Monday, March 29, 2010
No matter how many billions of dollars I see the industry earning, no matter how many people I see on the train playing iPhone Peggle, no matter how many times I try to tell people that games are firmly in the mainstream, there's still a part of me that doubts the worth of playing games. Some small part of me is still fighting it. Some voice tells me I'm wasting my time.
Oh, I can tell you stories. Like the time in sixth or seventh grade -- you know, the age when it starts to go wrong for so many formerly happy kids -- when I found myself talking to an old friend from the neighborhood on the bus ride home. We'd spent a lot of time together when we were younger, but not so much lately. He asked how my weekend had been, and I told him that I had rented RoboCop vs. Terminator for the Genesis. He seemed interested. He asked questions. I told him all about it. As I recall, it was a pretty sweet game.
A few kids got off the bus and some seats opened up, so we moved around to sit with some other kids our age from the street. I shit you not, this is the first thing this kid said to them: "Remember how nice it was outside this weekend? Well, Mitch spent all weekend inside playing video games."
Or the time in seventh grade when I asked my parents why they'd decided not to get me any video games for Christmas, even though my list had been full of them. I wasn't mad, just curious. "We think maybe you've played enough video games," my mother said, gingerly, "and it's time for you to move on to other things."*
You get the point. Enough times during my formative years, things happened to make me question whether my hobby was normal or acceptable. It sounds laughable now. We're talking about video games! What could be more normal than that? But it's ingrained, and that little voice speaks up every so often, asking me what the hell I'm doing with these children's toys.
That's why I was a little bit wary of attending PAX. Because that voice was saying to me, "You play games, but you're not a 'gamer.' You're not like these other guys." The denial was deep.
I walked into the convention feeling jaded, and I walked out feeling energized. People were sending out enough positive vibes to power all the electronics in the building. I was swept away by the energy of the crowds, and inspired by one-on-one interactions with several writers I admire. There was laughter and there were tears. And there was, above all, an unabashed love of games, shared by so many, expressed without constraints.
Over the next couple of days I'll write a little more about the PAX East experience. I don't doubt that, before long, that little voice will start speaking up again, possibly after I've ragequit an Xbox Live game against 13-year-olds. But if I were to say nothing else about PAX, I'd say this: Now I have an even better reason to tell that voice to shut the hell up.
*This story has a happy postscript: three years later, all I got for Christmas was video game stuff. I asked why the change of heart. My mom sighed and said, "Well, you like what you like."