Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Ombudsman's Address

I used to be with it, but then they changed what it was. Now what I'm with isn't it, and what's it seems weird and scary to me, and it'll happen to you, too.
-- Abraham Simpson

The greatest and worst thing about the Internet is that its users can have anonymity (although that anonymity is slowly but surely becoming increasingly rarer, for better or ill). We can use PCs or mobile devices to submit information about ourselves that we might not otherwise offer were it not for anonymity, which is unquestionably a good thing. Someone suffering from suicidal ideation, for example, is able to seek solace and like-minded comfort, ideally, in communities across the world and concentrated via the Internet, whereas that cry for empathy might not be possible locally and without Web anonymity. On the other hand, the ability to lack a true identity on the Internet can, and has, enabled criminals ranging from identity thieves to pedophiles.

That's the sticky wicket ("Everyone, remain calm, and BE AT YOUR PERIL!"). Hopefully, an accord will be reached in that regard in the coming decades (centuries?), although I admit I'm wearing my optimist cap on that while my pessimist pants are around my ankles.

I'm not ready to try to square off with that behemoth, but one thing I would appreciate would be to know the ages of people who anonymously write comments on Web forums, particularly video game sites*. See, I've become increasingly aware that, like most forms of entertainment that came before it, gaming has -- and has for some time, actually; I'm just now realizing it -- become a barometer for young people to compartmentalize coolness, a cliquish and myopic way to identify oneself. Jocks, nerds, metal heads: these are the reductive labels of my youth. Now, it seems in gaming that you're not a "true gamer" if you enjoy playing Angry Birds or Nintendogs**. And that's so depressing to me.

Fun is fun, whether it involves shooting a plumber from a cannon, hiding from enemies in a cardboard fruit box, eating blue ghosts, or tapping on your smartphone to help keep a disgustingly ugly bird alight (and everything else before, after, and in between).

I grew up in the Golden Axe-Age of gaming, and I'll tell you this: You aren't defined by the games you play. There were shitty games then, and there are shitty games now, but the difference is that no one gave any thought to games that other people found enjoyable. Hell, I can't stand F2P games like Candy Crush Saga and Clash of Clans, but other people really like those games, and that's great! They are having fun! That's gaming!

Why would anyone spend so much mental energy to hate what goes on on another person's game device? We're all gamers, after all.

* YouTube and Yahoo! comment sections are lost causes at this point, the zombie apocalypse of Web discussion, the Ground Zero of intelligent discourse.

** I like both of those games, motherfucker, and I beat Contra 4.

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