Looking for the Light

Looking for the Light

So, I am sure I am not saying anything that people don’t already know, but life is, well, a bit shit at the moment. We are at a period in time where it seems a lot of things are converging to make everything just that bit harder. People are being treated like garbage by politicians, COVID is making day-to-day life exceedingly difficult and a host of minorities have basically had a gutful and decided to rise against the systems that treat them so badly. Everywhere we look people are in bad situations and are suffering through no fault of their own. The world is, frankly a terrible place right now and things aren’t turning around at a great rate of knots.

So what does this have to do with video games?

Well, sadly, I feel like the world of video games is in the same place at the moment as the rest of the world. Everywhere I turn, everywhere I look, I see people dissatisfied with the state of gaming, fairly or unfairly, and they are struggling to find the light in an activity that by its very nature, should be full of light, full of fun. If I am honest with myself, even I, a bloke who gives up all his spare time to write about games, feel this way at the moment. It is something that I just can’t shake. The industry seems to be lurching from one horrible incident to the next, like a drunk on a pub crawl through The Rocks, and it has been doing so for such a long time now that it is draining, even for someone as invested as I am.

Now, obviously, video game problems are insignificant in comparison to the tragedies and evils this world keeps spitting out, but when video games are the escape for many from these very issues, what happens then? What happens when the escape from reality seems just as screwed as everything else. I very much feel that my lifeline, my reset, my mental holiday is no longer that, it is just as broken as the rest of society and there is simply no escaping that fact.

Looking for the Light
Should I put caveats on my enjoyment of games such as Cyberpunk?

Then the question has to be asked, should people be trying to escape reality in video games? I honestly have no idea but my gut feeling says that yes, video games should be a great way to wind down, to destress, to escape. My utopian idea is that video games should be a pure thing for everyone, a safe way to have fun, ignoring reality and responsibility for the time it takes to beat the next level. But that is clearly not in touch with the real world. Games are problematic, the people that make them can be problematic or do problematic things, people who are playing them with you can be problematic. There is just no hiding the fact that they are not the perfect little destresser that I imagine in my nerdy utopian paradise.

For me the real problems come from when enjoying a game comes with moral conditions. Being an HR guy in my day job means that mental health and work-life-balance are two things that are super important to me, so how then can I enjoy a game that required crunch to complete? Misogyny on any level appals me, so how can I enjoy a game where the lead producer has been found to be abusive towards women. As a reviewer, I feel like I have to look past those instances, after all, it isn’t fair to the hundreds (or even thousands) of people that work on these massive games to have their efforts tainted because of a bad apple or bad management, but at the same time pretending it doesn’t happen is akin to approving of the behaviour.

So what is the answer? Well, I don’t know. At this point in time, it is hard to see if there ever will be an answer or even a way forward. But we have to hope right? We have to find some light, else what is the point. This is one of the reasons I will always celebrate events like E3 or PAX. Big old celebrations of what makes games great. A few days where people can (hopefully) put aside their earthly worries and wallow in a big old pool of hype and excitement. This is perhaps one reason why I feel so down about games right now, because these events, these beacons of fun didn’t occur last year. COVID robbed us of many things, but in the world of games, its theft of the hype train was felt the most. I feel like these events, especially the more community-focused ones like PAX, have a positive net effect that the industry not only misses but actively needs to stay healthy. The pure joy of playing games with friends, along with the many events and panels that focus on inclusivity and multiculturism are so important that I honestly feel they can be a huge catalyst for wholesale change in our beloved pass time. Is it a quick fix? No, but then education is never the quick way to the finish line.

Looking for the Light
The importance of community-focused events like PAX cannot be overstated.

I sit here, at the end of this article still in the same place. My words, while slightly therapeutic, have in no way solved anything, yet I feel they are still important. This may seem like shouting into the void, but sometimes even old games journo’s like myself need to shout. So here I am, looking for the light in what I love and only finding more problems that need solving. I guess… no, I hope that these words can help, can shed some light or can guide some thought, but if I am honest, it is just another voice in a sea of voices, all looking for some relief from the world at large. Video Games as a whole are flawed and I guess I just have to find some way to reconcile myself with that, trying my best to help fix those flaws along the way. I just hope some of you out there feel the same way and want to join me in this never-ending task.

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