Thursday 24 September 2020

Gaming as a creative (and slightly older) person


Long time no see! But I have something I want to share and social media just isn't cutting it. This will be long but it's been over a year since I posted anything here.

In short I am (temporarily?) semi retired from illustration, I just don't have the energy I used to have to juggle 3-4 jobs and 50-60 hours a week. My eyes aren't as good as they used to be and my hands are also protesting. Perfectly normal for someone in their 50's.  And this actually ties in to what I have to say today.

I was looking for a hobby that would keep my brain going and challenge me a bit while still being fun. So I went back to an old love : video games. Of course since the last time I owned a console (about 20 years ago) things have changed a lot, mostly for the better. But there is also a lot of negativity.

As for the games themselves they came a long way from what I played as a young adult. It's a bit like a childhood dream to enter these perfect worlds, re-created to be hyper realistic and even be a custom character.

A fun little challenge I did recently. Myself as a RPG character sheet.


One of the main negative points I'm talking about, is toxicity and harassment. Which of course has made it's way into this world just as it does everywhere else. And it's being met with the same mild indifference by the people who need to address it. It's not just kids being rowdy and calling each other names, it's real harassment and it leads to deaths every year. And just as other types of abuse it's totally being filed under victim blaming and gas-lighting and, while it is being addressed, I don't think enough is being done. The community itself is fighting back as best as they can, there are groups that try to block the perpetrators and help the victims but it's not enough, not so long ago there was yet another suicide and once again it's mostly another "blame the victim" reaction. I'm sure we can do better than that. I know this world is never going to be perfectly inclusive but I'm sure it can be possible to be more attentive and address these issues better?

Now that this important topic is lined out, I have another thematic that I want to talk about and that is linked to the above issue. It's sometimes called "elitism" but it's mostly a form of abuse. It doesn't matter what your difference is, if you're a female gamer, if you're black, if you're disabled, if you're old, if you're trans, or anything else, there will be an abuser ready to pounce and destroy you. And just as in other cases of abuse the ingrained tropes that we all have are actually helping these abusers. As we are seeing on social media, institutional and ingrained racism is a big part of the problem, as is casual ableism or ageism etc.. Doxing and online shaming are just as bad as it's like putting fuel on that problem that would be very minor otherwise, and this is where informing others and teaching inclusivity can help!

In gaming it's very prevalent too, this is an industry that is worth billions so of course there will be bad apples and they will be accepted as a "necessary evil". But what if don't accept it? 

One way of fighting back but in a creative way is just what I said above, more inclusivity. This is the one solution I see for all these cases of abuse, not just in gaming obviously.

Of course I am not the only person who has been playing video games since the very start and there are other gamers who are even older than I. So when I discovered Shirley Curry I was enchanted, she's doing exactly the same as I am but she is making videos of it and is very successful. She doesn't care one bit about the rules and gameplay etc she just wants to use that tool to create her own world. But here's the downer, even Shirley as a 80+ year old grandma is getting abuse and toxic comments and it was really becoming a problem for her.

So how can we change this? As I said we can show how it's done, by example.
At the moment my main game is Final Fantasy XIV, it's my first MMORPG ever and it's very challenging, but it's fun and people are very friendly and helpful. And of course there are also toxic people. Thankfully I never met any so far but I've seen them at work. I see my favourite content creators being deflated and discouraged by them.

And now if you aren't a gamer or if you don't play FFXIV you can stop reading here as it's going to become more specific.

The subject is vast but in short: there are 2 millions players in this game, surely there is enough space for everyone? OK, outside the issue of housing but that's another topic :)

I for one am not sure if I will ever finish the whole story and the full expansions. I might give up if the content starts to be too hard to play for me (1). My eyes are very taxed by the super busy screens, I can keep up but there is so much to take in and when your glasses are deforming things and important stuff is blurry, one dungeon of 30 minutes is enough to exhaust you. I am completely knackered after one dungeon just because of the sheer concentration and my head is spinning because I was rushing to keep up. I have no idea what I just saw or did, I don't even remember who was there with me, they all leave before I can say thank you, it's super confusing.
I don't want to play with randoms and have a group that's just farming and be in their way. I get it, you have to be as fast and efficient as you can because it can take hours. I feel bad about holding them back, they are annoyed at being held back and no one is happy.
That's got an easy solution, I can create a group somewhere and explain what I want : play slowly, explore the dungeons, have a more experimented player maybe who stop and shows the important parts without rushing. Just living the story.

If you go on YouTube or Twitch all you will see are professionals playing. It's super interesting content and I enjoy watching, but I live in a completely different world. I'm more like Shirley Curry and I enjoy walking or flying (!) around, exploring. I also enjoy the combat and I like learning the mechanics but I noticed one thing : there's a huge discrepancy between players, which is normal when some people have been playing for a decade or more when you consider MMORPGs as a whole. There are some well made guides online but most of them completely ignore the fact that a beginner won't know all of these things beforehand. As a person who has worked in education for 30+ years I can see a lot of what can be improved, maybe someone will take up that challenge?

The Grandma Gamers in the video Jess posted (2) have it right. No one owes anyone anything, this is a game, play it as you want, just don't keep others from doing the same. There is work to do here as well in educating people, young and old. Create a place that fits everyone, make space for everyone. In short don't be a dick.

(1) this can be an issue if developers listen to the players who have the voice (the professionals) and don't make their games easier to play. But I am happy to see that they actually manage to make games ok for all to play, easy mode, normal, hard, extreme... it can be done


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