As a note, my site is dedicated to gaming, but a lot of what I talk about can be applied to multiple forms of entertainment, or even life in general. So please, if you are not a gamer, do not feel discouraged. There is something here for everyone (I hope)!
Guy A: Ah man, this game is so cool.
Guy B: Hah! It’s not this game and it doesn’t have this feature, so it sucks!
Guy A: But it has this, and I really enjoy that!
Guy B: Doesn’t matter. Not this game. Sucks. Bad game, bro. Play something good.
Ever had this conversation? I have. It drives me f’in nuts. I fully understand that in some cases, the above conversation is playful ribbing between friends or siblings. However, having been on the receiving end of this conversation one too many times, this idea kind of threw me off for a very long time. I used to play whatever games I wanted to, regardless of their score on some review site or how many copies it sold. I played them because I wanted to, and that was a good enough reason. People started commenting on the things I liked though, telling me I should watch something with “quality value” or play something that “actually took skill”. I started noticing that these comments evolved into things like “Well, you’re not really playing the game if you’re not playing on the manual battle system.” Or “If you haven’t earned the platinum trophy, then you haven’t really beaten the game.” Everything culminated about two years ago when I joined an online community to try and pursue my first platinum trophy. One of the first responses to my introduction thread was “Wow. 120 played games and 0 platinum trophies? What do you even do?”
This sent me over the edge.
With the pressure this statement created, along with the extreme criticism I was seeing games receive, and the constant pressure of the online community to “get good” at the various games I played (League of Legends, Final Fantasy XIV), I snapped. I became obsessive about finding the perfect game, getting the perfect score, and being a perfect player. I feverishly purchased as many games as I could afford, trying each one out to see if it lit some kind of spark in me and achieved this title of “the perfect experience.” I pushed myself to marathon 8-10 hour gaming sessions to grind out some stupid trophy that I had no real desire to earn, and I exhausted myself trying to climb up in the most prestigious guilds or increase my global ranking. All to prove that I was, in fact, a gamer, and that I knew what a quality game was, and that I knew how to play “just like everyone else.” Except, I wasn’t like everyone else. I had become an Elitist.
I was oblivious to this. I was badmouthing my closest friends because they were not on the same level as me. I was getting belligerently upset with my (ex) boyfriend because he could not keep the same pace as me or figure things out in games as quickly as I could. I was getting into heated arguments with people when they questioned my methods or tried to call me out for bad mechanics, because god damn it, I had done my research and no one was going to tell me I wasn’t doing something right! Then this path followed the stereotypical story line that you see in movies. I started pushing people away, losing friends, losing my boyfriend, and eventually I was all alone, angry, sad, and wondering why nothing was making me happy anymore. This elitism feeling crossed over to TV, books, hobbies…I became miserable.
This thought process became so overwhelming that I would develop these crazy habits. I would do things like purchase 3-4 movies at a time without any research, go home, then research them to DEATH. I would spoil the entire plot, read review after review after review to see if it was worth watching, and then before I knew it, I had passed out on my living room floor after 4 hours of research. At the end of the day, I never watched any of the movies.
I started turning down opportunities to socialize because I was extremely critical of the suggested activities. I did not want to commit to anything that I was not convinced would give me some kind of climactic experience. I also started criticizing people on their behavior based on what role they played in my life. My friends weren’t being friendly enough, my boyfriend wasn’t being boyfriend-y enough…I was a miserable person to be around.
This led to a really dark time where I got really lonely and sad, because no one wanted to be around me. Since I was so overly critical, I could not generate my own happiness because everything I did was not good enough. I could find no enjoyment out of consumable entertainment, food did not taste good, even sleep was difficult because I would get overly frustrated over a bad night’s sleep. I was the walking epitome of perfectionism. The funny part about this is that I continuously pushed the idea of accepting people’s flaws and being a “go with the flow” kind of guy, which made me look like a total hypocrite. Then there was a sad part. I knew what I was doing, but I couldn’t stop. I didn’t know how. So I shut down.
I don’t really know what happened to get me out of this mental place, but I had tried to push myself into this new mindset of forcing myself to get into something, even if I didn’t feel like it was worth my time. I wasn’t really sure where to start, so I just chose a game and went with it. The game was Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride. I had purchased this game about a year and a half before I picked it up this time and loaded my save file, which was roughly 2 hours from the final boss. Within minutes, my perfectionism kicked in and I was criticizing it for it’s old school feel, lack of impactful story, and overall just kind of mediocre presentation. But playing this game was all I had to do for the time being, so I kept playing it. As I played, I started realizing the little characteristics about DQ5 that made the game charming. I started appreciating the music, the character design, and the feeling of nostalgia. I was appreciating the game!
This lead to another game, then another, and I was finally starting to calm down. Taking this new mindset, along with talking to people and seeing them appreciate imperfections, really knocked me down a few notches. I felt some sense of normalcy again. This is when I had a realization – not everything needs to be perfect. Sometimes I feel like we strive to live in this constant state of amazement and overstimulation. But we don’t have to…in fact, I think it’s kind of dangerous. I think when you live in that mindset, you very quickly forget how to value what you are capable of obtaining, as well as what other people can give you. I remember that when I was in that place, I was very internally critical of a family member that got me a game for Christmas one year because “they should know I don’t play 3rd rate shit like this.” How unbelievably horrible of me to think that…especially over something they thought I would like.
Back to my point – not everything needs to be perfect. You can enjoy a game that is not a AAA title. It can be a totally niche rhythm platformer FPS puzzle game in 2D VR and you know what? If that’s your gig, then GO YOU! No seriously – that’s not sarcasm. If you like it, then I whole-heartedly encourage you to enjoy the shit out of that game. I have some advice I’d like to share to anyone who may be suffering from what I went through.
First of all, remove the exposure to the negative thinking. Stop reading forum or social media posts that criticize what you like. You’ll always be upset and probably never be able to claw your way out of this elitism hole. Second, practice mindfulness. Slow down and enjoy the journey of what you’re doing. We remember great times as a kid playing games because games were few and far between (and we didn’t have the money to purchase all the ones we wanted), so we took our time and really savored what we had. Two, three, four playthroughs – whatever you’ve got the patience and time for, go for it! Finally, learn (or remember) who you are and stand firm in that. If you’re not an FPS gamer, stop trying to force yourself to be. If you cannot stand the grind of an MMORPG, delete your characters and go do something you enjoy. Our time on this planet is short, so there is no use in wasting what precious resources we have doing things that we do not like.
Now, if you read this and think “Oh, I’m like Guy B”. Stop. Think about what you are saying and the impact it can have on other people. Besides, why do other people have to think the same way you do? If they like what they like, let them! It adds diversity to your life just by association and you never know what a change in the pattern will lead you to. Life is about owning yourself and empowering others to own themselves as well. Don’t be the guy that shuts everyone down. I speak from experience – it’s not a very happy place.
Thanks for reading!