Gaming – A Passionate Introspection

Opinion, Personal

Think of the one thing you like to do more than anything else in the entire plethora of available possibilities. Have you noticed how niche and complex any discipline is when you decide to deep dive into its intricacies? If there is that one thing you can put a finger on which makes you want to drop everything you are doing and do that instead, then you have a passion. My passion is gaming.

The video game industry of today looks nothing like it did 10 years ago. Gone are low-tech games and disconnected users. Today’s video game players are of all ages, demographic and geographic backgrounds. And there’s a lot of money at stake.

I have grown to despise the word ‘gaming’ solely due to the connotations of its etymology. A game is not the same as a sport; hence the word gaming doesn’t draw the respect it deserves. The root cause of this stems from the fact that most non-gamers have a very clichéd perspective of gaming. Super Mario, Pac-Man, Pong, Minesweeper, Snake, and Tetris—while all games, great games–and important milestones in the path leading to what gaming is today—in no way represent the era of new age Electronic Sports. The association of the word sport to gaming is already raising eyebrows. How different are the two in reality? It is mission impossible for me to provide a concrete explanation to someone who has never had the desire to play a game—but maybe a very superficial analysis will make some sense. Chess is without any doubt a sport, a highly competitive and intellectual sport for that matter. If you’ve ever tried your hand at it—shame on you if you haven’t—you’d know that Chess is a turn based game. Now consider playing a game of Chess in real time, where you not only have to outwit your opponent, but be physically quicker. You need to think on your feet and be dexterous enough to move your piece before your opponent, all within the confines of the rules and limitations of the game. Would you not call this a sport, possibly more challenging than the original? When asked to describe DOTA, my favorite game, I tell people, playing DOTA is like playing 5 games of chess, in real time, simultaneously.

One of my favorite pursuits other than gaming is to watch videos of games just as I would say a TV show. One day on being approached by a colleague, I was quite taken aback when he questioned my level-headedness on the subject of watching a live stream of a competitive DOTA game online. My immediate retort was—well you enjoy watching football don’t you?—to which he replied—it’s not the same. But you see it is the same. Watching two teams of five synergized players go at it against each other at a game (sport) that involves excruciatingly demanding mental and physical skill is no different than watching a game of football or cricket on TV. The only difference being that, as a spectator sport games are much more demanding of viewers who are required to have an established knowledge base and understanding of game mechanics as a prerequisite to truly enjoy the experience. Seems to me like gamers don’t get the credit they more than deserve from society.

But what is it about gaming that makes it so attractive, yet reaches out to only a niche audience and demographic? At a very cynical but unfeigned level, gaming provides a virtual universe that allows you to escape from the real world for as long as one chooses. Social degenerates are what make up a thick layer of gamers. It provides a safe house for like-minded individuals who share a feeling of being judged by society. A world that offers measurable and guaranteed success—provided the investment of time. A world which provides you with the anonymity and freedom to carefully choose your friends and rebuke publically, your enemies, without the annoyance of repercussions that would ensue in the real world; A world where life comes with a switch and a reset button complimentary on the house.

Now you’d be a very shallow person if you thought that was all there was to know about gamers, confirming your initial speculation. But this is where you as a non-gamer will be surprised. Gamers have and will always have, a mammoth egotism complex, stemming from a common love for all things cerebral. And it is this love that b(l)inds them, making them indifferent to anything that society might deem the norm but gamers deem absurd. Unfortunately this indifferent attitude is our downfall, making us seem reclusive and weird. Truth is an avoided altercation is better than a fruitless one. And so we move along, living our own lives, in the confines of our own little heads, seeking some respite in a fantasy world where we get the respect we merit.

I guess all I truly desire from this article is to instill in you a little deference towards gamers, what they love to do, the people they are, and the people they want to be. Gaming today is a sport, an Electronic Sport that involves the steepest learning curve I have known and a tremendously fulfilling experience towards the end. Though I won’t lie, gaming in India as a sport is still a farfetched hope, not to say that we aren’t getting there but as a career option you’d probably want to look at something else you really enjoy doing.

The Electronic Sports scene abroad however paints a very different picture. Almost every other noteworthy nation already has for itself a thriving gaming scene with America, Europe and Asia being driven with a heavy capital backing from big names in the gaming hardware industry as well as game developers itself who have realized that pumping money into the system is an investment that provides consistent paybacks in lump sums. It’s a shame that gaming and its happenings operate at a seemingly underground level leaving its laurels unnoticed and unaccounted for, but maybe you’ll believe me when I tell you that the net worth of the global gaming industry as of June 2011 is a whopping USD $65 billion as compared to the music industry with USD $40 billion and the movie industry which comes in at a relatively meager USD $27 billion. Game sales have outpaced movies for some time now. Call of Duty: Black Ops, which took in over USD $650 million of sales in the game’s first five days, set a five-day global record for a movie, book or videogame. The game’s income was more than the opening weekend of Spider-man 3. In Korea the average gamer makes more than the average Korean and that’s saying something, and a little more. World of Warcraft, a popular MMORPG boasts of 10.2 million active subscribers, well below its peak. DOTA, a well-known MOBA game has an estimated 20 million and growing audience. Minecraft, well.. it’s Minecraft! A certain iloveoov Choi Yunsung, a professional StarCraft player from Korea has an estimated annual salary of $450,000, and that doesn’t include his winnings. I want you to pause and think about what you just read. Have you ever thought that perhaps, just perhaps, you as a non-gamer might be the odd one out?

Today morning I recorded 1000 hours of DOTA. While a great accomplishment, deserving of the praise it pulls in from fellow comrades and something I’ve been looking forward to as an achievement, I thought it only befitting to honor the milestone with for the lack of a better word, an experiment. Gaming like anything else has its bitter sweet implications. For me personally it interferes with my want to pursue other activities, like reading, writing, learning, making something of myself. For others the social inadequacy that comes with being a gamer seems to be a point of dispute. I don’t think you can quit gaming. I don’t see any reason you should. A friend of mine for some time now has been trying relentlessly to quit gaming and pursue an ‘adult’ life. But I know there’s no turning back. He like me, shares a love for the intellect and why should you for any reason stop doing something that makes you happy? I’d do it till my very existence is questioned, maybe even after?

So a break then, 30 days in my opinion should suffice.

In the words of one of the few women in my life, “Facing a world outside gaming can be very scary”. Beats me how she knew. Not that I’d ever admit it.