Let me start by saying this: I have always been a gamer, for nearly as long as I can remember. When I was four or five, my parents purchased our family a Nintendo Entertainment System. I was glued to it for many years and continued to play it even after my friends had moved on to Super Nintendos and Sega Geneses. This was because my parents believed that since our NES worked perfectly well, there was no need to upgrade to a new system. That all changed when the Nintendo 64 debuted and that Christmas my parents bought the family one. I played our N64 throughout the console’s lifespan, later collecting a Playstation as well. When as a child, my optometrist told my parents that a Game Boy could improve my hand-eye coordination, my parents went out and got me one and I happily accumulated a library of games, followed (much later) by a smaller collection of games for a Game Boy Color. During all this time, I also played games on the family PC: everything from The Sims and Dungeon Keeper to the King’s Quest series and Starcraft. A few years later, I acquired a GameCube and a PS2, which served me in good stead as I transferred from high school to college life. I played my games side by side with my friends, clustered around a small television. During this time, I also played on my friends’ Xboxes and really enjoyed the variety of games and systems that I had access to. A few years after they launched, I got an Xbox360, followed soon by a Wii.
I give you this history not to impress you, dear reader, or to brag, but to make something very clear. Video gaming has been a part of my life from my early stages of development well into the years of adulthood. So, you may be asking (since you’ve no doubt taken note of the title of this article) why am I giving it up? There are two main reasons.
The first reason is a development in the realm of video games that has grown slowly over the past generation and has now become seemingly permanent with this latest console generation. As time has gone on, the amount of money that one has to pay in order to enjoy this hobby has grown inexorably to an amount that I just don’t feel comfortable with. It started with a growing initial cost of each system, followed by an implementation of online subscriptions, which is now being followed by subscription fees from individual game publishers. Gamers are being expected not only to spend a considerable sum of money on a console and its games, but also for the right to play those games. Now, I know that the video game industry has grown over the years and as a result, the associated costs to produce a product have grown as well. I am not naïve and do understand that the costs associated making a product will only grow as a product becomes not only more popular, but more complex as well. And I could live with this if it was the only issue to contend with in the world of video gaming.
Sadly, there is a second issue that bothers me and has ultimately caused me to stray from the path of the faithful gamer. To help you understand this issue, let me share with you one of my favorite memories growing up: my friends and I sitting side by side on a couch enjoying a multiplayer game. Whether it was a racing game, space shooter or fighting game, we all cheered, cajoled and teased each other together. This sense of comradery, and yes, even community is something that I feel is so important, but it is something that I think the video game industry has really lost touch with. It is true that if you want to play a game with somebody, you can log on and instantly find an online room full of strangers who enjoy the same game as you. But that, sadly, is the problem. If you don’t know how to play a game, strangers won’t hesitate to tear you down, label you a “Noob” and (admittedly, only in the very worst cases) pelt you with racial, sexist and/or homophobic slurs. As a result, I’ve never been able to get into online gaming, even when I was paying for the ability to do so.
And so, leading up to the launch of the latest console generation, I noticed that I was playing my 360 and Wii less and less. In fact, it seemed that I was only ever using them to watch videos. As Steam became clogged with unfinished and buggy products that you still needed to pay for with perfectly functional and bug-free cash, I bought less and less PC games, too.
So as someone who has had gaming as a pillar of their life, what do I do now? Oh, I still game, but just in a different format. My name is Lennard and I play board and card games. I sit at a table with my close friends and the occasional friendly stranger, flip over some cards or roll some dice while talking, sharing stories and making connections. If someone doesn’t know how to play (or more accurately, excel at) a game we are playing, we don’t tear them down, we don’t shout, we move on. We help them learn to be better at something that we all enjoy in a friendly and helpful manner (like normal, well-adjusted adults). What’s more, I can go to my local game store (or online) and purchase a complete game in a single box. I pay the cost of that game just once and can enjoy it for the rest of my life. I don’t need a constant online connection, I don’t need to pay a subscription; I don’t have to pay anyone for the right to play a game that I have purchased with my own money.
I feel so sad that it has come to this, but I’ve reached a point in my life where I have been pushed out of a hobby by the makers of that very same hobby. I will miss you, video games. I hope that one day we can be friends again. However, in the meantime I’ve found something that I feel is just better. If you feel the same way, we can talk about it… maybe over a game or two?