By Lindsey Asay
I remember my first gaming console….vividly. We weren’t big TV watchers in my house growing up. When we did, finding something to watch was easy, there were only 5 channels to choose from. That didn’t bother me too much though, being a tom boy (hard not to with 4 older brothers) I preferred riding my bike or shooting hoops anyways. That all changed the day I first saw the NES…in all its black and grey glory. My days of shooting impossible three pointers in the driveway considerably dwindled. Quickly replaced by days of trying to beat what seemed like the impossible. Mario Brothers and Duck Hunt challenging my dexterity and my ability to do focus on pretty much anything else.
Now in my 30’s with an “adult job” and more responsibilities and bills than I can wrap my head around sometimes …..I still find time to play when I can. This time around though, it’s not just the console that’s different. The playing field, as it were, has changed considerably as well. No longer just you and a friend in your living room pushing two buttons in rapid succession….the ability to connect thousands of living rooms together through online multiplayer games has made an individual experience into a shared experience. Sometimes sharing more than just your first person shooting skills with your fellow gamers. I’ll admit, I’m a fan of Little Big Planet and workout games like Zumba, but I also like to unwind with some serious Call of Duty time. After getting over the..how do I walk AND look around AND shoot part of it all, I found my groove and started to be less frustrated and more able to enjoy the game.
That is, until I started to listen more and more to the other players. A mix of ages, nationalities, locations, abilities….I was amazed how a game could bridge all those gaps. Nothing prepared me though, for the amount of trash-talking that came from an endless sea of assholes with nothing better to do than shout “FAG FAG FAG” or “ F-ing LOSER” for 15 minutes straight. I started to wonder about who really plays these games and what it is that makes them so easily degrade someone they don’t know. That someone who at any given time can be a 12yr old kid who just wants to get in some gaming time before he has to finish his homework. Or me…..a mom and cube jockey looking to get in a quick round or two before starting dinner. The overwhelming consensus seems to be that unless you are an expert player, the world wide community of online gamers would like you to stay the F**K AWAY. Am I wrong on this? Am I wrong to question why a group of overly aggressive, usually single and always dickish players get to verbally push everyone else around? I don’t think I am.
My NES didn’t mock me. It didn’t degrade me for only getting 6 kills in a round or tell me to mute my mike because my kid was annoying him. I didn’t start a game with the intent to bully or call anyone names. I just wanted to beat the level so I could see what came next. I couldn’t wait to talk to my friends about it, to learn the secrets from those that conquered levels before me. Gaming was a shared experience….one that offered up a neutral playing field. Where older siblings played with younger. The jock with the bookworm, all wanting and trying to get better. I still don’t know what it is about our new shared gaming experience that turns the doting dad into a hate-spewing weekend gamer…and I’m not sure I want to find out. This is what I do know. I paid the money just like you….so, I get to play – just like you. Even if I do make stupid mistakes, like sprinting around corners or severely miscalculating a grenade throw… I’m still a gamer… playing in my living room, just like you. No matter how many times you tell me I suck, I’ll keep playing… and I’m coming for you.