On the most recent episode of The Secret Cabal Gaming Podcast, at least as of this writing, they had a discussion about gateway games and where you go with people who have played gateway games and want to go further.
Honestly, maybe I’m not a hobbyist gamer, I don’t know. It is one of my hobbies. It is not something that I am fanatical about. I am fanatical about nothing. I have a lot of hobbies, none of them are things which I spend all of my time on or focus on to the exclusion of all else. In fact, I don’t even understand people who spend all of their time fantasizing about playing games or collecting stamps or reading books or whatever. These are things that I use to fill my free time, things which I get enjoyment out of, but not things that I would ever focus on like I see so many people do.
Yes, I’ve talked about this before but I keep running into people who make me scratch my head. Are there people with one and only one hobby? Seriously? Do they really have a single interest and no others?
It certainly seems so, to listen to them. These are people who spend virtually all of their free time on one and only one obsession, the collecting, playing and consideration of games. They’re not alone, there are people who do the same thing about stamps and action figures and birds and the like, I’ve talked at length about that but I just don’t get it. Maybe I’m missing the obsession gene, just like I’m missing the addiction gene. I don’t get fanatical about anything in my life, there is no one thing that I focus on to the exclusion of all else and I can’t remember a time in my life that I ever have, yet I see it all the time. Take MMOs. If you read any MMO-centric forums, you’ll find tons of people who hate modern MMOs. They complain about then endlessly, they say they hate everything about them, but they’re the first ones to buy every single new MMO on the market because they can’t imagine not playing MMOs. They play every single game out there and complain about them all too. When you suggest that they take a break or go find something else to do, they look at you in horror. Not play an MMO every single day? The hell you say! The same is true of board gamers. They are utterly fanatical. They buy things they will never play, just to have it on their shelf, then they will complain that they have so many games they haven’t played. They will buy things, just to have them, even knowing that they will hate the game itself. It isn’t rocket science to only buy things that you think will appeal to you, but no, these people have severe acquisition disorder (their words) and will happily tell you that they are addicted to buying games they will never play. Sure, that makes the manufacturers happy, they’ll continue to play on the addiction and put out more and more games and point to more and more Kickstarter projects that these mindless idiots will buy because they exist, not because they’re good. What’s worse, these people will tell you how happy they are to be addicted, it’s like the alcoholic being overjoyed that alcohol controls their life. You can’t get better until you admit you have a problem but these people just don’t want to get better.
I’ve never been like that. You might call me a casual hobbyist but I prefer to think of myself as a sane hobbyist. Hobbies are supposed to be things that you enjoy doing in your free time, not things that completely and totally take over your life. I find it hard to find other people like me who are not only casual in their outlook, but who are willing to spend time talking about the things that they enjoy. It seems like virtually all of the forums and communities online are made up of the crazed fanatics who think only of their singular obsession and not about having a well-balanced life beyond their interests. In fact, I’m not so attached to my hobbies that I can’t imagine not being actively involved all the time. I stopped collecting stamps between the time I was maybe 18 until I turned 30, then I stopped again from the time I was maybe 35 until I was 42. I haven’t bought a single stamp in about a year, not because I haven’t wanted to but it hasn’t been a priority. Ordering online isn’t all that much fun for me for collectibles, I like the thrill of the hunt and there isn’t anywhere to really hunt around here. Even the few stamp shows are pathetic. I’m waiting to find some other way to get the excitement. For action figures, I walked away about the time Iron Man came out, having collected almost all of the figures for that movie. It wasn’t until Iron Man 2 came out that I returned but that was short lived, I lasted maybe another year or two, not even until Iron Man 3, before I decided it was no longer for me. MMOs, I haven’t had one installed in more than a year. It’s just not fun anymore. Even video games in general, I don’t play all that often. After finishing Shadow Warrior, which Hausdorff suggested, I did nothing for a couple of weeks, then installed the new Tomb Raider and have been playing that now and then. On consoles, I’ve been working through Bioshock Infinite again, I’ve played an hour or two here and there but most weeks, I don’t bother at all. I have other things to do and I’m not fanatical about any of these things. I don’t go into withdrawal if I’m not constantly involved, if I’m not constantly acquiring new things, if I’m not thinking about them 24/7. I honestly think there are far too many people involved in the various fandoms that really need professional psychological help. One should not be proud of their addiction.
Getting back to the Secret Cabal, they kept talking about scaring people away from hobbyist gaming, how many people just didn’t want to keep learning the rules to new games over and over. I can understand that, I don’t want to keep learning the rules to new games either. I get games that I think will appeal to me. I play games more than once, which seems to be a big no-no for a lot of hobbyist gamers. They want to constantly acquire new games, far more than they can either play and certainly not that they can play more than a handful of times. On the podcast, they talked about someone who had played a game 12 times and that was some huge revelation. There aren’t many games that I own that I’ve played less than 20-30 times and I don’t plan on stopping. Why? Because I don’t fill my gaming shelves with every new game that comes out. Last year, they estimate that more than 600 games game out. How many did I buy? A handful. That’s it. That’s what appealed to me, yet far too many people are involved in the cult of the new and have to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars on new games, just so they can say they have them. Yes, if I had a group of people who were constantly trying to get me to play a new game, several in an evening, every single time I saw them, I think I’d run away too. This is yet another area in which I just don’t fit in with the fandom.
Still, it is a big disconcerting to realize that you have no place and no part in any of the online fandoms because you’re too normal. What does that say about the state of fandom in general? Nothing good, I can assure you.