People put the milk in before the tea bag. Really – before the tea bag. The mere fact that this is a thing that happens is a perpetual source of brain-breaking beffudlement and made-up words. Yeah, seriously – they put the milk in before the tea bag.
Much in the same way, though, there’s people who’ll never understand video games – and so they’ll never understand the group of incredibly well-written words to follow: video games have provided some of the most memorable moments of my life. Ever.
Whether it was in Phantasy Star Online, where we’d take on the final boss with only one of us left standing. Poisoned. Under-leveled. Alone. Or it was that time I rode shotgun in a chopper in Battlefield, going down with the ship if needed – the engineering equivalent of Chuck Norris and Liam Neeson in a giant ball of manly manliness.
Or it might be that time we executed a ridiculous strategy on Starcraft – as in all the time – bringing in the ‘Bane Train’ to utterly destroy the other team’s base. Or TimeSplitters multiplayer – now known as the Bot-widow Generator of Ultimate Doom.
My Friday nights, then, weren’t spent drinking copious amounts of beer. They weren’t destined to end up in some club, not being able to hear what the person screaming in my ear was trying to say. Video games were my club.
Generations ago, our let’s-put-the-milk-in-first ancestors might’ve gone to the local pub. They’d sit round a table, drink beer, eat crisps and talk. With my generation – or with my friends, at least – video games are the local pub. Our digital tavern. We’d talk, we’d drink tea – all whilst killing Big Nasties and executing particularly stupid strategies.
It’s how random these moments could be, how unique to the group and to the medium – and how they aren’t necessarily destined to happen – which makes them so memorable. No other medium can take a giant digital dump on your day in the way video games can and have it be absolutely hilarious.
But it seems that people who don’t engage with the medium don’t understand why we choose this over the Friday Night Club. They don’t understand the spontaneity and the mindfulness video games can bring. And they don’t understand why the milk can’t go in first – it just can’t.
And sadly, this emergence, this digital magic is almost impossible to articulate. It’s difficult to explain exactly why staying up till the early hours hunting for loot in Borderlands with gallons of hot chocolate is such a laugh – such a fond and cherished memory.
In nothing else can I scale cranes and skyscrapers, wield an other-worldly army, or slay a dragon. Video games – those bloody wonderful things – give us a rough estimation, a rough sense of what it’s like to enjoy these things whilst removing the nasty bits – the burns, the bruises, the torn-off limbs.
I couldn’t have met the people I play with today – some I’ve now known for over a decade. I couldn’t have had these hilarious experiences – a combination of design, character and the common interest of just having fun. And yet it did – that’s why it’s so special.
Your background, your dress sense, your political stance – these things didn’t matter in our digital tavern. On the better side of anonymity, these labels meant nothing. It simply needed a common love of pretending to do things, of tapping into our imaginations.
And if that’s all video games require of us as people, then perhaps – just perhaps – they have the potential to be the most inclusive medium of all.
gamesVSlife is a column dedicated to video games, life, and how games relate to life. Feel free to leave your comments and stories below.