Comparison: The Meta Boss

The Toxic Wasteland

If you’ve read my blog …or whatever this is, you probably already know that I like to play single player games.  I’m not a competitive person.  Or…rather I should say, I hate comparing myself to other people.  It always ends up being a bunch of self-deprecating madness.  But…every time I am playing a game that has stats I open it up and check on it often.  Why do I do that?  Why is that so important?  Am I insecure?  What the world is going on and why, why does this have to be a thing?  Today, I’m going to look into that.  I’m Elise.  This is Game Praisers Deep Dive.

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Instagram is a deadly place.  As an artist, it can be extremely inspiring.  It can also be one of the absolute worst things to look at before heading into a new project.  There have been many times where I just feel totally horrible after just having improved the night before, because I decided it would be a good idea to look at some “inspirational” pictures.  That was not a good idea.

But, these pictures can inspire me.  I know they can because they have.  This is a competition.  And you know what makes it harder?  In games, it’s worse.  In video games I can look at the scoreboard and say, “Wow, I am just bringing my whole team down.”  If I look at the top player on my team, I don’t receive inspiration.  I don’t look at an amazing kill-death ratio / KDR, or as I feel many games see it now, kill-death-assists / KDA and feel inspired.  Maybe I can see inspiration when I watch professional games like ESL or Homestory Cup in Starcraft 2.  Yeah, I can, but never can I look at the people I am directly competing against and feel inspiration.  I have never, unless I personally know that player, ever gained some sort of encouragement by looking at another top player even if they’re on my side.

When we compare ourselves to others, it is usually us on the lower end of the comparison.  We’re the ones who are insufficient.1  And in the case of video games, it doesn’t matter if they’re on our side or not, these carriers are evidence that we are a weak link.  And although it has happened before, you don’t hear a lot of encouragement from your teammates when you’re not doing well.  Few competitive environments are more toxic than the video game ones.  I once played a game against medium difficulty bots in League of Legends because I wanted to see a character’s animations without going to a blurry Youtube video.  Someone was absolutely furious that someone else was in the same lane as them.  They started feeding the enemy team and then half way through the match they left.  This was a bot game.  It wasn’t even on the hardest difficulty of bots.  This is an example of the kind of people we deal with.

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But I never feel that in Guild Wars 2.  When I see someone with amazing equipment I never think, “Gosh, I wish I was as diligent and focused as that player.”  Maybe to a small extent, but never to an effect.  Nowadays it would be more like I wish I had time, which is a whole different problem.  There they are though, walking around with all their cool gear.   Guild Wars 2 is a social game, and it’s been shown that spending time on social networking things tends to make people more depressed.2  Except… there is a context we’re missing here.  Guild Wars 2 does not place me in competition, especially concerning that most of it is PvE for me.  Social networking does.  By the nature of what I do, what I like, who I choose to hang out with, they all point towards things similar to me.  So of course I’m going to end up with other artists on Instagram.  Of course I will end up with other people who play games on Facebook until I purged it of every acquaintance and false friend.  And of course there is the whole entirety of women, including women characters, that make me feel in competition with being attractive.  I don’t think I need to tell you that it does not help.3  That’s the whole point.  And when it comes down to performing well in the context of others… that’s the whole point of competitive gaming.

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It’s very difficult to pinpoint this because it’s such a specific social thing.  There aren’t that many studies that directly correlate to this.  I found a thesis on it, and while it has some nice insights, it’s just one study.  The writers themselves have noted that it is possible, and needs looking into, that playing PvP/competitive games can detract from the positive social aspects of video games.4   Self-determination theory claims that humans need a feeling of competence, autonomy, and relatedness.5  These are underlying things that help increase self-esteem and more so, motivation.  Random and unprompted positive feedback helps people feel competent and motivates them to work hard.  Relatedness as well.  Both things that are…lacking in the environment of competitive video gaming.  

Personally, I believe that to combat this we need self control and self esteem.  Self control to understand our needs concerning our games that we play.  Don’t play a competitive game to blow off steam if you know it’s going to make you upset.  Some people can play competitive games to calm down, but be sure that you are one of those people if you’re going to do it.  Think about what games would best fit for however you’re feeling.  My experience with video games has gotten a little better since I’ve tried to adjust myself to playing what would be best in the moment.  Sometimes it’s just whatever I feel like.  Gatekeeping myself from playing something else because I have to finish another game has almost always resulted in a less than optimal experience.  Though admittedly it’s not super bad, it is sometimes significant which affects how I feel about a game.  This is something I do not want just because I made myself more depressed or something.   

Then there is self esteem, which is a difficult thing for me.  I’m still working on this, and will likely be working on this my whole life.  Learning to be okay where we are as we try to improve is a big thing.  Sometimes it’s okay to not perform well some days.  What is important is that we are willing and trying to improve.  We can be happy with where we are now without compromising who we are trying to become.  But…easier said than done, right?

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So why do players still seek it out?  When Battlefield 2042 was released with a limited scoreboard people kept requesting and asking for a full scoreboard it until it finally was added, and it ended up being an announcement on many gaming sites.7, 8, 9, 10  And IGN’s subheader is literally a reference to what I’m talking about, saying, “Finally, proof my K/D ratio is trash.”11  While it is a joke, it is still frustrating to come back at the end of a long work day to play Valorant or something and then get frustrated not only because you feel like you’re letting down your team, but also because they’re yelling at you.  

For me, the extent was that I sought out these games because it could fulfill that feeling of competency and possibly even camaraderie.  It could, and when it did, it felt great.  Of course it felt great when I turned to Battlefield V after a long day and I was one of the top players on my team.  But these methods are reliant on volatile results and variables that may be outside our control.  They depend on whether or not you win, which in a team game, is very dangerous.  It could depend on either side’s attitude.  It depends on your performance, and that alone could be dangerous.  It could feel self-deprecating to see yourself not performing well.  And that one is possibly even more dangerous, because it is applicable to single player games.  And most importantly, it’s applicable to life.  If how we feel about ourselves and whether or not we’re happy with ourselves is dependent on performances, it could be a dreadful life.  

Comparison fulfills something in us, but it’s also something that is very easily out of our control.  Sometimes we just don’t do well.  Sometimes we make mistakes.  That is life.  This is not to say we shouldn’t try at all, or we shouldn’t be happy when we do well, but we cannot tie our intrinsic feeling of self worth because someone else performed well enough not only to destroy us on a bad day, but also teabag us after they did so.

Thanks for reading, stay safe, and I hope to see you again here at Game Praisers.

Elise

Citations:

  1. Gerber, J. P., Wheeler, L., & Suls, J. (2018). A social comparison theory meta-analysis 60+ years on. Psychological Bulletin, 144(2), 177–197. https://doi.org/10.1037/bul0000127
  2. Sunkyung Yoon, Mary Kleinman, Jessica Mertz, Michael Brannick, Is social network site usage related to depression? A meta-analysis of Facebook–depression relations, Journal of Affective Disorders, Volume 248, 2019, Pages 65-72, ISSN 0165-0327,  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2019.01.026.(https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0165032718321700)
  3. Jacqueline V. Hogue, Jennifer S. Mills, The effects of active social media engagement with peers on body image in young women, Body Image, Volume 28, 2019, Pages 1-5, ISSN 1740-1445, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2018.11.002.(https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S174014451730517X)
  4. Zhao, F. (2022). The role of social video game play and relatedness in players’ well-being [Master’s thesis]. University of Oxford.
  5. Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2017). Self-determination theory. Basic psychological needs in motivation, development, and wellness.
  6. Vallerand, Robert & Reid, Greg. (1984). On the Causal Effects of Perceived Competence on Intrinsic Motivation: A Test of Cognitive Evaluation Theory. Journal of Sport Psychology. 6. 94-102. 10.1123/jsp.6.1.94. 
  7. https://www.polygon.com/22891186/battlefield-2042-scoreboard-patch-update
  8. https://www.gamespot.com/articles/battlefield-2042-is-finally-adding-new-scoreboard-see-it-here/1100-6499759/
  9. https://www.thegamer.com/battlefield-2042-scoreboard-update-live/
  10. https://www.pcgamer.com/battlefield-2042-new-scoreboard/
  11. https://www.ign.com/articles/battlefield-2042-update-scoreboard

The Apex of the Classroom

“Just” a demo

In a high school classroom, there sits a bunch of students.  This is a computer room.  This is an idle time for some of the students who have finished early.  Some of them start the 3D pinball game that used to be available on Windows back then.  It’s normal.  The teacher doesn’t care.  But then one of them starts a game that is also already on the computer, and the teacher gets up to try and stop them.

It’s the demo for Halo: Combat Evolved.

One of the cool things about radical or restricted parts of society is how it evolves.  Just like in evolutionary biology, isolated groups can result in very interesting cultures.  We can think of how the Hardy-Weinberg Principle of population genetics being broken can affect the way cultures evolve and grow.  I think one of the difficult things about that now is that games take place in the virtual internet and chats.  Although it is far more difficult for this to happen, evolution in the folk tales of gamers can still happen.  It’s just that in a more radical situation like a classroom, it evolves in a crazier way.

These days things can blow up really easily.  We have social media and ease of access to thank for that.  But in an isolated setting, even if temporary like a classroom, new cultures coming in have to adapt.  The culture specifically being boredom in the classroom. We see isolated cultures have pretty big effects such as being in the military, being a monk in a monastery, or in a creepy cult that is practicing suspicious activities.  Sometimes it’s just a matter of speech and slang, but other times it becomes weird actions and hideaways.  That’s what Halo was.  

You’d see people gathering at the computer rooms to play Halo during lunchtime.  I don’t know what it’s like now, but back then most classrooms didn’t have computers in them.  During that time the teachers really didn’t care, because they wanted to eat lunch.  Some of them did, because the game exhibited violence.  Remember this was the 2000s, people were more worried about that back then.  But most of the time the teachers were okay and so there they were.  Sometimes the teacher would play with them.

But here’s the thing, the people playing, they weren’t playing because they were gamers.  No, they were playing because there were only a few other options worth going for.  Minesweeper, which some people didn’t want to learn how to understand, and the 3D pinball game.  So…the third option was Halo.  Yes, I know there was solitaire, freecell, and some others, but only the teachers seemed to play those.  Back then not everyone had phones, and the internet was being watched over so most websites like MySpace were blocked.  

You want to know the best part?  The teacher that came over to turn off the game then tried to find a way to remove it off the computer.  Tried being the keyword.  Computers were still a new concept to people, and they didn’t know how to get rid of it.  And even if they could, it didn’t matter.  The game was a demo, and demos are free.  It would pop up again.  It was unstoppable and insatiable.  It was going to be there whether you liked it or not. In this case, games, uh, find a way.  

I personally don’t feel like it was any harm.  Most of the time the students playing were doing so at lunch or after they were done with their work.  I just find it so interesting that they would eke out this existence every time.  It was consistent.  The computers of classrooms with unrelated subjects had the game on it.  Every. Single. Time.  Like in biology, it was selected for.  The competition was removed.  Other games have tried popping up to no avail.  Finding workarounds to visit flash game websites were uncommon, although I did find a way to do that.  It was just this silly demo of a sci-fi game that was strong and able enough to stay the course.

I think a lot of the evolution in the folklore of video games is usually pretty negative.  I attribute this to the fact that most video game stuff that goes to mainstream news are the ones that involve the outliers and scary people that do horrible things concerning video games.  Either that or video games cause violence…again.  But little bits like this Halo or people donating money for someone to get a stranger a new gaming computer.  I see no rules being broken, just people trying to have some fun.  Stories of the few or the generous, that is like sweet, delicious honey to my soul.  

I hope that the holidays are treating you well, and that we can remember how grateful we are to even be able to play the things we can now.  Thanks video games, and thank you to all of you who read this who are like that sweet honey, bringing joy through video games.

Thanks for reading.  I’ll see you next time.

Elise

More Complicated Than I Could Imagine

It’s all coming together.

Spoilers for: Genshin Impact, moderate, late game.

I think I finally figured it out.  My approach to video games.  “Oh no, Elise, not this again.”  Stop, wait!  For real this time!  I think I got it.  This is going to be a long post, because it’s…well, more complicated than I could imagine.  


I want to mention something about the beginning of this journey that I’ve been on in video games. Even previously through all of that I could not pinpoint exactly what I meant by all that I said.   I’ve talked about games that I played often, and I’ve talked about some of the political aspects of video games that affected me

In a terrible, incorrect, and biased way, I originally thought this was a difference in East vs West mindsets.  But that’s obviously not true. And let’s be honest, that’s a pretty racist way of me to think.  It was wrong.  However, it was not true in an unfortunate way.  The people that I interacted with that had stronger backgrounds from East Asia still had conflicts with the way I view video games.  Conflicts that drove me away.  More importantly, it’s about the way I approach them and how I can interact with other video gamers.  When a perspective you have comes in conflict with the way that you can interact with the general community, do you still feel like a part of it?


I then thought, it’s the spoilers.  It is me not wanting any spoilers. Studies do show that spoilers don’t really ruin it for most people.1  For most people.  I am, whether for good or not, one of those people.  It does however, matter where the spoilers are placed.  If they’re in the actual story itself apparently that really does affect it.  But if presented in advance, yeah it doesn’t matter for the majority of people.2

I hate spoilers.  I saw The Lord of the Rings movies last year in January.  But, man, if it wasn’t shrouded by the memes of today, I think it would’ve been even more epic.  Instead, there were some parts that were funny.  I don’t think it detracted from the experience of enjoyment.  I do like a good laugh, but something about it always stings looking back.  Maybe it’s…a feeling of missing out?  Missing out on a feeling I will never have the opportunity for again.

The thing about the feeling of missing out is the time we have to spend on catching up.  We’ve all played that game before whether it’s because of Netflix, a February in gaming, or an influx of new content from a convention’s announcements.  We have to catch up with the neighbor who has that new, cool blender.  If they have that blender it’s not going to change your experience.  In fact, when you watch them use that blender, you know for a fact your experience will be just as awesome and just as smoothie.  …I’m so sorry.

But catching up in media and entertainment is different than catching up to your neighbor’s appliances.  If you watch someone else watch a movie, assuming we’re not looking at the screen, that’s not the same thing as watching the movie itself.  Watching someone play through a game is more accurate to the blender theory, because you and the player are experiencing the game firsthand.  It’s like watching a movie with them.  But having someone tell you the experience is telling the game, film, or book in a way unintended by the creators.  I’m not here to watch the rugby game outside the stadium.  I’m here to watch the rugby game.

And that can be argued against as well.  But the point is from my perspective, it ruins it.  I want the original of what the creators intended or published.  And in the end that doesn’t even matter.  Why?  Because that’s not the problem with my perspective.  That isn’t it.  Although it is a bit because I feel like a nuisance when people can’t talk about what they want around me if they don’t want to spoil it.  Ultimately I don’t think that is what makes it so hard for me to get along with the video gaming community.  Obviously I appreciate when people spoiler tag things, because it means they’re being considerate, but there’s something one step further that I feel like I finally identified as the biggest chasm that separates me from the rest of the others.  It feels like I’m saying, “I’m not like other girls”.  I’m so sorry about that, but don’t worry just because I’m separated doesn’t mean I’m better or anything. 


I can’t be upset at characters.  At least not in the way I see other gamers do.  The characters are real people. I’m not asking people to think that way.  That’s ridiculous.  Some people find me treating them like real people ridiculous, and in some ways I feel like their perspective is justified.  But I don’t know what these characters are going through behind the scenes.  Literally, behind the cinema scenes.  I can’t be upset because Ayaka wore socks in Genshin Impact while she was standing in the stream in that one scene.  That means developers, real humans, would have to take more time changing the models.  Time that, if spent on something like that even if they wanted to, could be an inefficiency mark for them.  It might make them look like they’re not doing what they’re supposed to be doing.  It really depends on how loose the art director is.  It also depends on what Ayaka was thinking at the time.  Was it spontaneous?  Was she too nervous to think about it?  

If you look on YouTube you’ll find that a lot of people seem appreciative of the dance.  Even if this is a comment that is going to be plastered on the internet for however long, there are a lot of them.  But I’ve never run into someone who feels like this for most games.  In fact, I’ve never run into one in my Genshin community.  I get told that these people exist, and yeah, I see them right here on YouTube, but in every video game group that I join I feel none of that for different games.

Whenever I bring up that scene to the other Genshin players in my group, their first thing to bring up is making fun of her socks because she was wearing them while standing in the water.  But in the context of the story, I think it’s so graceful, genuine, and peaceful.  The dance, I mean.  The dance that she does for you.  The dance that she is apprehensive to show anyone else, but she shows it to you.  I don’t think I can look back on the experience and think, “Ha, she’s wearing socks in the water.”  I always think, “I am so grateful that she was willing to share that with me.”  Too cheesy?  But that’s just the thing.  Why does it sound like they have to make an excuse to recognize that part of the story?  “Oh yeah, I guess so.”  “But I mean…”  “Why didn’t they just…”  It goes on.

I don’t know.  I’m also not Ayaka.  Maybe one day the developers will update it so she takes off her socks one day.  I don’t know.  I’m not the developers.  I do know that in the culmination of all things technical from the developers, and all things ethereal, spiritual, and fantastical even, from Ayaka, I am grateful for that heartfelt moment she gave.

And that’s where the difference lies.  


When people approach and consume media, it’s a service.  I pay you, you entertain me.  But for me, I’m here to learn to respect this new world.  I’m not here as a VIP to be served, I’m here as a sociologist to learn what I can to understand.  This approach is the same I have for everyone in real life.  In cultures, societies, families, I am the visitor.  I am the guest.  I don’t touch things I shouldn’t touch.  I don’t do things I shouldn’t do.  Sometimes my beliefs may conflict, but in the context of things, I need to be willing to take a step back and realize, this is a different world.  And mayhap you think it silly, but it’s the same for video games.

So yeah, I do feel bad if you think someone in a game is stupid, because to me, they’re someone that’s real.  If a concept of lore is dumb, well, guess what?  Those characters have to live in that world.  And if you’re paying for the game as service, that game has failed you.  And it makes sense.  If you’re playing specific characters  just for the numbers to be bigger than anyone else’s, great.  If the reward isn’t good enough you’re not going to aid the village?  Elise, they’re not real.

Sorry, and in most people’s eyes, yes.  You’re totally, totally right.  The people in the pixels on my screen are not going to come to my aid when I am being mugged or I am in financial need.  My therapist says my approach is just that I’m being extremely considerate.  But does that make everyone else’s approach inconsiderate?

I don’t think so.

Sometimes respect isn’t a single road.  Sometimes it is.  And in this case I’m willing to bet that there is more than one road, I’m just not driving on it.  But when one version is wielded as a way to look down on another, that’s when it is a problem, not the perspective itself.  That’s another big mistake in thought I made. It’s not that other people with this technical or service based mindset are bad.  They’re not.  It’s when it is wielded against me that is the problem.  I am constantly feeling shut down in the communities because I feel they talk harshly about other people, and by people I mean the characters in a game.  But they don’t notice that.  It’s silly for me to think that.

It’s not that these people are rude.  At least I’m going to assume they’re not, unless the reason they don’t like a character is for something severe like racism.  It’s that the boundaries of this bubble of respect that I’ve created have become so inflated that in order to accept this perspective, that boundary is going to be rubbed the wrong way.  And the spoiler thing just feels like an echo of this that exacerbates that.


The problem with taking perspectives like these is that there are sacrifices to be made.  And even those sacrifices can be seen as problematic to those around you.  They think it facetious, stupid, or pretentious for taking it this far.  And in most cases I don’t blame them.  

People in the gaming community that I’m in are not rude.  They’re not wrong.  They’re not inconsiderate or disrespectful.  It’s just that they have a different view of things, and with the sacrifices I’ve made to have the perspective that I feel best provides the fun and appreciation for games, I have to accept that this is the result of that.  They’re going to be breaking those boundaries, and usually it’s not their fault, it’s mine, because I actually want this.  

I sincerely am grateful if you’ve actually read all of this.  It’s very likely that our perspectives on this differ.  Don’t make yourself feel bad if it’s not the same as mine.  Or don’t make me feel bad because of mine, trust me, I’ve gotten that my whole life.  I just want people to be introspective and realize that, excluding dangerous or inappropriate extremes that can harm other people, your perspective of video gaming is likely not wrong.  It just is, there are aspects of it that are very likely joyous to you, and sometimes it exists because of things within the realms of what is more complicated than we can imagine.  

And that’s okay. We’ll figure it out.

Thanks for reading.  I’ll see you next time.

Elise

  1. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0956797611417007
  2. https://www.livescience.com/53126-spoilers-can-ruin-movie-enjoyment.html#:~:text=Johnson%20was%20quick%20to%20add%20that%20the%20study,your%20experience%20with%20the%20story%2C%20the%20researchers%20learned

I’m Concerned for You VR

Do you want me to leave the door open or closed?

I’ve been thinking about this over the past year.  I’ve always been a bit concerned about VR.  Initially, I didn’t like VR.  I mean, the concept I absolutely love.  It’s a very typical gaming dream, but there are always a few things that always make me reconsider what VR is like for everyone.

I was always worried because I wear glasses, but that concern was easily thrown out the window since many devices’ official releases.  I’m not too worried about that now.  I was also worried about feeling sick from the movement, but that’s also a lesser concern now for me.  However, that’s not always a small concern for everyone else.  Some people will not be able to get over it very easily, and moreover some people may not even be able to control that.  It’s like how some people feel sick on airplanes or boats.  I don’t blame them for how their body reacts to such things.  I think that may be an oft forgotten concern that really does affect a few people.


The two biggest concerns I have though are the ones that are definitely more of an effect on people as a whole.  

The first thing is just plain access to VR.  I’ve seen VR arcades and shops that are entirely set up for VR.  It’s that expensive and unwieldy.  It’s like how most people in the world don’t build roller coasters in the backyard.  It’s something we pay to have someone host that.  And the fact that we can have that for VR is telling.  However, the same can be said for arcades, but that is a symptom of how gaming was in the retro days.  It’s very possible that the VRcades…if that is what we’re calling them, are for a similar reason, but I can’t help but think it’s also because it’s just plain expensive.  Most VR headsets also require a good computer to play them, and that’s not necessarily as accessible, or perhaps even realized by those who purchase it.  Thanks to alternatives though, like PSVR, it should be easier for some.  

Safety is a part of this concern as well, as that is access that is not easy to create.  Unless you’re willing to move some furniture every time, having a safe space to play VR could be annoying.  If you don’t live in a large house and live in a dense city area in places like Taiwan or Japan where the rooms are not big, VR can be troubling.  It’s similar to how when the Xbox Kinect came out, it was a hassle to play in a small room.  The same can be said for Wiimotes, but with VR you literally can’t see where you are in the room so that is even more dangerous. 

I feel like these can be financial blocks for some people.  Blocks that are not easily affordable.  We can’t just knock down some walls and say we can use VR now.  (Well, I guess we could but that’s a whole different thing going on there.)  And some places like New York City or a tiny flat in England just aren’t fit for good VR.  There better be pillows and stuff all around because with my luck I will fall on like, the sharp edge of a table.  Ouch.


The second and even greater concern I’ve had for VR ever since its inception is physical accessibility.  I’ve already talked about motion sickness.  That belongs in this category.  Other things like physical disabilities will make VR impossible for them.  We’ve already come a long way with things like the Xbox Adaptive Controller and groups like GameBlast that I’m very happy to see pointed out by gamers.  

With VR I feel like these are further steps away for those gamers to have to reach for.  It’s possible for a few cases for it to actually be easier for those with physical disabilities to use VR, but I’m sure there are a good amount that feel even more restricted.  Some games that are exclusive to VR are now out of reach for those players.   Imagine playing through Half-Life and then stopping at Half-Life: Alyx because of your physical disabilities.  That’s not fun.  Although there is a conversion mod for that, the reality is that the VR experience is just inaccessible for those gamers.


I’m not saying that we aren’t allowed to enjoy VR for those of us that can, but it’s just something that I think about for my friends that are limited in what they’re allowed to play.  It’s already difficult for me when I have friends that can’t play because motion sickness is a thing, even after we’ve adjusted the field of view and effects as much as we can.  It’s heartbreaking when something that may be even more severe like a disability further dampens their ability to enjoy things like games.  I’m always grateful to see things like colorblind correction, subtitles, and even things like Bayonetta’s family friendly mode to make sure that we’re allowed to play what we want when we want.  I just feel like VR is going to be an even tougher mountain to climb for those who already cannot.

I’m extremely grateful that we can enjoy video games.  If I really do enjoy games as much as I say I do, I feel it is only right for me to want that joy to be passed on to as many people as possible.  

Thanks for reading.  I’ll see you next time.

Elise

Backstories of Loved Ones

To know the past and keep the future

I keep getting spread so thin on all the things I could possibly do.  I’ve been spending more time with my family as well, because the older I get the more I realize that time with them is precious.  But something else hit me when I was playing Genshin Impact that made me realize that spending time with them is great, but there’s something else that I lacked that I desperately needed.

It’s something I’ve been thinking about since the article I wrote that included Final Fantasy VIII not too long ago, but it really hit me when I was playing Genshin.  In Genshin if you play with characters doing daily quests, little grindy things called domains, and a few other things you can increase your friendship with them.  Increasing your friendship allows you to learn more of their backstory.  I’ve been so busy and mentally tired lately that although I really wanted to learn more about Collei’s backstory that I had unlocked, I didn’t bother to read it yet.

I was using her in a boss battle and she died, and for some reason I freaked out and I immediately paused the game and went to read her backstory, as if I could lose my chance to do so.  You can easily revive characters through food or statues of the gods strewn throughout the map, but I frantically went and read all of her backstory in one fell swoop.  It got me thinking a lot about my parents.

My parents are older than the average parents in between generations.  And even though I’ve spent and have been spending more time with them, I’m beginning to realize that I don’t know much about their actual childhood and their backstories.  I know them now, and what they act like, and what they like to do, but I don’t know anything about their earlier life.  They never talk about it, and they’re very typically conservative Asians.  They just don’t say anything about it.  I know a handful of stories for both parents, and by handful I mean like…three at most, each.

The more I think about it, the more I really want to preserve those stories.  They’re things that are unique and important and I just have neglected that.  Spending time with them isn’t enough for me and now I want to know more.  If I was so scared of losing the opportunity to get to know a friend that is a character in a game, how much more fearful and defeated would I feel if it were someone as close as my parents?  Unfortunately, I won’t be able to contact them easily until later in the year, but when they return I will definitely spend the time to hear and record their stories.  I will push them to tell me, since I know that they would resist saying it’s not important or there is nothing significant, which is very typical of them.  As long as I’m not crossing any boundaries, I want to hear their stories.


It’s good, but also worrisome, that it took a character’s life to help me realize that there is more I want out of my family relations, and perhaps even friends as well.  Collei will be alright, but what about my loved ones? I’ll make sure to love my family, friends, and characters as much as I can, and to make sure I get to know them all better.

Thanks for reading, and I hope that you spend time with your loved ones and get to really know them, because we don’t know how long we have with them.

Elise

The Restricted Audience

Ratings for you, not the game

I think it’s easy to forget how restricted rating systems in games work.  In North America we tend to see the Entertainment Software Rating Board / ESRB ratings.  And in Europe you tend to see Pan-European Game Information / PEGI ratings.  In Japan it’s the Computer Entertainment Rating Organization / CERO.  I’m not going to list all of the audience ratings, but those are the three most common ones around me.

And I did say audience ratings.  I think people misunderstand that the ratings are not necessarily about dangerous content.  It’s about content that is dangerous if handled immaturely.  Nearly every single type of restricted content in video games is dangerous if approached incorrectly.  We’re saying rated M for mature audiences, because if you are playing this content you should be mature about it.  

Foul language is something that most people speak, but it’s a matter of when we say it and when it’s appropriate.  If you stub your toe and swear, alright.  But if you’re in a church or in an interview maybe don’t swear outright.  For this one, it’s about reading the context, but that requires some amount of maturity. 

Every time we move further down the list with things like gambling, violence, nudity, and discrimination, each subject must be approached with maturity.  And the truth is that most people who play mature rated or PEGI 18 games aren’t really that mature.  I’ve gotten the response that it’s about whether or not you can “handle” that amount of violence.  I don’t think it’s about “handling” violence.  It’s about how we approach, treat, and respect the events.  People are not mature for watching ultra violence or looking at sexual content, especially if they give the same immature approach to similar situations in real life.  

One thing I found very interesting is that the PEGI ratings have “Discrimination” as one of the factors and it’s noted as a PEGI 18 rating.  I think ethics are something very important in video games.  I mean, we’ve noted how a lot of character development is literally about growth and ethics, and people are not without them in real life.  Some people say that because it’s just a game you can just ignore everything, but that’s not true.  If that were true, trauma wouldn’t happen to people.  Trauma is when unexpected events shatter paradigms and the securities of someone’s life.  You can’t just undo an experience.  Unless there is some sort of brain damage or memory loss involved, what you experience, watch, and play in video games will affect you.  

This is not to deny the studies that people who play violent video games become violent, but it can still affect you if not taken maturely.  Again, it is whether or not you let that become an enabling factor.  Some people use video games as a way to let off steam.  To yell and have a safe place to trash talk and banter.  And that’s okay, because they’re using it as a way to ameliorate the stress and anger.  But I also know people who, when playing video games, become violent.  Most of the time they already are, but enabling them or enticing this kind of temperament is also not okay.

There are mature ways to approach sexual content, and all of them need to be approached maturely.  I don’t want rated M games to be like some sort of light to attract all the bug people who just want to objectify women.  I mean, unfortunately, there are games with that kind of approach in mind, and honestly I don’t find that for mature audiences at all when the whole set of creation is immature.  Perhaps, and this might be sharp to say but, there are some games that shouldn’t be played because the basis of the whole game is not conducive to proper behavior.  I’m not trying to be some sort of policing writer.  I’m just stating the reality that some things will affect people in a negative way and it’s not about being progressive or being “tough”, it’s about teaching people, not just kids, that some things need to be respected.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the same people who sexually harrassed me at school are the same people who play those games that disrespect women.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the people who say that video games don’t affect them are the same people bullying others.  We as the players are supposed to be mature about this all.  The people who know that the violence stays in the game.  The people who recognize that war and discrimination are real, terrible things.  The people that recognize that a character is a sex worker not because she is a bad person, but because she is having a hard time in life.  To learn this empathy, to learn this understanding, that’s what maturity is about.  

I’m not saying that we’re stiff and not having fun while shooting enemies and slicing baddies.  Rated M for Mature just means that when it gets down to it, we understand that we must treat these subjects with respect and understanding.

Thanks for reading, I’ll see you again soon.

Elise

There is No Status Quo

Glow in the dark

There are going to be a fair bit of spoilers for these titles: 
Parks and Recreation, the TV show: major spoilers
Super Mario RPG: Major spoilers
Marvel Cinematic Universe Infinity Saga: Major spoilers
Final Fantasy VIII: First 13 hours spoilers

Although I spoil things, I am still purposely very vague.  This doesn’t mean they aren’t spoilery though, so be warned.

Long article time!

Character development works in the same way that people develop.  Whether you like it or not, that’s how some of the best character development works.  And a more turbulent thing that is also true is that it is almost always cheesy.  It’s the cheesy stuff that are the real lessons in life.  When writing character development, it’s important to recognize how and when paradigm shifts in perspective happen.  And we can also, again, skeletonize it to cheesy things, but we’re going to keep it at a complicated level for the sake of showing the individuality of developments.


First I’m going to establish the basic point that my title has made.  There is no status quo.  Characters are like glow sticks, they won’t really shine until you break them.  In Parks and Recreation the character Andy has one of the best developments because the events that happen to him actually change and cause him to grow.  It’s very simple and logical stuff.  Most people know that, but actually having that implemented is a different thing.  He actually does change as his love for April grows.  He really does learn from his time at community college.  He really does start finding footing for where he feels comfortable in his place in society.  These things are actually happening to him and the show acts like it.  This doesn’t mean he can’t be the same goofy character, but it means that he will not return to the original goofy character before.  You cannot return to the status quo, else it seems like nothing significant happened at all.

This happens in all sorts of TV shows where things return completely to normal.  I’m not saying that this is bad, because it fits some shows very well that things always return to normal.  Sometimes these kinds of series will do major shifts to show that something has changed.  This can be something that happens at the end of a season or in preparation for a change of casting.  Super Mario RPG’s Mallow has an identity crisis because he thinks he is a frog.  I’m…pretty sure we all can recognize that he is totally not.  Some character developments happen in drastic shifts like this.  This happens in real life as well, so it makes sense.  

What’s interesting about Mallow’s shift is that he doesn’t really change much, except for his self-confidence, which was an issue for a while.  He doesn’t really mind that he thought he was a frog this whole time.  The big shift wasn’t the fact that he was having an identity crisis, but rather that he needed to come to terms with how he feels about himself.  These aren’t huge lines in the story by the way.  Mallow doesn’t always talk about this, but it feels significant enough.  


Here’s one that I have thought a lot about from the Infinity Saga in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, specifically Thor.  Thor’s development is mostly about who he believes he is and his worthiness.  He goes through a lot of this and it develops on itself multiple times.  In Thor: Ragnarok, he really comes to terms with himself after his father’s “passing”.  Now normally this is it.  But after his failure to kill Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War, he actually returns to what he was previously where he didn’t believe in himself.  This is not a return to the status quo.  This is usually only obtainable through story writing that is extended over time.  I think this is a rare opportunity to recognize how some people struggle to change over time.  He had such a big revelation in Thor: Ragnarok and now he is back to where he was before because of yet another shift.  This new development is no longer about coming to terms with himself, it is about the failure of doing so in a difficult time.  I love the writing of this because sometimes we have big life events happen to us and when it gets hard we do fall back down and we do struggle.


Lastly, Final Fantasy VIII.  Just to be clear, this isn’t a comprehensive list of all the different kinds of development.  Final Fantasy VIII just happens to be the final one on this list.  I love Final Fantasy to death, so maybe I’m a bit biased.  I haven’t finished VIII yet, so this is just what I know so far from the game.  I’ve played 13-ish hours.

Most of the game’s characters are teenagers, and I think it’s a very good opportunity to talk about the small world of the mind.  There are a lot of times where the main character, Squall, says some really angsty stuff.  Same with Rinoa.  There are tons of times where you could ask why the world they make the choices they make or how something they said was ridiculous or immature, but that’s just it.  They’re teenagers.  I think one of the more difficult parts of writing is not only understanding how much your character’s know, but also how much they can interpret.  When Squall is threatened by death he does the most teenager thing and runs away.  I’m not saying all teeangers do this, but it’s been established that he is an angsty teen, so what he is doing is in line with that.  He is so determined to not be something left in the past because someone he is close with may have died.

Having death hit you at such a young age affects you differently than if you were older.  This whole time Squall has set up a tough exterior, but it really breaks when he just runs.   His paradigm has shifted, and he has to come to terms with it.  This doesn’t fully absolve itself immediately though, which I like.  Rinoa also goes through a series of similar rash actions where she wants to try and suppress the evil Sorceress on her own.  This seems so foolish, but remember that her world consists of living in rebellion.  She has been fighting government oppression her whole life and her relationship with her father is not great.  This is what her world consists of: fighting back, no matter how small you feel.  When she fails to suppress the Sorceress, she nearly dies.  

Squall and Rinoa both argue over how serious these missions are taken.  This back and forth starts pretty early on.  Both Squall and Rinoa’s growth intertwine when Rinoa realizes just how dangerous all of this is and Squall feels what the fear of death is like in someone else as Rinoa literally clings to him.  This is further emphasized when he sees how scared Irvine is moments later.  Their small worlds grow larger with every shift.  He is changing how he feels about death, his mission, and what to do.  You see this in how he tells Irvine that it’s going to be okay, no matter the results.

Remember when I said Squall hated that idea of death?  Well, at this point some time later, he fights the Sorceress for the sake of the people and …dies.  Now hold on, this is where I’m at in the story.  So, very likely he’s not actually dead, but the action of this is significant, because now his paradigm has completely shifted.  He has voluntarily given his life for the sake of the people.  The world of his mind has grown.  He is no longer Squall as he was…however many hours ago in the game.  Unfortunately, for the sake of story he is likely still alive, so that status quo is probably still here.  I…I can’t say for sure.  I’m excited to see what happens next.

Not all teenagers and people will develop like this.  That’s fine.  But each has their own views and shifts.  Squall’s tough exterior has been well established by this point, but it is so fluid in his change over time.  His is not an immediate change, and that’s why I really like his development so far.  His “death” could also be just his desire to fulfill objectives for his organization, but he ran away last time.  He literally ran, and now he died.


Maybe I’m getting this all totally wrong.  I could totally, totally be getting all of this wrong.  But I’m still very happy with how they show the perspective of the small worlds Squall and Rinoa both live in.  It’s easiest to see these kinds of things in the main character who starts in humble beginnings, except it’s usually more literal in that the world they fight for gets bigger and bigger as you explore more places.  But for what I can see in Squall and Rinoa right now, is the change in the mind, and I really, really like that.  

Why is this so important to me?  I mean, other than good character development, this helps me recognize people’s perspectives and how they see the world.  To be less at conflict with others, I need to be more understanding of their perspectives and what their mind-world’s look like.  What I look like in their world.  

Things are not always black and white, and seeing character growth like this is a good way to better understand how some people might make bad decisions when they’re just trying to be good people.

Thanks for reading, I’ll see you next time.
Elise

My Natural Attraction

No, I’m not talking about people.

I was thinking that with the ULTRA, I should be able to compile a list of what genres I tend to be attracted to.  After making an Excel sheet and messing around with stuff in there I created this table. 


Explanation from left to right: First Person Shooter (FPS), Third Person Shooter (TPS), Turn-based RPG (TBRPG), Turn-based Strategy (TBS), Real Time Strategy (RTS), Racing (RC), Action Adventure (AA), Classic Adventure (CA), Puzzle (PZ), Action RPG (ARPG), Platformer/Platforming (PLAT), MMORPG, Fighting (FG), Simulation (SIM), Survival (SURV), MOBA, Music (MUS), Metroidvania (VANIA).

Two notes:

  • I separated RPGs and Shooters in general to create large, chunked versions to compare those two genres because I knew they would be the highest numbers.  
  • And through this second, improved version (I had another excel sheet that was not as good), I was able to have games count as multiple genres.

The lowest count genres are Turn-Based Strategy, Real Time Strategy, MMORPGS, and music.  Even combining strategy genres, it still isn’t that much of a count.  I grew up in the era when strategy games were huge, and now, other than a couple of grand strategy games, it really has dwindled.  It’s being kept alive by things like Civilization, Total War, and maybe Age of Empires II and IV.  It’s really sad.  Starcraft and Starcraft II still live on for me though.  Very typically Asian of me.

MMORPGs are low count because it takes so long to invest in one to really recognize whether or not it’s a good MMO, so that would explain that.  I have played a ton of MMOs though, and let’s be honest the era of 2000s for MMOs were not that great.  It was ruled by like…World of Warcraft and Maplestory.  Most everything else was mediocre or way too filled with pay to win elements, which is what Maplestory has become now.

Unfortunately, Classic Adventure games are also low in count, but those have been some really great experiences, and I feel like they’re kind of niche even now.  Yet today there are some really good classic adventure releases that have dominated charts: games like Norco, Disco Elysium, and Kentucky Route Zero.  And I’ve only played one of those!

I was originally surprised by the amount of Fighting Games on there but then I realized half of them are probably Super Smash Bros.  Haha!  Puzzle games are also pretty low on the list, probably because I’m…not very good at them.  Oh wait, I realize I’m not good at fighting games or puzzle games, so that explains both!

I think Shooter games are so high on the list because I grew up with my brothers playing first person shooters a lot, so I’ve inherited a lot of that, and there are a lot of platforming games as well because I grew up with the SNES and the N64.  It also helps that those are the two genres I’m most proficient at, so of course I can enjoy them well.

RPGs are in such a large amount likely because of how emotional they tend to be.  They usually have good writing, or at least fun writing.  I also like games that tend to have political commentary on the sad state of things like Deus Ex: Mankind Divided or Path of Exile.  These games point out how grey the spectrum of human morality can be.  Sometimes there are no good choices and sometimes good people get caught up in bad things.  Some people really just want to be bad, but there are some people who just want to do good.  And some people in between, like in Baldur’s Gate or Mass Effect.  Oh darn it, I just chose two Bioware titles.  Okay, um, Guild Wars 2.   I love storylines that get caught up in the small nuances in life as well as the real and cheesy lessons.  I’ve stated before and I’ll say it again, the important lessons in life tend to be cheesy.  Games like Genshin Impact, Kentucky Route Zero, or Final Fantasy VI have these elements and help me reflect on myself.  

The final two reasons are very polar.  I like games that I have an emotional connection to.  I love Control, Perfect Dark, and Celeste.  I also love games that are extremely well designed.  Games like Dishonored 2, Super Mario Odyssey, Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Konquest, and Hollow Knight.  This isn’t to say I have no emotional connection to them, but a huge chunk of the enjoyment I received in addition to my personal experience was because of how well they were made.  The disparity between emotion and technical don’t negatively affect each other, but the objective difference is huge.  

Enough about me.  What genres do you lean towards?  And what are some examples from those genres that you really like?  Are there any games that helped you become a better person or helped you get through a difficult time in life?

Thanks for reading, and I hope that you find more games to put into your lists of favorites!

Elise

Note: My work will continue to be pretty intense so my posts will be scarce until about September 12th.  I will still try to post at least once a week, but we’ll see. 

Loud Voices, Small Voices

Voices in the Crowd

I’ve been thinking a lot about yesterday’s post.  I don’t apologize for a lot of it.  Most of it had to be said.  Perhaps it was not as celebratory as it should’ve been.  This is Game Praisers, but I also need to state some crap going on.  And while it is all true, we should continue in a different iteration.

Let’s be honest, I’m a pretty…pessimistic person.  I don’t know if it’s my anxiety and me thinking about bad things over and over and over again.  Supposedly I have a dark sense of humour as well, but I can’t really tell.  So I admit I do tend to focus on the negative, which is partially why I started Game Praisers to help me be more positive.  While this has indeed helped me see the positives of video gaming, especially with the good community I’ve run into here, people are a whole different matter.

I’m trying to see and understand that there are so many good people in the game community.  I have had good experience in Genshin Impact, and I’m sorry if I made it seem like I didn’t appreciate it.  It is a really fun game and I absolutely love the world and its characters.  I let the loud voices of the ugly people get the best of me.  I have met people who wanted to learn more about Chinese culture, and that’s all I’m going to say.

Look in any place where the players are allowed to say anything, and there will be loud, supported, angry players whinging about the most unimportant or specific of things.  Once you’re allowed to be anonymous, people will say the worst of things, but I have to also remember that most of the crowd consists of the silent majority.  There are a lot of people that are good that support others and they just don’t say anything. 

All the kind Guild Wars 2 players that go out of the way to help me when I’m down are a good example.  Guild Wars 2 seems to have an abnormal amount of kind people in it.  On the Steam launch, which I believe happened yesterday, there were tons of people that were prepared to help new players.  It was so wonderful.  There are loud, irritating people in Guild Wars 2 still, but there are just so many nice people that they get drowned out.  I really wouldn’t mind that in the other game communities.

But that’s just it.  I bet they are there.  They’re just quiet.  They’re reading.  They’re ignoring the comments.   They just love their game and play it.  I’ve been thinking about this a ton since yesterday and I am so happy and joyful that there are cool people out there in the gaming community that I genuinely would like to meet.  Although, I will probably disappear afterward and never be heard from again because I will be overthinking everything, but there is hope in it all.

It is good to have hope in the gaming community, because, let’s be honest, it usually doesn’t look great for us.  I think I have to change my perspective a bit and have more hope.  I don’t want to become insensitive to the rude people I always see, but I also need to keep myself focused on the hope that there is still humanity left in the community of gaming.
Thanks for sticking around!  I’ll see you again soon.

Elise

Sentimental ULTRAs

In a minute, I’mma need a…

Objective lists of bests always make me scratch my head.  I know there will always be at least some bias in lists, but my favorite rankings I hear from people I talk with are the ones that are very emotionally biased.  I’m talking nostalgia, events that transpired during plays, purely sentimental acts, and emotions just taking over.  Even if this means emotionally attached to a certain game design.  Even if this means emotionally attached to a bad game design.


If you’ve been here, you’ve heard me talk about the ULTRA, the Ultimate Loosely-Thought Ranked Analysis.  This is my internal ranking of all the games I’ve ever played.  This list is processed by a current top twelve list that rotates as new games enter that list.  When games are added to that list and leave, they graduate to the ULTRA where they are ranked. 

There is no other process other than just sitting there thinking and discussing with other players.  Things move up and down that list all the time depending on discussions, thoughts, and epiphanies.  There is no extreme, numerical game design analysis.  It’s just thoughts.  While I have studied a lot about game and art design in video games, those things are not what I pride my list on.  I love my list because it’s so emotional.

When I speak to players I like to bring up the question, “What are some of your favorite games?”  I say “some of” because asking for a number one game is usually too difficult or stressful to answer.  Just give me a couple of games where, if you had to recommend to a random player, these are the ones you’d choose.  I want them to choose whatever loosely-thought, emotional choices they made.  I want to get to know the player as a person, not as a critic.  

Each viewpoint that the player brings to the table is what makes everything so unique.  Their likes and dislikes of the game tell me a story that gives me a greater understanding not just of their thought processes and perspectives, but also their goals and what they value.  I believe every experience in life does have an impact.  This is why I oppose those who bully others online and why I oppose those who think just because something inappropriate is on a screen and “isn’t real” is okay.  It’s the same emotional connection that gives the reason why you can’t go about saying that certain anime is okay even though there are definitely pedophilic things in it or other similar stuff.  Whether you like it or not, watching that thing is going to affect you for the same reasons that other “innocent” things affect you for good.  I can’t believe I’ve had to make that argument (and have it be ignored by said person).  Why do I always hate being part of this entertainment community?

I digress.  Let me talk about something a little less depressing.

I love Remedy Entertainment’s Control.  I deal with some addictions in my life, and I don’t handle them well.  I used to be addicted to gambling (darn you lootboxes), but thankfully I’ve gotten a lot better at that.  So that’s one of the many down.  I’ve been through therapy, drugs (ironically, for drugs), and other treatments.  It’s not an easy road, but it’s a road that always makes me feel like it is my choice.  Addictions blur the line between what is choice and what isn’t.  It also brings up a ton of other contextual sociocultural things that also ask the same question depending on said contexts.  It’s just…not fun.  (I hope if any of you are dealing with similarly degrading things that you are getting as much support as possible.)

Playing Control felt different.  I felt free.  It’s technically considered a horror game, and I don’t do well with those, but I managed to get through the main game.  (I haven’t finished the DLCs, I’m saving that for spooky month.)  I’ve thought about this a lot, and I’m not sure what it was.  That week I played Control I was free from all my addictions.  I felt like I really was in control.  It wasn’t because I played all day and night or anything.  They were normal sessions.  Maybe it was Jesse’s independent attitude and my role-playing as the characters that gave me strength.  Maybe it was the emotional connection I had with her confusing experience.  Maybe it was smashing stuff with the physics in the game.  What if it was just good gameplay and world building?  These are just some of the ideas, but I honestly can’t pinpoint why.  That whole experience is one of the biggest reasons why I love Control.  

It’s so…simple if you look at it.  The event was complicated for me, but if you look at it from the outside in, it seems so simple.  It’s very emotional, and it’s super insanely biased.  It is in fact, probably one of the most biased positions on the ULTRA.  Control sits at #6.

I think what I am trying to say is that I love people.  Don’t get me wrong, I am a hermit.  I rarely go to events for the social parts.  But I admit that I really love people.  Sounds like an oxymoron, but I think it somehow works.  I’ve been following other players like Later Levels, where life, games, and being a parent all coincide.  And how about The Gamer With Glasses, a gamer trying to get through life and talk about their love for RPGs.  Or Ace Asunder’s unique perspectives on gaming feel empowering and eye-opening.   Their views on games tell stories.  These are stories that help me grow.

I am far, far from a perfect person, especially as I have just been kind of vulnerable about my life just now.  I value the struggle, and all the hardships in my life have given me the opportunity to become a softer person.  I have chosen that.  I want to see that.  I want to see how video games are a force for good for people in the world.  How has gaming shaped struggles for you?  How has it helped, even in the most minor of ways?  


Hearing emotional lists and likes of games helps me realize that the player I am talking to is a human being, and with that human being comes struggle.  And with that struggle is usually someone who is trying to be a better person.  And with that striving person, maybe another reason for me to hate being part of this media community a little less and love it a little more.

Thanks for reading. I’ll see you again later this week if my work isn’t crushing my soul.

Elise