Dana Stevens and the Enjoyment of Games

Dana Stevens doesn’t enjoy games. In fact, she doesn’t even see a point in them–“Why obey these rules rather than any others, or none at all?” she writes in her Slate article. Stevens brings up her historical problems with games, citing an instance of primordial childhood embarrassment where she suggested that a group of kids play “Puppies and Kittens,” which the other kids rejected because it wasn’t actually a game. This problem has extended into her adult life, and it forces her into awkward duplicitous moments where she has to pretend to care about games or sports for the benefit of other people.

I am a person who has had a lifetime of games. The second memory I have is of playing Duck Hunt–I can literally remember one thing before that (snow, if you care.) I grew up playing all of the games that no one else did, but I played the hell out of those games (I had a Sega Saturn). I did eight years of competitive debate. Not exaggerating, I have probably spent a third of my life embroiled in some kind of game or another.

All of that said, I am totally with Dana Stevens. I don’t “get” games in any kind of internal way. It is a rare occasion when I find a game that I actually care about winning or losing. Some of it might be the way that I enjoy games–I like watching team dynamics; I like to see moves in games artistically done; I like a good story. Games and sports, for me, are merely vehicles for these affects.

And it could be this disposition toward games that makes me the kind of player that I am. I rarely have any investment in a game other than what is necessary to play–it is probably for this reason that I don’t have any “golden idols” in gaming. They all do things that are beautiful. Even Bad Rats is amazing in the way that is punishes everyone who has ever tried to play it (especially those people who have played it completely). So when I say things like “I have never been immersed in a game,” I am being serious, and it is comforting to me that there are other people like me in the world. I like games as games. I like games as diversion, as spaces where the art of strategy comes out. I like games as things.

I don’t get lost in games.

Be sure to listen to the segment where Stevens talks about her article in the podcast at the top. It is pretty great, and she talks a little more about games. 

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