There was a time in my youth that I remember only a handful of games that every kid had to have. Super Mario, Mario Kart, GoldenEye, Super Smash Bros, Unreal Tournament, Starcraft, Counter-Strike… Of course there were many other great games in the 90s and early 2000s, but there weren’t many that were ubiquitous among the community. You didn’t even have to be that good at all of these games, but you knew that somewhere during your weekend gaming hang-outs, one of these games would come up and you would spend the next few hours of raging and mocking over these games.
But it also seems like there aren’t that many of these kinds of ubiquitous games around today. We have our Call of Duty annual wintertime jam, Super Smash Bros groups, League of Legend crews, World of Warcraft guildies, but these games being largely ubiquitous isn’t a given anymore.
It’s a shame really because it’s almost like a common connection is lost between the gaming community, a shared memory that unknowingly unites everyone. Each of us having separate, unique memories but of a similar experience that we can all understand and empathize with. Those moments where we were in the lead by a good 10 seconds and that banana peel from lap one runs under our tires followed by a barrage of red shell, lightning, green shell and getting run over bumping us into last place and jeers surrounding every perceived sense. The tension from a highly matched duel where one wrong move means getting knocked off of the stage, but you and your challenger side-steping and dodging each other with better reaction time than NEO speedhacking his favorite Agent Smith.
It’s the shared memories that subtly unite all of us and give us a common language to share and connect with one another as a gaming culture.
Think about the movies that develop a connection among us. Star Wars IV-VI, Back to the Future, Indiana Jones, The Lord of the Rings. If you’re at least somewhat nerd-clined you’ve probably seen all of these movies and have a deep bond with some of them, so when you come across other people that have a similar bond it becomes a talking point and a common ground to develop connections with one another. Kung Fu films, Game of Thrones, Anime, Tarentino, Woody Allen, Joss Whedon, Doctor Who. When you develop a connection to a style of art, you develop an understanding that can be understood by everyone else that has this connection. You gain a common language for communicating with others who understand this art and a new way to develop a connection with someone else.
Maybe it’s because there are so many markets, so many niches for people to bury themselves in so they don’t need to experience games and genres outside of their knowledge horizon, or interest horizon. It’s so easy to just find the next game that is abruptly similar to what you’ve become used to that you don’t need to find something new and different. Continual updates to Pokemon, Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, League of Legends, etc… makes sure that you have something new to keep you interested in the franchise long enough to not have an inherent need to explore the other markets. The problem of “getting too much of what we want” causes us to lose our common language. We find a hole to get buried in and become fluent in a very specific language but lose an ability to communicate with others outside of it.
The least we can do as people within the gaming community is explore games that we would normally not try. We might find an undiscovered gem outside of our normal interest, a newly found subject of games to explore and find what makes us drawn to the excellence in other genres aside from those that we are knowledgeable with. At the very least, we’ll develop a language to talk to those who have travelled the other gaming lands and develop a connection with them through our shared experiences.