Tetris vs. Speedcubing / Talking about Games

I stopped by Okada for awhile today, to use David’s CS243 book, as well as to finish the pset and check to make sure I didn’t make any stupid mistakes (I did). I saw a little bit of Andrea and Yiwen and Tiffany as well, but sadly didn’t get to really chat with any of them since I went and worked instead. Oh well, it’s okay–my work will definitely pay off, as now the only thing left for the week is to finish CS221 (already half-done) for Thursday! I might ask Andrea to thin out my bangs…I don’t know…I don’t know what I should do with my bangs, truly. sigh! There is much more to be said about that, but that’s something that should go under Nagato Sayuri, when I get around to actually using that. I wonder if I should actually just make another Xanga, just because I’ve always blogged with Xanga…but no, I suppose FB notes are maybe the way to do it, as much as that kind of makes me feel weird. Hmm…FB notes aren’t monospaced though…blargh!

In any case, when I stepped out there was this really neat fog out there that you could see when you looked at any of the streetlights that were on. Really cool…I sort of hope that it stays there until the morning so I can see it in all its glory. That’s pretty much the only thing (ok besides the mall) that I like about SF–cloudy weather and fog! Except in SF i don’t like how everything else looks–the street, the buildings, the people…and in SF the wind is different–harsher, somehow. I just don’t like SF. I might go on another shopping spree there before the year is over (tiring and expensive but fun!), but yeah…if the fog is still there in the morning, I’m going to feel really good as I bike to class. Cloudy weather really energizes me sometimes…I head out the door of Kimball and there’s this nice light gray-ish sky. Everything is uniformly lit–very softly shaded, and the cool air is refreshing. That’s a feeling I love! Maybe it’s because it reminds me of morning rehearsals back from marching band? Well, except I always liked night rehearsals better, didn’t I…?

Japanese at 10AM tomorrow, erk. Then on wednesday I’ve gotta go to cs243 at 11 to hand in homework. Guess I’m gonna be taking naps for sure this week…

It’s funny that I feel much prouder of Tetris than Speedcubing as a hobby. It’s always seemed perfectly sensible and much more noble to me, but when I think about it, Tetris is riddled with just as many misconceptions and such, isn’t it? what makes it so different from Speedcubing that I’m so much prouder of it? Why do I feel this tinge of discontent whenever anyone brings up the fact that I know how to speedcube?

Perhaps it’s the community. I’ve never liked the speedcubing community much, though I admit some parts are better than others. I don’t really know why that is…perhaps it’s because I interact with the Tetris community largely through the tetrisconcept.net forums. And small close-knit forums are great, right? Maybe it’s just because I rubbed against the wrong cubing people. Maybe it’s because cubing pushes this “competition” aspect, whereas in Tetris we’re all just trying to reach higher levels and ranks and speeds at our own pace. Maybe I just like Tetris better. Maybe there really =are= more misconceptions about speedcubing. Perhaps Tetris is something that doesn’t spark as much “dumb discussion” as cubing does.

But regardless, there IS still that nagging thing–the fact that when I say Tetris, you think Gameboy Tetris, and I think of TAP’s TA Death mode, and the two are miles apart from each other. And simply the fact that it’s something that’s well-known. Something that has been infected by some semblance of what one might call “mainstream”.

So why is it that “mainstream” feels so =bad= to me? Why is it that I feel uncomfortable whenever something about SSBM comes up? Why do I feel this certain kind of ease at knowing that there are so many people who know what Starcraft 2 is and how it’s a big deal?

I think it’s for the same reason that Leigh Alexander once said the following:

Sometimes I wish “people in the real world” were more interested in video games, so that I could talk about ’em with them. Other times, I wish they’d never talk about them ever-ever.

(original article: http://sexyvideogameland.blogspot.com/2009/10/dont-even-play.html)

It’s because there are just so, so many ways to get it wrong. Somehow, when a conversation about gaming happens, there is an incredibly high chance for it to go awry in some way as opposed to when I just talk about classes, people, the weather, …
Why is that? It is something that’s solely limited to me alone? (something tells me “no”, but I can’t deny that there are probably a lot of other people who might -enjoy- the kinds of things that are involved in conversations about games that I detest) Is it simply because I’m so well engrossed in the field? Would a painter feel the same way if somehow the topic landed upon painting? Would a music producer (not a musician, not a composer, not a singer, but a music PRODUCER) feel the same way if the topic landed on songwriting? (i’m somehow inclined to think yes)

I think that yes, somehow it’s somewhat related to the fact that I have very strong feelings about the subject matter. For example, when you talk to me about the different character classes in WoW I couldn’t care less, but if you say “Fox’s laser is so much better than Falco’s”, the inner voice in my head is screaming “no no no this is ALLLL WRONG!”. But I think there’s more to it, and something about the field of gaming itself that somehow just makes it difficult.

One is the gender imbalance. Let’s not kid ourselves–the people who we call “gamers” are always stereotypically male. When you’re all males chatting about video games, that’s fine and dandy, but what happens when there’s a girl in the group? Then all of a sudden you’re talking “guy talk”–akin to if a group that I was in started talking about cars, motorcycles, football, etc. That’s not the only situation where this causes trouble–there’s those times when the girls will try to jokingly be a part of that world–only jokingly. And then there’s the times when the girls will try to -earnestly- take part in that world. And both have their issues. It’s like trying to talk about iPhones with that elderly relative who’s never used a computer in their life. Or like trying to talk about calculus to a 5-year-old. Yes, it’s possible to make analogies–to dumb things down and try to speak in their words–but then it becomes painfully obvious that you are. So that’s one aspect of the “us” and “them” that Leigh refers to. The difference in knowledge, culture, skillsets–it’s horribly skewed between individuals. When I play a game, my mind is thinking in completely different ways from when you might be playing it, and it’s due to years and years and YEARS of experience. How can something possibly bridge that gap?

Then there’s the social stigma that somehow gets tacked on as baggage. Somehow gaming is something that’s “bad”. Somehow it just seems more socially acceptable to say that I read a book than to say that I spent the night playing video games. (Or even worse, that you “spent the night playing Halo”, because somehow the fact that you tacked on a mainstream-recognizable name makes it worse in my mind. Why…?)

Perhaps it’s because games just aren’t as easily understandable as other things are? They’re too complex–too dependent on you being a certain kind of person. You can talk about the latest film with your friends and most of them will like it because it was really well-done. There might be those who are ambivalent because they don’t like going to the movies, or those who are rebellious and harshly criticize it. But when you talk about the latest video game with your friends, there’s a percentage of your friends who don’t even -understand- the game. They can’t play it–they can’t make sense of it–they can neither appreciate nor criticize it because they simply are too lost to form an opinion.

Which is why “casual” games try to reduce that entry-level barrier. I read an article once that pointed out the main difference between a casual game and a “hardcore” game was that in a casual game there are many less variables to deal with. There’s still an element of skill-there’s still basic elements of gameplay, but there’s nothing fancy to get in the way, and so it’s something that you can pick up and play. That’s why when you look at Wii Tennis, you can immediately understand “the gist” of the game and what matters (timing of the swing, direction that you swing), even if you’re not a gamer. Whereas if you just try and jump into a game of Starcraft, you need to understand resource gathering, tech trees, unit production, how to select units, how to give orders, … It’s mindboggling, but to someone who’s been playing games for their whole life, it’s mostly -trivial-.

Which brings me to another question…what can we–no, better yet, what can =I= do about it all? I feel like I adopt a policy of avoidance…somehow, I avoid talking about games with my friends–maybe mentioning them only in passing. I guess it’s partly because I know that none of my close friends are gamers. But this is something that’s important to me after all–something that’s been with me all my life and something that I feel strongly about. So maybe I shouldn’t be quite so hesitant…or should I? Even those games like “Today I Die” that I feel are provocative in a very interesting, -artistic- way are things that I worry about sharing, simply because I don’t feel like they’ll be properly appreciated. If I have to -guide- you through the entire (very short, and seemingly easy until you realize that the mind of a gamer works differently) game, then doesn’t that feel kind of pathetic? I don’t want to have to spoonfeed you something in order for you to appreciate it–it’s like having someone watch a funny video and then saying “look! That’s funny because —, you see? Isn’t that funny?”

So I don’t really know what kinds of conversations I can have. Though ironically enough, I feel like the conversations about games that I can have, in order of how successful they are, go something like this:
-Conversations about games with very select gamers whom I know
-Conversations about games with people who don’t play games
-Conversations about games with other gamers
In other words, it’s somehow the other gamers that I tend to have the most problems with. I either have to sit back and bite my tongue, or I get into this mode of speaking where I’m not asserting that what I believe is right and what you believe is wrong, but I’m saying everything very nonchalantly as if I’m not being very serious, because I know that I’m treading dangerous waters–I never want to say anything that would conflict with other people’s pre-established views. That Roy is better than Marth, for example–I’m not gonna go and say “No, you’re wrong. Marth is clearly higher on the tier list than Roy for many reasons, …”. No, instead I’ll have to say something like “But Marth is so manly!”. Maybe that wasn’t the best example, but you get why the situation is tough.

On the flipside, I guess I don’t really talk about girl stuff to the crowd that doesn’t understand that kind of thing. hah.

Here’s an illustrative quote:
“When I brought up TGM with one of my friends, this is was the ensuing response.
‘You play tetris?! Dude, you should totally play Modern Warfare 2 because it’s like the best game evar. Tetris is like so old, but you know, game boy tetris was like the best tetris.'”
–Sean Hwang

It might not make the most sense to a gamer though, so you can easily mutilate it to apply to a field of your choice and see what the effect is.
“When I brought up Rachmaninoff with one of my friends, this was the ensuing response.
‘You play the piano!? Dude, Britney Spears used a piano solo in her latest song, have u heard it? Oh, do you know that one song by uhmm…Mozart? Ode to Joy? Do you know how to play it? Play it, play it!”

Perhaps we all just need to look at ourselves as gamers and realize that we can only understand these things because we’ve had over 10 years of experience living with them. Other people don’t, and so we need to keep that in mind. For those other people, they need to understand that…well, we’ve had over 10 years of experience living in this world, so it’s necessarily going to be hard to understand, and that you should act appropriately.

One of course, also must ponder what it must be like to problem-solve as a gamer. When encountered with a problem, doesn’t it seem likely that a gamer like me would think as they’ve been trained to do by countless, countless games? Explore the rules of the game. Look for an objective. Look for a solution. If at first you don’t succeed, analyze the mistake and correct accordingly. It’s not just big-picture ideas either–there’s very small specific detailed nuances that gamers probably have, too. Even our senses are trained in different ways, such that something that seems obvious to a gamer would be totally arbitrary to someone else.

This is a world that I’ve lived in all of my life–it’s a world that is important to me, one that I’m extremely proud of, content with, one that has forged many memories, and one that might even become my future. It’s important to ask these sorts of questions, and to work together to see if we can make things at least a little bit better…

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