gaiman's myriad offerings in the "picture book" category are age-agnostic, as interesting a read for the older set as they are for the younger. There's danger and suspense in these, sure, and a few concepts that will sail right over younger heads, but there's a type of entertainment value that does not have an expiration date, that isn't hidden behind a black bar. Truly great art pushes boundaries all over the place, but some of the very best also hits the sweet spot of what almost everyone can enjoy. You don't need to understand it all, and it doesn't need to target you as a consumer; it just IS, and what it is can have value whether you're learning how to ride your bike, file your taxes, or raise a child of your own. Sure, I might want to play Mortal Kombat or watch Kill Bill while my son is napping, but it's pretty wonderful to play Super Mario or watch My Neighbor Totoro or listen to "The Nutcracker" and know that we both enjoy something for very similar reasons, despite the disparity of age. The appeal is that broad, the vision that pure.
This is why I gladly ponied up $20 for Animal Crossing this past weekend as a birthday present for my son. There's something to be said about enjoying a game with my son where the goal is just to fool around and have a good time, to go fishing and bug-catching and fossil-digging. The goal is to find a dinosaur bone that was missing, to haul in a giant fish, to write a letter to a friend. It's about fun that we can all participate in. And that kind of experience is truly wonderful.
I am expounding on an issue that was touched of in GGD that has bothered me for years. If you've read that thread, some of this will look familiar, but I've added to it, so there's more to it now.
When someone uses the word "Gamer", a switch flips in my head. The "gamer" label is as laughable as they come, an attempt to segregate those who enjoy a simple game like Pet Society from those who attend tourneys and have a backlog of games they'll never get to. It's a chance to feel self-satisfied about what you do in your free time, that somehow you're having more fun than a "casual" is, that you're supporting the hobby in a way that others can't. In most circles the proper term is "hipster", but much like games are their own beast, so do those that play them. There's always someone who wants to be "hardcore", who wants to say Game X is the greatest but no one hasever heard of it, who tries their best to like impenetrable games because taking the time to figure them out makes them somehow better or more legitimate in their hobby. There are those who just love a good challenge, who wanted to get good at Gunvalkyrie bad enough to stumble through its tough-as-nails beginning. And that's fine. But the moment they start flashing their "gamer" badge, it's all over for me.
"Gamer" is a word the industry loves because it allows them to market directly to people who consider gaming a main hobby. I don't think they came up with it, but they sure love it. A way to immediately validate and ingratiate yourself with a core audience is always a winning move. I love to play games, but I also love to read, listen to music, watch movies, cook and eat good food, go to cultural events, all that stuff. But I don't define myself by meaningless terms that indicate my superiority over others. I'm not a "listener" more than a radio dial jockey is, nor am I a "reader" because I read books and not just magazines and newspapers. Heck, I'm a big George R.R. Martin fan, but does that mean I lord my superiority over those who just watch the HBO show or "just" read the series, at several thousand pages and counting? Do I tell them that if they haven't read Dunk & Egg, or The Ice Dragon, or A Song for Lya, or The Armageddon Rag, they're not hardcore? I probably care more about music than most, because I hunt for bands I might like, listening to entire albums by an artist I like, following them, carving out my own taste, my own mix. I don't listen to the radio really, and if I do, it's just '60s and '70s rock anyway. But it doesn't mean I get to exclude others from the "listener" clique because I care about it more, because I take the time to care. It doesn't invalidate someone else's perspective on that form of entertainment.
One game that was taken to task in this thread was Angry Birds. Talking bad about Angry Birds is so off-base it's funny. You know who likes Angry Birds? Almost everyone. My three year-old son likes it. My wife likes. I like it. My 81 year-old grandmother-in-law played it once and immediately loved it. Peggle is a similar game, that I am able to enjoy with newbies and veterans alike, because it's FUN. That's all a good game is - fun. It's not an arbitrary set of guidelines about complexity, cost, or origin. It's a device for entertainment. Whether you're playing Catan on a board or over XBL, it's a game, and it's FUN. If you love ICO's austere beauty, that's great. That doesn't mean the guy who plays Frontierville isn't having the same kind of good time. And while you might think Facebook games are dumb (I know I'm not a fan), it doesn't make the person that likes them less of a "gamer", as silly as that word has become.
If being a "gamer" means treating games like fine wine or artisinal coffee, where I rattle off more aromas and tastes than the human body could possibly identify, count me out. I'm not interested in cutting others down to make myself feel better, and I don't really care if Julie at work loves to play Sims Social. She probably wouldn't WANT to be called a "gamer", because she sees it as meaning "spends too much time and money on games", where most self-described "gamers" think of it as some badge of honor. To me, a gamer is what it has meant for years - someone who fights hard, who plays with integrity and grit. It's used in sports to talk about someone who loves the game and plays it with a passion, and whatever game you play, whether it's on a field or over a coffee table or in front of your hi-def television, if that's how you play it, you're a gamer.
Me, I'm more concerned with labels that matter. Husband. Father. Things that will define me when I'm gone. Games are something I do to enjoy my free time, like a half-dozen other hobbies. And it's not worth figuring out who's in, who's out, and what qualifies you for what group. Games are for fun. Have fun. And don't worry about what you call yourself or others.
My Recent Reviews
Apr 22, 2013 10:40 pm GMTJonathanL began Following Animal Crossing: New Leaf
Only GameSpot friends of this user can view their Wii Number.