9 November 2008





Part 6: U R MR GAY

The modern gaming PC is an amazing piece of hardware. With much more raw power than any console, capable of far superior graphics and glorious surround sound, equipped with near-infinite versatility of control and able to access data with lightning speed from massive hard drives, the PC is the greatest games machine in the world. Or at least, it would be if it wasn’t for YOU.

Despite what the growing armies of sour-faced PC owners reading this column might believe, I actually do enjoy spending money to pit my wits against other people in contests of skill and chance from the comfort of my own home using my PC. However, since I have no fascination for elves or dragons, I like to fulfil this desire not by participating in some sub-sub-sub-Tolkien virtual fantasy world, but by playing online poker. (I also like having the opportunity to frequently come away with more money than I went in with, rather than just dumbly handing over £200 a year, along with millions of other saps, for someone to run a server.) Arguably the most famous poker player in the world is an American called Doyle “Texas Dolly” Brunson, a 75-year-old man who’s played the game for over two-thirds of his entire life and shows no sign of giving it up, even though he ceased needing the money long ago. Questioned on the subject, Brunson famously gave this explanation:

“We don’t stop playing because we get old – we get old because we stop playing.”

Now, you’d imagine that out of pretty much everyone in the world, grown-up videogamers would get that message better than anyone. But when I look through the pages of serious PC gaming mags like TPCG, the word “play” seems to me to be just about the furthest concept from anyone’s mind. Now, in this column we’ve already touched on the bizarre obsession that PC gamers seem to have with simulating some kind of miserable real-life work rather than playing games for their own sake, but there’s a deeper, more fundamental side to their apparent hatred of fun, and it’s this: the pathological, hysterical fear that someone, somewhere might see them as “childish”.

Because for a terrifyingly high percentage of self-styled “hardcore” PC gamers, the PC isn’t just a box of electronics that makes pretty lights move around on a screen – it’s a totem of adulthood. It’s complex, it’s technical, it has an “operating system”, it requires regular maintenance. It fulfils the same purpose that cars or hi-fis did in the 60s and 70s (and still do to some extent, of course) – a focus of primarily male bonding, an exclusionary club where the ignorant masses can be sneered at from a pedestal of arcane knowledge. Find yourself in an internet “debate” about the merits of PCs versus consoles as gaming platforms and just about the first thing you’ll be guaranteed to hear from the PC side is the dismissal of consoles as “toys”, as if that was somehow a bad thing.

But to PC nerds it is, because “toys” means “play”, and “play” means “child” and “child” is embarrassing. Which is why, despite its absolutely massive sales, the epically popular Sims series is almost always treated with condescension and scorn by magazine-reading PC gamers, who instead flock to buy “serious” and “grown-up” games like World In Conflict: Soviet Assault, Battlestations: Pacific or Turning Point: Fall Of Liberty.

And while there’s no arguing with the point that The Sims is in essence nothing but a glorified doll’s house, how is that fundamentally any more childish than grown men playing with a bunch of little toy soldiers? And if even an old-fashioned Stetson-wearing Texan redneck like Doyle Brunson can still happily embrace his inner child, maybe you should be wondering why you have such a problem with it.

Stuart Campbell loves consoles so much he’s probably going to marry them. Stuart and consoles, sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G. You can read more of his console-loving heresies in our fabulous sister publication Retro Gamer.

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