Home > Critic-At-Large > Gamer's Delight
By Chris Colcord
Fort Wayne Reader
I always wait until the last minute to update all my technology devices, which means that I usually walk around for months with a smartphone that has a spiderweb-shattered screen and needs to be recharged virtually every other hour. I also own an ancient Mac whose pinwheels spin constantly and whose iTunes hasn't functioned since 2015. (2014?) I've grown accustomed to this deprivation but it absolutely drives my friends, family, and work associates insane with impatience; on a recent visit, my daughter asked to use my computer but gave up quickly, saying that she'd be better off using a cardboard box with the letters painted on it. She's probably right.
Of course this is nothing more than me failing spectacularly at a necessary life skill, but it's pretty hard to imagine modifying my behavior in the future. I'm a middle-aged Luddite, after all, and it's part of the ethos of my demographic to be resistant to change, no matter how foolhardy. I always think of purchasing technology in the same way that I think of purchasing a car: you buy one, you beat the shit out of it, you buy another. None of this "updating" stuff, no worrying about software and viruses, no trying to figure out how it works best. Just grab and go. And if there's a problem, well, there's usually a millennial around that you can pester into helping you out.
I finally recognized that clearly, this is no way to survive in a modern age, and so I've started the laborious process of trying to become a tiny bit more educated about the gadgets I use. I'll never be "tech-savvy" about any of this, God knows, or even "tech-literate,” but I do think that being "sub-literate" is an achievable goal. And frankly, "sub-literate" ought to be just fine for me, for I really don't want to know too much more than that. It's the rule of diminishing returns for me; I discovered that, as a writer, I get too distracted: the more things available to me on a computer usually means my production is impeded. I still work most efficiently with a pen in hand on a legal pad; if I need research, I can always bring it up on screen, but I'd rather have it printed up or even laboriously written by hand on other scraps of paper. (This sound crazy but writing everything out by hand helps my memory; it keeps me more connected to the material.)
But I have made the concerted effort to up my tech game, though, which explains why I found myself in line at Best Buy last week, for the first time in years. And I have to tell you, the whole experience was profoundly strange to me. I found myself surrounded by tons of expensive and sophisticated gear that was absolutely incomprehensible to me. Especially the video game section, the "gamer" section, which seemed to dominate half of the store. I know that gaming is a massive entertainment industry, that it's annual sales ($70 billion) absolutely dwarf movie receipts and recorded music revenue, yet it's so far away from my own sphere that it's like it doesn't exist for me. And yet at Best Buy, there's like this entire mausoleum devoted to it.
Standing there, at Best Buy, I felt old and irrelevant, for everything was obviously geared toward another demographic, but more than that, I was damned curious about the gaming world. For I don't know any gamers, personally, yet there must be a whole bunch of them, and they sure plunk down some serious coin for their past time. It reminded me of that old 90s hipster joke, oddly enough, about Hootie & the Blowfish: their albums sold twenty million copies and yet nobody knows a single person who owns one. Well, I still don't know a single person who owns a Hootie & the Blowfish album, but I've gotta know a few gamers, right?
So I asked around at work and what do you know? Three of my co-workers are pretty serious gamers. They just don't talk about it, probably as a defense mechanism against old judgmental a-holes like myself. All are about the same age — around 28 — and all spend about the same amount of time playing per week. (14-18 hours.) One gamer in particular was pretty immersed in the whole culture — she goes to conventions and loves cosplay and even showed me pictures of herself in elaborate costumes that she hand-made. Which were cool and weird and showed an insane commitment to detail that probably required a solid week of sewing and preparation. Of course I called her a nerd and a geek and a dweeb, but I also told her that I appreciated the mania. And I do. I don't really care what weirdo thing people choose to get crazily obsessed about, I just know that I prefer those nutballs to the joyless drones too bored to ever get excited about anything. At least the gamers are actively enthusiastic about something in their lives. It's like whenever I hear somebody blasting music out of a car, music that I really hate: even though I can't stand what they're playing, I'm so glad that they're playing it. And playing it loud. Philosophically I'm on their side.
And I guess I'm on the gamers' side, too. I'm well aware of the addiction problems, but hey, as an "alcohol enthusiast" for 40 years I'm not gonna pull the "moral high ground" card on them. And look, I don't get it, it's not for me, it just looks like a recipe for loneliness and maladjustment, but my co-workers certainly don't show any signs of being miserable loners. They're actually pretty happy, interesting people. I'm glad to know them and I'm glad they've got some animating thing in their lives that keeps them engaged and excited. I've got horse racing, Preston Sturgess movies, the weather, collecting maps, and books about 40s LA as my pet obsessions, so who am I to call anyone else out for theirs? As long as they don't have a Hootie & the Blowfish album, of course. That's just sad.