Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Sins of Today’s Gaming Elite, or The Angry Rants of A[n ex-] Girl-Gamer After CoD: MW2

call of smash bros For the past week I’ve had a squatter in my house.

He’s the worst kind, too. He’s that big-spending, TV-monopolizing gamer who takes over your living room, and then plunges you into deep inner conflict by being really polite. The worst part is the endless flow of cash and time that he has for video games, causing you to rage with jealousy over his vast collection (bitterly hiding it because he shares it with you), while simultaneously feeling secretly grateful that you have a life.

Last weekend he brought home not only The Prestige Edition of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, but also the MW2 limited edition Xbox 360 console. While this site has its ancestry in gaming and I thus assume most writers and readers understand what this entails, I will elaborate.

The themed limited edition Xbox 360 is aimed at cashing in on trigger-happy fans looking to replace or upgrade an outdated console, featuring an “exclusive design” inspired by the “epic thriller,” a ramped-up 250 GB hard drive, two wireless controllers, a headset, and a copy of the game itself, all for just $399.00.

The Prestige Edition of MW2 includes the game disk, a hard cover book of production art, and FULLY FUNCTIONING NIGHT VISION GOGGLES!!!, all wrapped up in lovely collectors casing for the low price of $149.99, a mere $90.99 above the standalone game disk and only $69.99 more than the Collector’s Edition.

Gamer boys and collar-popped bros everywhere would have begged to take the entire collection up to their bedrooms for some “private time” after they had finished wiping the drool off their extra chins and polo shirts, respectively

Let me preface my alarm by recognizing the conditional nature of my perspective. First, I am a girl, and as the only bearer of two X-chromosomes currently writing for this blog, I represent a unique position. And yes, as a girl, I have a negative predisposition towards most war-themed first-person shooters that strike me as disturbingly violent opportunities to assert masturbatory male dominance, growing more alarming the more believably they reflect what real people go through in real war while still maintaining appropriate distance from the darker aspects of that reality.

With that in mind I pose this question, expressing my bewilderment with the reckless abuse of structure and end-punctuation: “NIGHT VISION GOGGLES?! REALLY?!?!

It’s not enough that traditional console games isolate the budget gamer with their price tag of $50+, but this exorbitant abuse of testosterone is ludicrous. Reviewers at male-driven gaming sites can only dribble spit over their keyboards as they cry “it’s the cheapest pair of NVGs on the market!”

Because clearly no household is complete without this important staple!

Am I surprised that owning NVGs is a massive part of perpetuating the masculine wet-dream of video-game soldiering? No. But that doesn’t stop me from fem-raging about it.

I tried them on before I judged them, and as a physicist, I found them relatively cool…for about 90 seconds. Seeing as how most of us live in urban or suburban area filled with enough light pollution to see just fine in the dark, they are of no practical use whatsoever…except perhaps for turning the lights on when your friends are wearing them so that their retinas burn out. Oh, and they’ll be great when the Zombie Apocalypse comes.

In a concession, this guy was in possession of two broken consoles, so he needed a replacement, and why not fork out the extra cash to get the larger hard drive with wireless controllers? Maybe he can sell his extra copy of the game and make back some of his $600. DID I MENTION HE LIVES ON MY COUCH?

I am a girl-gamer at heart. Unfortunately, somewhere during high school I started spending my own money and developing self-motivated, hard-nosed goals in athletics and academics that slowed down my gaming pace, and I quickly fell behind. Now I am that well-intentioned girl who always likes to play, but is never quite good enough to compete at the higher levels. Sometimes it’s hilarious when I fall off Rainbow Road 6,520,982 times, other times it’s really, really annoying.

Sometimes I think about getting back into dedicated console gaming, but it’s such a mine-field, and guys like my couch-surfer are bright red flags. I feel like that world has flown by me, and I have so much catching-up to do that I might as well drop out of the race and fully relinquish the girl-gamer designation. Not only would the price tag of re-investing be outrageous (while my household sports nine consoles and five TVs between five [six] housemates, I own none of them personally, and most of them are occupied for most of the day), but the time-investment is just galling. I’m still inching my way through the glory-days of PS2 games on the weekends, and there’s a library of epic titles between me and any new releases. And forget sequels. Learning a new game in a series without learning its predecessors is like trying to get your non-gamer girlfriend to play Smash Bros Brawl with a group of fervent trilogy dedicates.

I believe that the casual gamer is being ostracized by the rapid growth of the visual entertainment market and its consumers. Guys like my new housemate make it nearly impossible for me to jump back into the raging white-water of video games without being swept under the current. Because his lucrative cash flow must be constantly satiated with newer, bigger, better, and best, I am passed by because I have shallow pockets and deep priorities. While the indie game movement has tried to reach out to me with its 10-dollar/10-hour peace offerings, that culture is so vast and complex that it is its own form of intimidating.

I understand that I’m talking about the sequel to the best selling first-person action game in history, and I don’t disparage its quest for profit nor do I tout it as the representative of all games. I am not a profitable customer, I know that. Yet I see myself facing a line of Blue Falcons hurtling down a speedway, and as they pass by me I wonder: It is worth trying to catch a hold of one, Falcon-punching my way back to the top, or do I let go and fly off the screen forever?