Gamers, being the kind of people who take on seemingly impossible challenges at great personal (and financial) risk, have a reputation of being quick to gripe and overly defensive. Especially in the face of that most heinous of insult: mild internet criticism. However, in this burgeoning holiday season, gamers truly have a lot to be thankful for as gaming’s current boom has shown no sign of abating. So at this time of year, let’s take a moment to think about just how good we have it, and give thanks.
Be Thankful for: Checkpoint Saves
Title: Any Call of Duty game played on Veteran difficulty
There was a time, as your gaming elders have probably droned on endlessly about, that death in video games was more like ‘real death.’ A time when making a mistake could not only put you back at the start of an entire level, but often to the title screen. Today you’re unlucky if you get sent back more than a whole minute of gameplay, granting you the opportunity to figure out how to safely negotiate any firefight like it was a sliding block puzzle or an elaborate dance routine.
Be Thankful for: Motion Controllers
System: Wiimotes, the PlayStation Move, Kinect
The movie TRON, the holodecks of Star Trek: The Next Generation and dozens of similar works of science fiction have all laid the foundation in young minds that someday gaming will be an all-encompassing experience. But for the longest time the closest we ever came was the U-Force. When the Wii was launched in 2006 it was met with patronizing skepticism from hardcore gamers and the other console developers, but it’s broad appeal and lower price point made it the best selling console of the current generation. A few years later, similar technology (Move/Kinect) appeared that could allow all to not only experience motion controls, but for young gamers, use the perfect excuse to avoid having to stop playing: “BUT MOM, IT’S EXERCISE!”
Be Thankful for: Online Strategy Guides
Title: Any RPG or Adventure title
The days of endlessly beating your figurative head against a wall trying to beat that one boss or finding your way out of a maze by yourself are largely over. What started as schoolyard chatter and random tips printed in gaming magazines has evolved into a vast network of information. There is little doubt that tips, tricks and walkthroughs for video games have become the second most popular thing to search for on the internet. Legions of gamers eager to prove just how much better they than you spend countless hours of their own free time documenting almost every element of almost every game from the moment of the game’s release. Often times, much to the chagrin of the publishers of retail strategy guides, for no compensation other than personal satisfaction.
Be Thankful for: Voice Chat Mute
Title: Halo: Reach
It is said that familiarity breeds contempt, but the reality is that familiarity can’t hold a candle to anonymity as far as generating interpersonal ill-will. Some of humanities’ best, most enjoyable endeavors are performed communally (or at least in discreet pairs). A group of people aligned in common cause can perform tasks that are impossible solo. The same goes for online gaming, as massive multiplayer games can deliver the kind of action that is impossible to program in single player, and through the technology of voice chat, the experience can be enhanced, tactics can be shared and friendships built. However, there is the risk that your next match will connect you to a gamer who thinks he’s the next Justin Beiber, is arguing with his parents over his bedtime or knows exactly what is wrong with modern society and is willing to share his theory with everyone at length. Or worse. That’s when the gamer, with the aid of a wise developer’s foresight, can enter a simple button combo and forever silence the offending party, leaving them forever listening to the only thing they want to hear, their own voice.
Be Thankful for: Critics of Gaming
Title: Every game, ever.
Though probably apocryphal, the philosopher Voltaire said: "I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: 'O Lord, make my enemies ridiculous.” ‘Enemies’ is a bit of a strong term, but it applies loosely at least to those who, even after over 30 years since its inception, see gaming only as a corrupting influence on society. Their crusade on behalf of the mental well being of those who do not agree with them is nothing new, it even goes further back than the efforts to ban rock ‘n roll music and pinball, with similar results. In 1497 Europe, Girolamo Savonarola, during his so-called ‘Bonfire of the Vanities” destroyed not just works of art, but anything that he and his followers felt would lead people into sin, like playing cards and chess sets. The continued existence of sculpture and Euchre gives proof through the annals of time that the ridiculous critics of gaming are forever doomed to fail.What are you thankful for, gamers?