On Gaming.

At the end of last year I made the decision to actively take a step back from “Strategy Twitter“. The White Male Opinions™️ can get tiresome – and they nearly always follow the same pattern. It’s telling that the last – I think five? – muted accounts on Twitter all fall under that description. There’s nothing quite like opening Twitter, seeing something decent, you click to open the thread, and before you know it there are three white male opinions arguing over the semantics or, y’know, ‘playing devil’s advocate’. Y-a-w-n. So this year I made the choice to lean into my passion, and tweet/write about gaming instead.

So here’s some stuff on that.

I’m not sure when it started.

Well, that’s not true. I do know when it actually started. The Atari 5200 was when it started. Specifically, this model (because I can just about make out the far reaches of my memory the overlay cards for the joysticks).

They were fascinating.

I barely remember the games. I think we had ET (who didn’t?), a tank game as well, definitely. It was my sister’s machine, not mine, but that’s when it started.

No, I mean leaning in to gaming and making it more of who I am and what I put out into the world.

Three things maybe.

First: I’ve always been a gamer. Atari 5200. Nintendo Entertainment System (the ‘NES’), then the SNES, GameCube (this was when the online fun started – finding friends on forums that had bought an Action Replay, subsequently imported Animal Crossing and then got themselves banned from the official Nintendo forums for trading pink sofas on a game not out in the UK – you know who you are), then the Wii, Xbox 360 (I was a signed up Wii60er), then the PS4 – my first PlayStation – and up to now, where I’m old enough and earn enough for it to be: ‘yeah, just about everything but PC’.

But that brief history is a) not why we’re here and b) a longer post for another day. The point is: I’ve always been a gamer.

Second: It’s true to say that the arrival of the PS4 unlocked a new community of gaming and gamers for me. From forums to Facebook groups, WhatsApp chats to annual IRL meetups – the community of people I game with are second to none. This is helpful because it’s also true to say that a mental health problem a few years back gave me time to explore and dive into spending more time with and understanding myself. Gaming – and the friends I found there – was a part of that too.

Fast forward to today and I have a solid clan of good people, a healthy rhythm of play, and access to amazing games with challenges and gameplay loops that forge long-lasting friendships and memories.

But what else of today? Well, in case you’ve missed it (or frankly, just simply been unable to get your hands on one yet) there’s the next generation of consoles arriving. Hella useful when there’s a global requirement for something to do when you can’t go outside.

Combine that with [the rest of the world waking up to] “GAMING” as an entertainment format coming of age – which leads me to my third thing – it means there’s a level of social acceptance that comes with owning up to being ‘a gamer’.

I mean, there’s ‘I play a bit of FIFA at the weekend’ levels of being a gamer, and then there’s ‘I play so much Destiny that I’ve got a dedicated game night, a handful of real-life medals, and a raid jacket‘. It’s all gaming. From a skillset perspective, I would still argue I’m bang average but on the spectrum of casual-hardcore, I’m definitely to the right of centre.

But it doesn’t matter where you sit, it’s all gaming. And that’s the point. People that gatekeep on streaming, on communities, on ‘hardcore’ vs ‘casuals’ can all get in the bin.

In short: Gaming is fun. Online play mean it’s more sociable than ever; yes couch co-op games are still great (albeit uncommon) but the abundance of online play/chat/team games means you can jump on at any time of the day and find people to play with.

Gaming is more accessible than ever. Yes, we’re in the middle (tail end? – Ed) of a global chip shortage, and yes the new consoles aren’t exactly cheap but there are options available for everyone. Xbox Game Pass, PlayStation Now, cheap Ps4s the Xbox Series S, hell, even Google Stadia – are all different/accessible (read: cheap) ways to dip your toes in and try it. The days of spending hundreds and hundreds of pounds on consoles and games to play on them are – if you want them to be – long gone.

And Gaming is more acceptable than ever. I read this great quote in the FT a few months back, from game designer Jenova Chen:

“You don’t ask someone, ‘Do you watch movies?’ or ‘Do you listen to music?’ You just ask what kind they like. One day, we will simply ask each other: ‘What kind of games do you play?’” This day now seems closer than ever.”

I talk about gaming to friends, family, and colleagues. The eye rolls still happen, yes – and that’s fine – but not as often as they used to. Social acceptance is growing. Hurrah! Although, hilariously, if you’d asked me what I thought of ‘the casual gamer’ and the popularity of gaming growing massively (broadly I would argue thanks to PlayStation making it cool) 20 years ago, I probably would’ve growled something grumpy like ‘Rah rah rah, Nintendo is the best’. Thankfully I’m past that now.

For me, the popularity of gaming means I can embrace my passion and talk about it freely and openly.

And the best part? Very occasionally, I get to overlap it with my other my passion: my day job.

Writing is thinking. And being asked* to write – to think – about the thing I enjoy most in my spare time is ace.

Be that wanging on about the popularity of Animal Crossing OR deep-diving and celebrating what passionate gaming communities can do when they put their hearts and minds to it OR having a long look at why Xbox vs PlayStation is about to be more exciting than it’s ever been OR examining who has what edge when it comes to the forthcoming game-streaming wars OR simply sharing my gaming exploits with my friends and followers – it all floats my boat.

My point is: this isn’t one of those articles about ‘What games mean for brands’, or ‘top ten things marketers can learn from gaming’ (There are loads of those and if you look hard enough, you might actually find a good one – no promises though).

Far from it.

This is simply a call to arms for you. If you’ve never tried gaming before, now is the perfect time to give it a go.

If you’re a lapsed gamer, it’s time to get back in again.

The water has never been better.

See you there? x

*I don’t always have to be asked.

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