Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Too much elitism in gaming? Me > You ... :(

Clearly this is going to be a rant but I do this blog almost exclusively for catharsis and as a mental place holder for myself.

That said here goes ... my take on the state of gaming in general and I have to say
I'm tired of elitism in gaming. I've noticed it creeping in over the past several years and its just gotten to the point that its really overwhelming those things that I once found dear and refreshing in gamers and most the gaming communities out there. I don't know if its 15 years of sustained internet influence, building up these micro celebrities and giving people forums to puff their chests out in, but all in all it really just recently hit me that this is the root of what is bothering me about gaming.

More and more I can visibly see the winners in gaming both literally and metaphorically feeling like somehow they have proven they are superior. Whether that is for the evening or permanently in the gaming community depends on the case. But my point is that isn't what drew me to gaming. If I wanted that then I would have stayed with sports, golf, etc. etc. To me tabletop games of all kinds aren't about winning or losing, they never have been. Its cliche to say but really and truly they are about playing the game and having fun. It is all just about having something to do while you socialize with some people with common interests. That is being lost in gaming today I believe.

For me I came to gaming in 2000 after being away from it since middle school. Sports, booze, school, graduate school, getting married ... all those things were what my life was about. Then in 2000 I had a decent job, was done for the time with school and finally had some disposable time and money to go out and use. I gravitated to gaming because of the inviting nature of gamers, the down to earth fun geekery that I encountered sold me. I started out with war gaming via the venerable Games Workshop Warhammer 40,000. I had some very fun times with a good group in Las Vegas. But as time passed more of the old guard from our group moved away and eventually so did I. So 40K's star faded. Then came RPGs and eventually Euro-board games. But what I've noticed over the past three to five years is a trend towards elitism even in those areas.

By this I mean more war gamers are now buying their armies pre-painted and its all about graphing out numbers breakdowns for statistical superiority with army lists. For RPGs its all this factional crap with D&D, there is the old school camp, the 3.5/Pathfinder camp and the 4e camp .. some crossover but mostly those people hate each other. The indie fans for a long time seemed like a bastion of hope for me, but now with the podcast and blog-o-sphere influence mostly all of those people seem like name dropping and specialized jargon is what they are after as a way to feel superior to other gamers.

Now board games ... well ... even that once hopeful area of light has now faded for me. More and more the same issues I have with say Games Workshop games has come to play with board games. Sites like boardgame geek have turned it into a contest to see who owns the most games, who has played the most, and you have ever increasing release schedules from game companies just churning out semi-collectible products (I'm looking at you FFG!). Its just not worth even trying to keep up anymore. My only hope here is to convert some non-gamers into a little fun board game group and hope that it stays that way. I'm really tired of board gaming with war gamers and actual board gamers ... its just not fun ... the entire concept of a social board game is lost on those people anymore.

So whats left? I know historical war gaming has long had its elite camps, hell the entire concept of it is a little elitist. That said ... historicals has sort of been the "outsider" gaming pass time. There are some crossovers but generally speaking with games that might not even have a points system and are entirely "gentleman's games" ... essentially just an excuse to paint toys soldiers and get them out and look at them and push them around in little interesting historical scenarios. Well maybe there is hope there yet. Who knows.

Other than that I'm wondering if my days of gaming with people other than my kids in general are numbered. Maybe I'll just go back to being one of those boring main stream sports fans again ... honestly there is less elitism and really probably no more boorish-jerkism (probably less per-capita). Besides sports are still more main stream than gaming so it makes for better water cooler talk.

I'm a geek, I always have been, but I went from a sports geek to being a game geek and now I'm sad that the negatives that seemed to plague my fellow sports fans has crept into gaming. I'm sure its in part due to just the growth in gaming. We are seeing a wider more diverse audience and we are no longer in the fledgling "community formation" stage, so those innocent friendly days of the past are long behind. I just miss those times and miss gaming with those kinds of people.

I made this post in no particular reaction to anything or anyone I just was surfing the net as usually and facebooking and had a little ah ha moment for myself. I really don't think many people read this blog. I will be the first to admit that its not of high quality or particular interest to anyone but me, but this was something I just felt like putting down in writing to perhaps see if anyone else out there felt like this at times.


Anonymous said...

I think it's easy to mistake the small but vocal minority for the majority, or at least as representing the majority, and in doing so despair of the whole scene. Most people are decent, don't care who plays what and just want to have fun gaming and talking about gaming. But it's good to take a sanity break every now and then from the arseholes and their crap in order to let the mind see clearly again.

Mik said...

I'm in the same camp, there are tons of dicks out there and all of the elitism makes me want to puke. Just don't put up with it and even better, call them out on it. A change in scenery, venues, players, what-have-you is what is called for. Stick to what makes you tick and maybe the others will get it, maybe they won't. It's pretty much the biggest geek ocean out there as we speak, plenty of laid back gamers to be had.

The Lord of Excess said...

Well said both of you and I agree generally. Years and years ago when I was more of an avid golfer, I remember talking with someone I don't even remember who or what the circumstances were but the just of the conversation was why in the hell do we keep coming back to a game that is so unforgiving at times, so frustrating, so difficult to master or even get passably good at. The conclusion we came to (and I know this is a common conclusion) was basically we just need one good shot. One good putt, one good drive, a single nice shot off the fairway ... and you remember that ... for all the times you shank it out into the woods, or slice one into the lake, you remember that one on the 15th where you holed out from 75 yards out. I guess gaming is like that in a way. For all the shit we gamers put up with, all the trouble we go through to find a good gaming group, or that new system ... you just have that one really fun evening and it makes it keeps you going on in search of more. So you guys are spot on. Its hard not to let the bad get to you sometimes but we just need to remember what its all about and look for that.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more mate. And I think its my addiction to lurking in the back of blog rolls and reading dross from 'celebrity' internet personalities that fuels some of the apathy I feel towards hobby.

One thing you mentioned really resonates and thats that this hobby is not mainstream and suitable for normal water cooler chats. Thats a drag for me too as it does limit where and to who I can have an open discussion about my passions with.

I think Mik's advice is the best, and its the simplest and easiest to execute. Cut out what your not liking. Stop visiting places (physical and internet based) you know are full of those you are unhappy with and try and find places/friends who want what you want out of the hobby.

Personally I've cut back on some blogs that were particularly rankling, stopped visiting some of the game stores I used to, and generally been hanging around and discussing background and game moments with mates who share the passion I have about the hobby.