Monday, August 7, 2023

Do You Come Here Often?

This week is Introduce Yourself Week in Blaugust. Of course, this not being my first Blaugust, I may have done this a few times already... in 2018, 2019, 2020 (In April for Blapril that time...) and last year. I seem to have skipped 2021 for some reason but since I'm always talking about myself (It's my favorite topic of conversation.) I'm sure there was something in there, too.

So, what is there to say for another year that I haven't said already? A lot, in theory, but once you factor out the things no-one would be interested and the things I don't want to put on record, probably not much at all.

So rather than go over the dry facts of my age, my employment and my education like I was drafting my CV (Resume, if you prefer. It's in a foreign language either way and I don't just mean linguistically.) or tell a bunch of stories about things that happened so long ago I've half forgotten if they even did, I thought I might cleave to the original purpose of this blog and to a large extent of Blaugust itself and say something about my gaming and my blogging and how they go together.

I'm not going to rehash the argument I keep having with myself about whether or not I'm a gamer. I think if you can say you've been playing games for all of your adult life, even as you're just about to hit state pension age, it's a little self-serving to start claiming you're not a gamer. 

When I say "gamer", I should probably clarify. I mean video gamer. Even a handful of years ago I wouldn't have needed to bother making that clear but these days it might as easily be board games. I'd say there'd been a resurgence or a renaissance but really was there ever a time when board games held anything even close to the cultural position they've assumed recently? If so, I missed it.

My video game history is straightforward. It started with one of those home systems that played Pong, moved through arcade games but not arcades themselves because all the machines I played were in pubs. Not surprising. I was already of legal drinking age when they began to appear. (Eighteen is legal drinking age where I come from, by the way.)

From there it's the Atari 2600 and ZX Spectrum in the 'eighties, when I'd be playing games at least a little most weeks, some weeks a lot. Then there's a gap of maybe four or five years when I didn't really play video games at all until in the mid-90s I bought a PC with the intention of using it to write a novel but instead ended up first playing adventure games and offline RPGs before taking the fatal plunge into online gaming with EverQuest in late 1999.

And so began my lost decade, when I probably averaged forty hours a week playing MMORPGs and any time I wasn't playing I was most likely reading or writing or talking about them. I came out of that gradually, not because my interest waned so much as because it diversified as the games and the genre changed.

I've written prodigiously all my life and gaming, even relatively obsessively, never put a dent in that. I wrote constantly but ephemerally while I played, leaving countless thousands of words on forums and in comment threads, never to be read again. 

I like that. I'm a strong believer in the ephemeracy of popular culture. Almost all of this stuff is made to be forgotten, especially the best of it, so we should be comfortable knowing that anything we say about it will go the same way. 

Even and still, I itched a little for more permanency. Self-contradiction is a virtue. I started this blog a dozen years after I started EQ and I'm still here a dozen years on. The words sit there now for anyone to see but of course they're no more read than all those tears in the rain that came before. We fool ourselves if we thnk otherwise but potential carries power, all the same. If something could happen, it could have happened and that's warming.

The blog I made, as I imagined it, was an MMORPG blog. Not even a gaming blog. With small exceptions, MMORPGs were all I played. Over time two things changed; I played other games and I wrote about other things. But I still mostly played MMORPGs and I still mostly wrote about them.

And now I don't. Not either. Not really.

It wasn't a choice. I didn't sit down and give myself a good talking to, tell myself enough was enough, it'd been a good run but to all things there's a season and it was time for a change blah blah blah and all like that. Nope. I just drifted.

Where I drifted to tells you something. It tells me something, anyway. I was thinking today about whether I'd rather play games or write about them and I realized I couldn't even give that a straight answer. Obviously, I want to do both but day to day what's my split? I dunno. You tell me.

Then I started to push that out into others of my interests - music, books, movies, TV, all the corrupt faculties of the culture. Every one of them I'd do if I didn't write about them but the more I do any of them the more I want to record what I think and feel about it. Record and re-order. And share. 

Why did this blog shift focus a few years back to bring in all of the above as well as games? Was it because I wasn't finding enough in the games to fill the pages or was it that once I'd given myself permission to write about the other things I enjoyed I found I myself enjoying those things more and wanting to do more of them? Did that leave less room for the games? Is that what it was?

These are rhetorical questions. Don't go expecting answers. If I gave any they'd change tomorrow. I contain multitudes as Walt Whitman liked to say, which is just another way of saying I can't make up my mind.

If you'd asked me a few days ago if I was losing interest and enthusiasm for gaming, specifically online gaming, specifically MMORPGs, I'd have said oh yes, I am and I can prove it. Just look at the hours I don't play. It's a rare day when I put in more than an hour or two. Mostly I just do some dailies and we all know that's not playing.

Maybe a couple of times a week I might stretch to three or four hours across the whole day. An hour in the morning, another in the afternoon, a couple in the evening. Even then, though, how much would be gaming qua gaming and how much just gathering information to post about gaming? I think we know.

But then today I was going to write this post and guess what? I didn't want to because I wanted to play Palia. And guess what? I played Palia. 

Still only for a couple of hours but I'll play more after this. And I don't even think Palia is that amazing. It's more that it's new and it's clean and sharp and it has a few things for me to do that I haven't done to death already. And that had me thinking about other games I've played these last few years and how it seems, when the right hook dangles, I still get caught just the same.

It's tempting to think that after forty years the hook just needs better bait but I'm not seeing that so much with music or books or any of those other attractions I mentioned. I keep biting there. It keeps tasting so good.

So maybe I should just shut up. It seems I can't even say for certain if or how much I like gaming any more so what's the chance of revealing anything deeper? 

These introductions kind of rely on us knowing who we are and that's a life's work. Part of the reason I write this blog is to find out and if you keep reading it you'll likely end up knowing as much about me as I'm willing to let be known, which may well be more than you want and will certainly be more than you need.

In time, it may be even as much as I know, myself.


*** Glossary of Illustrations ***

#1 Blaugust 2023 masthead. Provided as part of the Blaugust Press Kit.

#2 Generated in NightCafe by the prompt "Board gaming night in the Renaissance." Model used: SDXL 1.0

#3  Generated in NightCafe by the prompt "An arcade gaming machine in a British pub in the 1980s. In color." Model used: Stable Diffusion 1.5

#4 Generated in NightCafe by the prompt "A gallery exhibiting a pop art painting called "The ephemeracy of popular culture"" Model used: Stable Diffusion 1.5

#5 Generated in NightCafe by the prompt "I wanted to play Palia. And guess what? I played Palia." Model used: Stable Diffusion 1.5



  1. Nice post (sincerely, bonus points for being on Blogger!). Enjoyed your introspection. I, too, wonder if I'm really a 'gamer' just because I like video games, play when I can but not a lot, and have been playing off and on since the 80s. I've never played an MMORPG, yet I'm a fan of JRPGs, thanks to FFIII (SNES).

    1. Thanks! And yes, I like Blogger best of all the well-known options, all of which I've had a look at over the years. I think it benefits from a kind of benign neglect from Google, which means it doesn't suffer from the constant tinkering or monetization that seems to afflict WordPress and some of the others. Jsut keep your fingers crossed no-one at Google wakes up one morning and goes "Oh, hey, whatever happened to that Blogger thing we used to have...?)

  2. I have enjoyed your musings for about a decade I think. Sometimes introspective, sometimes funny, sometimes point me towards a new game to try or show to watch. It's all good and I'll keep reading as long as you keep posting!

    1. Thanks, again! I'm going to be doing this for a while yet, all being well. I don't think I'm in much danger of running out of things to write about any time soon.


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