Hi, I’m Caitlin, and I suck at gaming. By ‘suck’ I mean nearly every game I play that has a difficulty slider is set at ‘easy’ or ‘normal’ (at best) and I die pretty much every ten minutes on games without said difficulty sliders. I can’t play games that involve driving or steering of any kind (I just walked everywhere in Red Dead Redemption) because I haven’t got the finger co-ordination. I rarely play straight FPS’s because I can’t shoot straight. In all possible ways I have a hobby that I suck at.
But you know what? That’s just fine. It’s fine because … well, note that little word up there? Hobby. As in, something I do not do for a living. Something I do for fun in my increasingly limited spare time. This may be a shock to some of you out there, but it is OK to suck at a hobby.
What I enjoy about games is the way to be AWESOME at something. It’s obvious I also suck at life, so what I want from a game is a way to pretend I’m actually incredible, and the best way for me to do that is to play on easy and feel like an unstoppable God of Destruction rather than a slightly overweight chick who burns in winter sun.
You wouldn’t know it, though, if you listened to self-declared experts who have decided that if you play the game ‘wrong’ you don’t have a right to have fun or to call yourself a ‘gamer’. Sorry kiddos, I spend a good half of my spare time playing games, what other qualification is there? It’s the ‘us and them’ mentality in action, but here it’s being utterly silly.
The way that someone else plays their game doesn’t and shouldn’t effect the way you play yours. If they prefer to use mods or play on easy it shouldn’t bother you. If you’re really bothered by people playing in their imaginary worlds differently to you, you may want to take a good long look at your life and your choices, because something has gone wrong somewhere along the road.
There’s a caveat to all this, of course. I don’t play multiplayer games mainly so that I don’t inflict my terrible playing on other people (also because if I’m going to have a misogynistic tirade directed at me by a 12-year-old I’d prefer to be able to punch them) and I NEVER get in competitions with people because I am just that bad. I don’t play two-player games with my husband any more, either, because every single one — with the exception of Portal 2 — has ended in thrown controllers and screaming. I do not take failure well. It’s better if I suffer it privately, where the only thing that gets hurt is my self esteem.
But if you’ve been reading this and you get angry that I dare to enjoy something I am bad at … you may want to consider why. Because your priorities may be a little screwed up there. Think about it. Really think about it. Why does me being bad at something mean you can’t enjoy it? Is the thought of me, sat here wearing a onesie, playing my game on easy, really so bad that you can’t carry on playing? Or is it just something to shout about on the internet, so you can feel like you have something important to say? Caring whether someone is bad at something is a bit schoolchild — oh, not when it’s their job, or something that does directly impact you, but when it is something that in no way, shape or form could make a difference to you it’s a little silly.
One of the few arguments I’ve seen about this that even makes a little sense is the ‘dumbing down’ argument. Shitty gamers, like me, mean that games manufacturers make games too easy for good gamers. I can see that, actually. I’ve heard that games have gotten a lot easier in recent years, though as I didn’t play when I was a little girl I wouldn’t be able to say. I will say that my attempts at older games seem no easier or harder than modern games. I think that interpretation might be along the lines of ‘chocolate bars were bigger when I was young’ — based on a flawed understanding. You were younger, you weren’t as good at this, so the games seemed harder. Not in every case, but in more than you’d think.
But even taking the few games that have been dumbed down, it doesn’t make much sense. Games companies haven’t been ‘dumbing down’ because people like me suck at gaming – people like me suck, but keep playing even though we suck. Games companies have been making their games more accessible, because they want to make money. No longer can they rely on the obsessives to keep them afloat. It costs a lot to make games nowadays, and they want a lot of people to play them, which means … yep, you guessed it. They have to pitch a little lower.
So, overall, I don’t think it’s a big deal if you suck at your chosen hobby. (Unless it’s skydiving. GET BACK ON THE GROUND.) It’s just a hobby, not a job. You aren’t saving lives or making coffee, both things we know are terrible if you get it wrong. You are pressing buttons and living in a fantasy world.
(My husband has just interjected that “You don’t suck at gaming. You are perfectly average!” Thanks, hun. He does, however, say that I’m the most persistent gamer he’s met, which I think is a nice way of saying that I spend hours obsessively playing Skyrim.)