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Exhausted by Gaming Culture

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Like many of you, I am pretty disappointed in the state of video game discourse. I recently finished The Last of Us 2, I had hoped the initial discourse had calmed down. Despite the gaming scene at large moving on, it is a bitter as you remember. I'll start by saying that I am disgusted by sexist, anti-trans, and homophobic critiques of this game, but am not terribly surprised by them. I think it is fair to say that in an emerging art form such as gaming, there are certain growing pains that are inherent to the process. Not everybody thinks of video games as an art. This is true even within the gaming community. Some seek only "comfort food", and react with wild and extravagant rage when confronted with something that isn't to their taste. At the risk of being overly prescriptive, Art should invoke an emotional reaction in us. Art should be free to discuss challenging topics. Art should give us insight not only to our own experiences, but also the experiences of groups we do not belong to. Our failure to accept stories that are challenging or feature characters who do not necessarily align with our lived experience holds back the medium as an art form and has has a chilling effect on creators who want to step outside the box.

In many ways, TLOU2 is exactly that type of video game I have waited for my entire life. Very few works of art have engrossed me and had me so invested as this game. I've thought about this game more than any other piece of media I've consumed in years.

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That said, it is not perfect. And yet, no matter where you turn, after a certain critical mass, the communities about this game will either brook no criticism or accept no praise, depending on the makeup of the body at large, until the discourse becomes so inflamed that it splits. The blind bifurcation surrounding this game has totally eradicated any semblance of normal discourse about it, each side betrays a smirking sense of moral superiority about their opinions on the game.

No, you are not a "soyboy SJW" if you like the game. No, you are not an "alt-right troll" for not liking Abby.

If someone has a different interpretation than you about a character, that doesn't make them a bad person. Someone not clicking with certain story beats are not signs of mental or moral defect. Our personal connections that we create with characters and stories are beautiful and powerful, but they are just that, personal connections. If someone feels differently, it's not a personal attack.

I can think of no game more deserving of a nuanced discussion around the game, the performances of the actors, its themes, and its characters. And yet, it is found only in fleeting spurts. Just as we need to accept difficult themes to grow as an art form, for more games and stories of this caliber to be told, we have to be able to consider and extend reasonable analysis and criticisms. Not only of the game, but of our own analyses.

Put simply, it is time for gamers to grow up.

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