Friday, November 14, 2014

The Digital Divide

Over the past several months, I have grown increasingly distant from videogaming. Although it overtook tabletop gaming as my top hobby throughout my 20's, as I've gotten older, busier, and surrounded by new friends, I have found myself caring far more about tabletop gaming than its digital equivalent.

Last night, I had an hour to myself. Normally, an hour free meant an hour on a video game. Instead? I watched Gotham, then an episode of The Colbert Report after that.

Every afternoon, around 11am, I think about what I'd like to do at lunch. I inevitably think "I should play some more Persona 4 on my Playstation Vita. Or Super Smash Brothers on my 3DS. Or X-Com on my iPad. Every day for the past several weeks, I've chosen instead to read a pdf of a roleplaying game.

A month ago, I went on a mini-shopping spree and spent about $100 in videogames. After not opening several of them for weeks, I finally just took them back to Best Buy, returning about $60 of it.

And, perhaps most damning of all, I decided yesterday that, for Christmas, I would rather upgrade my smartphone (an iPhone 5S) to the latest model, the 6 or 6 Plus (haven't decided which, yet), instead of getting the Xbox One, as I had originally intended.

Videogaming is continuing to lose the battle for both my free time and my expendable income. If I were to look back at the hours I've spent playing, reading, and studying RPGs over the time spent playing or reading about videogames, it's no contest. Videogames in my life are getting increasingly marginalized to a quick time-wasting activity when I'm in an environment where reading is too difficult (like on a crowded bus, or in line at the grocery store). Right now, I consider my Vita my most-used gaming console, and even that isn't saying much.

It's not unusual for me to have rapid shifts in interests. When I was into videogaming, I was almost pendulum-like in the way I'd swing from home consoles to PCs, back and forth. Now that I'm into tabletop gaming, I frequently lean one way or the other between boardgames and roleplaying games. But this somehow feels different. This feels like I'm changing. 

Or maybe I'm not changing. Maybe I'm just finally in an environment where I can be myself. In my 20's, I played so many videogames simply because I had few friends. Now I have several good friends, and meeting new ones is as simple as joining or hosting a meetup group.

Do I have any particular problem with videogames? Absolutely not, although I will say the whole GamerGate thing has strained the already-disdainful attitude I tend to have on many of my fellow gamers. I think, if I had to attribute this seismic shift in interests to anything, it would be two factors: an increasingly strong urge to create, and bonding with friends.

Creation, true acts of creativity and player-driven storytelling, is a concept videogames have yet to compete with. They may never be able to. Yes, there are several games out there that allow you to be very creative. Minecraft immediately jumps to mind. The meta-stories players can tell themselves in epic games like Civilization or X-Com also come up. But there are few, if any, videogames out there that can truly capture the fluid nature of creativity the way a roleplaying game can. Even the most basic adventure I've run or played in within the last year couldn't possibly hope to be emulated in any meaningful way in any of today's existing videogame genres or technology. Even if they could, I wonder how successful they would even be. Many people play videogames to relax and ease their mind, not to continually tax it with creating new things. Minecraft again sprouts up, but the elegant brilliance of that game makes it an exception that proves the rule.

As for community...well, I've written before about the bond a gaming group can forge, and how, from my experience, anything similar in a videogame seems almost pathetic by comparison.

I guess what I'm finding interesting about this is I sit here, and I scan IGN and GameSpot, and I look at where videogames are and where they're going to be further down the road...and I go "meh." Meanwhile, I go to the Fantasy Flight Games website, or the D&D website, and I see what's available now, and the stuff coming down the pipe, and I'm absolutely bouncing in my chair in anticipation. The divide between my videogaming and my tabletop gaming is widening.

Back in the day, I literally could not have imagined a world where I wouldn't be all that interested in videogames. Today, I'm finding it harder to believe I ever liked videogames that much.

I wonder if the bow this elven ranger is using is a +2 Goblinslayer or just a +1 Returning...


  1. I know exactly what you mean - I've got half a dozen or so games that I've been somewhat interested to play, but every time I get to the part of "spend money on this, or get more tabletop stuff" I invariably get more tabletop stuff (Catan, papercraft, stuff for building terrain, etc).

    Also, the only thing that really bothered me about this article? That picture. He'd never be able to hit ANYTHING, because his arrow is on the wrong side of the bow - it would go flying off in a random direction. I HATE when people don't do the research.

  2. Thanks for your thoughts! Sorry the picture bothers you...I was always more of a boomerang man, myself.


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