Games And The Social Self

Four years ago, I was a very different person. I was young (really young, actually, I’m still only 21, but then I was 17 – it’s basic maths, so I don’t know why I’m taking such a tangent in the first paragraph) and hadn’t had a whole lot of experience in the world, just starting here at TSA and almost simultaneously at University, playing loads of games and having very few worries.

But over those years, and even more so in the last nine months, where I’ve been busy at work on my dissertation and trying to earn a first class degree (you can wish me luck in the comments) I’ve changed as a person, and that in turn has changed the games that I play and the way I’ve played them.

To be truthful, my dissertation (and making Kubik, which you can see a gameplay video of below) has starved me of both social interaction and time playing games, to the point where I want to do those things together, rather than one or the other. I don’t want to sit in my room playing inFamous Second Son or Assassin’s Creed IV all day, I want to see my friends. But I, and they, want to play games. So we do it together.

Four years ago, you might have classed me as an introvert. I wasn’t – I’ve always loved spending time with people, and it doesn’t wear me out like it’s said to if I were introverted – but from the outside looking in, at someone who sat in his room and clocked hundreds of hours on Skyrim, that’s what I was.

These days, I can’t be alone for very long. I’ve just left my flat, and in turn my flatmate, who I’ve lived with during term-time for the duration of my University adventure, and I’m missing having someone around to chat to, watch TV shows with and play some local co-operative or multiplayer games with.

I think that’s what people would call an extrovert. I thrive when I’m around people, and get a bit bored when I’m not, even if I could just sink my time into a video game.  The prospect of an entire free day where I could just sit and play through a game’s story used to really excite me, but now I feel as though I could be spending my time in a better way, and it feels like a chore.

That concept truly died when I purchased Max Payne 3, which still sits in its wrapper untouched, years later. Or maybe when I played – and loved – the first hour of Tomb Raider, but haven’t gone back to it since.

mkpreview

And that’s where Mario Kart 8 comes in. I’ve written thousands of words about it before, so I won’t go into details – it’s not about that – but I’ve also played forty five hours of it this month. That’s almost two days, in a total of twenty, and at least 3/4 (but probably more) of that has been in local multiplayer.

It’s not just games, either; the way I’ve watched TV shows has evolved over the past years. I’ve watched almost every show with my flatmate, rather than sitting in my room alone marathoning a show. We could discuss and digest it together afterwards, and this too became a social thing, particularly in September where almost every social event I attended soon dissolved into a discussion of the final few episodes of Breaking Bad.

So, what am I to do? I’ve found a solution in previous summer months, where I’ve spent a weekend playing through a single player game – such as one of the Zelda titles – with friends, swapping the controller every now and then. It’s the single player experience, but retains that social element – those are the things I need. But I can’t do that for all of them.

social

I was on the train coming back from a night out last weekend, and soon got into a discussion with a couple who asked me what I had studied at Uni. “Computer Games Development” I replied, to which the woman of the duo replied “Oh, so do you ever go out?”, referencing the games aspect rather than the fact that University can be a very busy thing.

I was on the train… coming back from a night out. By all means, I wasn’t inside. I was in public, on a train. I wasn’t playing games – and even then I certainly go outside more than I play games. And that’s what made me think about all of this, and how I used to be – how her son is now, she explained, almost in a worried tone – and how I’ve changed.

And then it hit me: I’ve not just stopped playing single player games, but instead channeled them into two different things. Either as a social element, where I’d sit with friends and play Smash Bros. for hours on end, or as part of work, where I either pour my time into creating a single player video game myself, or play through a single player game to write a review on TSA. I’ve lost the bit in between, the bit where I just play and enjoy them myself.

I’ve rid myself of the part that confuses outsiders with video games – the part where you stay inside and play them alone. And while I know that it doesn’t make me a better person, or that it’s entirely a better way to enjoy my life, even if outsiders may think so, I do really miss sitting inside and playing them. But I just can’t do it when the world outside has so much to offer, and social interaction satisfies me much more than any game ever could.

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18 Comments

  1. Ha! 21 – give it another 20 years, all you’ll want to do is hide inside on your own and play single player games…and you won’t be able to!

    • As a 43 year old with a wife, child and mortgage, I can attest to this..

    • I’m 34 and I’m feeling more like Blair. When I do get the time these days I’m feeling a little bit like I’m not enjoying it like I used to. Warframe with its social elements helps with this, but yeah single player campaigns are leaving me feeling a bit like I’ve just wasted my time.

    • This!
      I’m coming up to my 44th year and haven’t the time or energy to play as I want to.
      When you reach your mid-thirties you realise that you no longer like other people too. (or is that just me…)

      Now leave me in peace, & bugger-off!

  2. Ha! At your age all I was doing was multiplayering with mates, going out partying and all that stuff… Even multilayered final fantasy. We wouldn’t play it alone because it was our journey. Now I am gaming alone when I get the time and I’m not knackered from work.

    Speaking of introverts and extroverts.. I went on a management training course last year which went through that subject. I claimed I was in introvert wanting to be left alone and in closed environments but the tutors would not have it! Saying I was far too outspoken and humourous to be an introvert.

    Its all a matter of perspective I suppose. There is no right or wrong, just who you are and what you want from life.

  3. If a game is long, or filled with unnecessary padding, I just won’t play it.

    I don’t have the time or the patience to grind just so a company can say their game provided 40 hours of value or some nonsense. High quality short experiences or (local) multiplayer please.

    Games are definitely better with friends. But games can entertain and distract in the space in between, and that’s great. And games will be dropped for friends who don’t like games, and I won’t really mind too much. So I have to agree with Blair.

    • This is exactly why AssCreed 4 sits unfinished on my PS4 HD.. And AssCreed 3 languishes somewhere in Steam’s “cloud”, both sit somewhere around 30% complete. So much extraneous fluff, that I get bored long before the end is in sight.

      • How many hours of tutorials does Assassin’s Creed 4 have?

        Terrible.

  4. I love party games with mates. But there are some amazing single player games out there that it would be a shame to miss.

    Many of them I’ve played with my wife, she loves them.
    Portal, Final Fantasy 9, most of the Telltale games, Broken Sword, Resident Evil 4, The Last of Us, all the Uncharted games, Dragon Age Origins.

    The List goes on, you don’t have to play them alone. If it has a great story, it’s usually worth sharing the experience.

    • Oh, and Ico and Shadow of Colossus as well of course. Awesome stuff.

  5. Uni life has completely changed the way I play too (and my general self). I struggle to finish a single player game, and if I do it’ll only be with my housemates watching.
    I’ve got a handful of games that I’ve bought thinking I’ll complete after I’ve finished assignments and they’re all still in their wrapper (Max Payne 3 is one of them!). Party games are the most played on my consoles now, and it’s much more enjoyable that playing on your own. Split screen gaming can’t die!

  6. I just turned 28 (well it was Saturday) I have a wife, a Mortgage and you are looking at a guy who has over 200 Platinums. Sure I spend too much time on gaming but I love it. I love all kind of games as long as its fun, has good story or a great multiplayer. I still go to my mates flat and play Multiplayer for hours with beers and junk food xD (Cannot wait for The Last of Us)
    But I do go out when I want to or a mate asking for drinks down the pub or watch footy.
    But all these social life that I had is kinda now changed due to everyone being busy on Facebook and Twitter. I once went out with 3 mates to go to the Cinema and these guys were looking on their phone for hours and barely made a sound for a conversation. That got me thinking ‘I’d rather save my money for a game rather than hang out to get McDonalds then head to Cinema with no conversations/topics until after we seen the movie!’
    But I also grind a game (Trophies you know what I am like) that is just boring but while I grind I just watch TV shows or Films. It helps lol
    Also my wife loves games as it has a great long story than watching a film on TV.
    So in general I love my life even if I game too much. Hell I have just finished building my Epic gaming Room xD
    Going to get Watch_Dogs at Midnight launch and I plan on gaming through the night until I fall asleep.

    • My god I rambled on didn’t I…. d’oh

    • Great stuff – lovely to see the other side of the story and you enjoying it just as much!

  7. That last picture of the four people playing Mario Kart couldnt get any more politically correct unless one the girls was wearing an “I am a lesbian” t shirt. Oh, wait it’s Nintendo, that’s why she isn’t wearing one :)

    • I had this discussion yesterday. Such diversity!

    • I dunno man, still a lot of people not being represented there, disabled, elderly, the royals, drunks, pirate ninjas, super obese.. I demand more super obese people in video game advertisements!

  8. Good luck with the dissertation! I’m in a bit of a games/hobby crisis at the moment. Last year I was studying hard and stressing over a work qualification but now I’ve finished with the exams I find myself worrying more about making the most of my free time. I’ve got a few things on my plate at the moment and keep thinking I should be more relaxed and content when the down time comes around, but I’m not enjoying TV or games as much as I used to when I was truly busy. Very weird, maybe the lack of contentment is the change in circumstances, like you Blair.

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