Press Start!: The Year Spectacle Gaming Died For Me

It’s the end of the year. News is slow. Leisure has temporarily supplanted effort for a majority of people within the comfy confines of the Western world. By the time the gift certificates have been burned and the clothes returned and the sales capitalized upon, we realized it’s no longer Christmas but it is almost assuredly New Year’s Eve. So since everything is but a trickle out of the Echo Chamber’s anus for the past week, I figured it’d be worth mentioning the most notable thing that happened upon my writhing gaming ass in 2011. This was the year spectacle gaming died for me.

I’ve always been up front about my love for the whiz-bang! The high-definition flat plasma 5.1 shake your ovaries action. It isn’t that I don’t appreciate or seek out the smaller, more quiet releases. I’ve just always gotten a kick out of ripping off an artillery shell as my subwoofer sterilizes me and my girlfriend covers her ears and generates a point in the multiverse where she isn’t dating a man-child. I’m unapologetic about it. Throw me on a fucking rollercoaster ride saving the Country from That Eminent Threat. Demolish buildings and grant me access to some roid-headed fuck with phallic gun-saws and let me carve up my fucking duty.

It was always so simple.

This year something happened though. As game after game hobbled through their final installment in the omfgodepic ¬†trilogy, I found myself nonplussed. Gears of War came and went. I did something and stopped someone and it was all very loud and catastrophic and I’m sure excellent. Modern Warfare 3 blew out of the caverns in the side of the wall and fucked me with its guns and demanded that I pay supplication at the altar of Every Awful Action Movie Cliche ever. It was a demand I was expecting, and one that I had been happy to pay in the past. Yet as these titles came out, I feel something different for them. Or rather, I didn’t feel anything. I churned through the set pieces, consuming the garbage time vapors and farting them out almost immediately. Can’t remember what happened. Didn’t hate the games. Was momentarily sort-of entertained. Then they were gone. Apathy. I felt apathy for the enormous zillion-dollar budgeted experiences that I had used to enjoy. Enjoyed for what they were, mind you. I never defended them as high art. Or art at all. I just considered them supplementary titles in my rather (I thought) well-rounded diet. Fuck if I can play Braid and Bastion and Limbo and Portal 2 and throw down money for El Shaddai and Child of Eden and regret even more indie titles I haven’t played then I can totally definitely indulge in some fat-headed red-blooded roid-necked nonsense. ¬†Rationalization a-go-go!

Something was amiss though. The spectacle didn’t do anything for me. I said maybe it’s just the titles. Then I hit a buzzsaw. Uncharted 3. Franchise I loved. Love. Maybe still. Same thing happened though. Played through it, its scenarios involving Something Crumbling and People Shooting and the game’s Camera Tilting. Then it ended. I sort of shrugged, felt a sadness at my own apathy and moved on. It seemed that my days in the Spectacle of Gaming was coming to an end.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate Spectacle. I do. I just don’t think it is enough to carry the load for me anymore. It can’t be a primary source of entertainment in a game. Maybe. Or maybe its that by the third installment of the same franchise in one generation I’ve already memorized the polygonal nooks and crannies of the title’s labia. Noted over and over the wart on the base of their shaft where it used to tickle the roof of my mouth. I’m bored now, man. Bored.

Conversely, my favorite title of the year was still big budget. Blow-out advertisements all up and down ESPN like a mofuckah’. Gorgeous graphics. Widescreen. 5.1. You know the game of which I speak. Fucking Skyrim. However this joint didn’t bore me. It engrossed me. My ADD-fueled brain was somehow capable of pouring hour after hour into a solitary adventure in a subdued environment. Fuck man!, I scaled hills for hours on foot taking in scenery. See, while all the titles I’ve mentioned have been gargantuan-budgeted monstrosities, Skyrim offered something the others didn’t.

A fucking experience. That I built myself. The Spectacle Gaming is predicated on Rails and Shows. Inherent within it are set pieces that are meticulously designed. Shit is Blowing Up and Falling Down and people are certainly Yelling. As I said, it all got a bit tiring. Skyrim was different. It was an experience generated by my own dumb ass. Fall down a hill, kill my horse. Then a dragon swoops down. It’s fucking on! The villagers are helping and all of a sudden I’m accidentally lighting them on fire and now they’re attacking me, the dragon is attacking them, and I’m having to stave off both parties. The sort of intense experience that was solely my own. An experience among thousands of others that gamers came together to share across Reddit and message boards and other dives and hideouts for dorks like moi.

For the first time in a while – for me, mayhaps you’re more liberated than me – I was generating my own Spectacle. Out of the roller coaster holder and back into the controls. It felt good. It was dope.

2011 was the year spectacle gaming died for me. Died in its ability to carry own the experience unto itself. Where it could be the requisite ingredient for my enjoyment. I don’t begrudge you if you dug the titles I smeared a bit of smegma on. I didn’t hate them. They just left me hollow, wanting to feel something more than slight enjoyment as I whittled away hours off my Mortal Clock. Maybe you’ve felt this way for a while and you color me the fool. God knows you’d be right. Maybe you don’t feel this way and you’re considering me a Bemoaning Douche. Fair again. But this was what I took away from 2011.

Happy New Year’s, I’ll see you in the Year of the Apocalypse.