Pushing Buttons: Why There’s Still a Weird Social Stigma About Playing Games | Games


Welcome to Pushing Buttons, the Guardian’s gaming newsletter. If you’d like to receive it in your inbox every week, just insert your email below – and check your inbox (and spam) for the confirmation email.

Sign up for Pushing Buttons, our weekly guide to video game news.

Today’s newsletter is inspired by an email from Iain Noble (hello again, Iain!), who wrote to me with a question that made me think of something that’s been on my mind lately . Iain wrote: “One of the criticisms I often hear from non-gamers is that video games are very repetitive. Granted, there’s an element of truth to the fact that many games require a bit of work to level up characters, earn money, and get gear. Do you think there’s a specific personality type that’s okay with this, much like rats repeatedly pressing the same button for a reward? »

This question reminds me of a story my partner tells about his grandfather’s reaction to video games in 1983: “Is it just pushing buttons, innit? (That was the partial inspiration for the name of this newsletter, by the way.) I mean, he’s not wrong, in a way, but also, it’s like saying that reading books, it’s just turning pages. When you don’t fully understand something, what you see on the outside is just a series of bewildering actions. If you don’t care about tennis, it’s just two people hitting the ball; if it matters to you, and especially if you know about it, it’s a battle of wills, a dramatic tactical dance.

A few weeks ago I answered a question from a reader who was reprimanded by his boss for playing on his Nintendo Switch on his lunch break, and a few readers got in touch to share their own stories about the strange social stigma that – again! – sometimes comes with the games. “Talk about this book or that one, discuss the merits or not of Netflix’s latest murder porn if you like, talk about sports – any sport – endlessly and at length, but say a word about the how deeply engrossed you are in the latest interactive masterpiece and you might as well have sighed violently for the looks you get,” wrote Steve Holmes, who also says eyebrows were raised when he asked Elden Ring for its 50th anniversary. The thing is that almost all seems boring and inexplicable if you look from the outside and don’t understand it. To people who don’t understand games, it probably sounds like we’re just rats pushing buttons.

But an athlete or a musician also does the same things over and over again, when they train – and they find meaning, pleasure and satisfaction in it. In games, we often develop a skill, whether we’re playing Street Fighter or Fifa or bumping into the same boss in Dark Souls. And some people find it soothing to do the same tasks over and over again for a predictable reward. Every gamer has a different tolerance for repetition in video games, and I think it comes down to personality. Some of us can devote ourselves to repetitive tasks such as finding XP, farming for gear, or beating a high score, and be proud of the result; others, like me, are novelty seekers, always looking for a new experience or a new challenge.

How we play games often reflects our approach to life in general and where we find our joy. One of the benefits of games is that they allow us to express and explore who we are and how we like to behave in all sorts of interesting contexts. I definitely don’t feel like a rat in a cage when I play them (unless I’m playing something awful in free-to-play that won’t let me continue unless I pay some money, and if so, I’m going to stop playing pretty soon). I feel like an adventurer, an explorer. It may feel like I’m pushing buttons, but I’m actually learning, thinking, experimenting, reacting. I might even improve, if developing superhuman Guitar Hero skills or crafting a full set of Rathalos armor in Monster Hunter counts as self-improvement.

So, no, I don’t think you need a high repetition tolerance to enjoy video games. The main difference between people who understand video games and those who dislike them isn’t personality, in my experience – it’s exposure. If people cared to take a closer look at games and the people who play them, they’d see that it’s so much more than pressing buttons.

what to play

Blockbuster… This week find LEGO Builder’s Journey Photography: Light Brick Studio

An atmospheric and emotionally unexpected puzzle game, The LEGO Builder’s Journey tells a story about growing up and what it means to be a parent using minimalist blocks. Each level is a Lego diorama that you can modify – or solve – by moving a few bricks. Where most Lego sets are showy, enjoyable slapstick take on giant movie and entertainment franchises, this one is more like something a bunch of art school students came up with at a jam gaming experience. It’s exceptionally relaxing and tactile, with soothing sound and a calm aesthetic. This game has been around for a few years, but it just released on PlayStation this week – I’m glad more people can play it now.

Available on: iPhone/iPad, PC/Mac, Nintendo Switch, Xbox, PlayStation
Approximate playing time: two o’clock

What to read

  • Rockstar has removal of transphobic cartoons of the latest Grand Theft Auto V remasters, following a campaign by LGBTQ developer group Out Making Games.

  • Fans of the darkest era in Sega history, rejoice: Dreamcast icons Jet Set Radio and Crazy Taxi are set for big-budget reboots, according to Bloomberg.

  • Proving that people really will do anything to make life difficult for themselves, an Elden Ring speedrunner managed to complete Elden Ring using only a ground move. Or, as Kotaku puts it: Elden Ring Speedrunner kills the toughest bosses with only his ass.

  • Pokemon Go creator Niantic is making an AR virtual pet game called Peridot, where you explore the real world alongside adorable creatures. As a member of the Tamagotchi and Pokémon generation, I resign myself to wasting weeks on this.

What to click

‘I need various games!’ How an angry tweet became a life-changing moment

A500 Mini review – the little Commodore Amiga is a rugged piece of tech nostalgia

Kirby and the Forgotten Land review – the pink, blobby hug is an eerie burst of joy in dark times

TechScape: Will the video game industry one day be confronted with its carbon footprint?

Block of questions

Today’s question is from James Brewer: “I used to love playing on my PC (and SNES if we go back that far!), especially games like the Kings Quest series, Monkey Island and 7th Guest/11th Hour. I’ve been trying to get back into the game recently but haven’t found anything that appeals to me other than Uncharted. Are there any games or series that you would recommend? »

The point-and-click adventure game genre that captured you in the 90s sort of died out for a while, but good news: it’s back now. broken agewhich is part of the first wave of adventure gaming’s return, is a wonderful, surreal story with an excellent cast. Thimbweed Park could scratch that same itch. I never played The Book of Unwritten Tales, but it’s a fantastic comedy game that my friends who love adventure games talk about fondly. The first series of Telltale games were landmark narrative games, especially The Walking Dead – they don’t have puzzles, really, but they’re definitely part of the same family tree as Monkey Island et al. For a series it’s nothing but atmospheric puzzles, look Bedroom. And because you also enjoyed Uncharted, I think you’d be up for more action games with gripping action, weird puzzles, and decent stories: try the 2013 grave robber restart and The Rise of the Tomb Raider (but not Shadow of the Tomb Raider, this game is a mess). And because it has a surreal air of mystery, like Kings Quest, you might like the spooky English narrative adventure Everybody’s gone for the abduction. I will also recommend Gate and Portal 2if you missed them back then, just because everyone in the world should be playing them.


Comments are closed.