1001 A Good Start
We like to play games and we love to read about games. Sometimes it's hard to get the balance right so the reason why we've been quiet in past months is because it was all reading about games and snarking about games and very little actual playing games. We also like to read books about games. We've recently picked up Grand Thieves and Tomb Raiders: How British Video Games Conquered the World and it'll be a nice addition to the growing library of good books about gaming and Resident Evil novelisations. As ever it says a lot about the coherency of gaming beyond the insides of consoles and boundaries of the Internet in that there isn't a massive section in the biggest bookshop by you called 'video games'. Invariably, books from This Gaming Life through to critically under-read Replay the History of Video Games might be under the Internet or indoor games or computing or web/graphics. I'm not going to get on my high horse and say that all gamers are illiterate slobs but clearly enough of them don't go to bookshops to buy books enough that the dwindling chains of bookstores sort their shit out.
But that's besides the point, we picked up 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die (woah now two years ago) and we've been using it as a way to focus our Chi and start playing games that some of the best games journalists have said You Must Play. And it's nice. It's nice to have a source of information away from the Internet and to our mind a pretty fine selection of games without the malformed bunny-boiled down opinion of the Internet gaming community.
Some of the games we know we previously overlooked but others have been a genuine surprise. Bonsai Barber is a Wiiware game we remember getting rave reviews when it came out but this book inspired us to pick it up (and now get harassed on the Wii message board for missing appointments). The same goes for You, Me and the Cubes, Muramasa: the Demon Blade, Eledees, Mercury Meltdown Revolution and finally we've been guilted into buying Super Mario Galaxy.
This book is now getting on, frustratingly it went to press just as the Xbox, PS3 and Wii were getting into their stride. I'd love to see an updated version but wonder how many games from the last two years have earned a spot in the volume (and what games would be pushed out). As we sit on the verge of the next generation and absorb all the bullshit hype about what's coming next and watch the Wii U plough a very mediocre furrow we find it increasingly hard to work out whether games today just aren't going where we expected them to or whether we're just getting fucking old and nostalgic about the games of yesteryear. Not just the games though the people we spent playing games with the context is important to experiencing games. Whippersnappers can fuck off now but we remember glorious summers and after school gaming sessions with friends and families. Were the games that great or was it just the company? Now everyone's moved away, grown out of games (and who can blame them), sadly died or just got bigger priorities. Suddenly sitting in a room playing a game about throwing characters at cubes or chasing the last achievement in a game your boyfriend finds dull can seem lonely and a bit pointless.
But hey there's the gaming community right? We own the Internet. We're everywhere. There are people who work round the clock at Google who try to filter the Internet for non-gaming related images, memes and blogs. But much like games, the community needs to grow up. There isn't a year that goes by where there's some storm in a tea cup that show the true light of the community be it refusing to engage with the issues of violence or anytime a woman gets involved. It's a big boys club desperately trying to run away from real life responsibilities and vitriolic to anyone or anything that threatens the bubble by talking about the issues or problems that real life communities sort out because they're fundamental to everyone getting on. Online you don't need that so we go around and around bathing in the filth at the bottom of the barrel. We're still genuinely astonished at how many commentors who seem as nice as pie when talking about games but lift the lid on politics, gender, race, religion or art and there's some sick callow people out there we're surprised can manage the task of turning on a computer. A lot of them seem to be drawn to gaming. Are we like them? I guess we're having our Fuck Videogames moment.
But there's something about games that keeps us coming back, that keeps us wanting to formulate a way of legitimising the hobby and there are others. But why? Why the need for social acceptance? Other communities don't spend half their time legitimizing themselves. They get on with it. Also, we already won. So why is it that the selection of video game books in the book store is dwarfed by the section on conspiracy theories? Why isn't there a video game museum (this definitely doesn't count)? Why are the video game BAFTAs screened on obscure freeview channels in the middle of the night and not reported the next day? Why has Britain done a piss poor job at celebrating it's strength in making and writing about video games? Why is still a dirty word to fess up that you love games in polite company? Why don't video games soundtracks top the charts? Why do we read about gaming as a growing market on the same day as reading about sales dropping? Why do we keep putting up with shitty film adaptations? Why are game developers actively trying to erase the history of video games as it goes rather than cherish and celebrate it? Why are people doing significantly better job of celebrating and talking about games in their own free time through their blogs and podcasts than the so called professionals? When did On-line become hyphenated? Why do all the good writers give up or move on and all the shit ones go on and on and on and on? Why can't gamers be more discerning and less entitled? Why aren't there any secure jobs in making video games? Why is so much video game journalism essentially churnalism. Bad churnalism? How is still that many game companies put sweatshops to shame in terms of stability and working conditions? Why is our twitter gaming feed filled with absolute shit, marketing and ego melt downs?Why are games failing at retail relying on individuals or other companies to bring the products to market and keep them available beyond launch week? Why do we care so much to get annoyed by it all?
Wow. How did we get here? What did we start with? Oh yeah. Video games. Love 'em.