Thanks to Social Media, the milestones of our lives are now so easily recorded, the result being that the millennial generation are ever more inclined to look backwards. Where our elders exude nostalgia in response to the vast and unfathomable changes that have taken place in the last thirty years, ours match that natural inclination with a force that sees us desperately trying to claw for a perceivable timeline in this ever accelerating and disconnected world.
For some, this will mean they can shake their digital head in disbelief that it has been three years since that totally amazing weekend in Prague, or four years since their nephew was born, or five years since they ate a Sunday lunch at a pub.
For others, there may be a cultural element. Despite at least attempting to remain interested in current happenings, I was still a little shocked this week (as I burned an old-skool mix CD) to realise Radiohead’s Amnesiac is fifteen years old. Maybe I need to throw out that t-shirt I bought when it came out, instead of wearing it to work.
Social Media is full of those “I can’t believe it was so long ago’ moments, but I’m interested in what was shared in the first place. To take the album as an example, had Facebook existed back then, I may have shared that I’d purchased Amnesiac. I may have shared my initial feelings on it. Others would have shared their own. Likewise for films, last night’s TV and whatever else we get up to in those smart phone free days.
That reportage of the event (but not of the emotional response) is now a defining characteristic of our society. The cultural element (and I strangely find myself resisting typing that as ‘cultural’) that I don’t see expressed this way is Computer Games.
I sometimes post on Instagram when I finish a book I’ve enjoyed. I share vinyl purchases. The covers tell a story. But what of a computer game?
That phrase alone is on the brink of nonsense. What is a computer? The next generation will not know the word, because it will be obsolete. Console. Tablet. Phone. Those have replaced it but will soon also be gone. Why would a modern mobile phone be called such, when that is such a small part of its purpose? It’d be like calling a car a radio, on account of the fact you sometimes listen to music in it.
Computer gaming has never been bigger, yet much of the market – Candy Crush et al – is not something you would experience and then feel the need to share those moments on social media; ironic since the worst offenders are those very games half-wits still somehow manage to invite you to play on Facebook.
For me, playing Half-Life was the literal game changer. It wasn’t about the ‘baddies’ or the guns. It was the world. The whole world. I was inside it. Graphically, it wasn’t overly immersive and today it looks awful. But when I think about it now, I feel I have been inside Black Mesa. I know my way around it. And without knocking books or film, it is the greatest sense of escapism I have known because as a player I control the situation, the pace, the narrative (at least to some degree).
Recently, after a long break from PC Gaming, I returned and played a game called Inside. It is a side-on platformer with minimalist controls. There is no speech from the characters. There are no onscreen prompts. There is no explanation. You are just a child in the forest following the gaming law of moving from the left hand side of the screen to the right.
It’s a brilliant example of the new form of Indie Gaming and like great art, it told me something, it made me think, it took me somewhere.
But I can’t sum it up via the medium of Instagram. I can’t even sum it up in a conversation. Mature gaming of this type is a wonderful thing in itself because it is too complex and the effect it creates are too personal. An impression of Gaming is that it is an unhealthy distraction from real life. It may be an escapism, but I feel at its best it is an escape from the bland, short-attention span encouraging world of our Social Media snap-judgement culture, rather than the alternative to kids playing out on the streets til the sun goes down; a ideal that doesn’t exist any longer.
Perhaps the experiences worth pursuing are those that can’t easily be explained, or digitally surmised and packaged for nosey half-strangers, whether they be in the ‘real world’, on a page or on a screen.