I didn’t always love games. I can hear Sarkeesian’s opponents shrieking when I write that: “What?? You didn’t always love games? How can you write about them?” But, I didn’t always like them. In my teens, I loved games. I was obsessed with Punch Out and Super Mario Bros.. But, then life happened, and I donated my NES to my brother. (He later returned it ). I don’t think I played a game at all during my twenties. My best friend bought a PS2 at the time, and I would go over and watch her play, but secretly I thought she was a little crazy.
It took Netflix to lure me back into the world of video games. These days we have streaming devices all over the place, but back then, there was only the Xbox 360. When Netflix announced they were going to stream to the 360, I had to have one. But, I was broke back then, and they were pricey to me. Nevertheless, I started researching and trying to decide if Netflix was worth the money spent on an Xbox that would likely be used just for streaming. At the time, my dad owned two PS3 and an Xbox. He’s a total geek, and as such, he not only owned the consoles, he had all the cool accessories and games to go with them. So, I told him I wanted to come over and try to play a game to see if it was something I might like. He told me that if I liked playing games, he would just give me the whole system. I was pretty sure I was not going to like playing the games, but I really wanted that system. My dad knows me well. He started me off with Dead Rising, and I loved it. Until that moment, my perception of games was that games didn’t have much or any narrative, and were fun, but ultimately didn’t tell a story. And, I craved a story. So, after more than a decade of not playing games, I was hooked again.
Now I love games. I love some of the rich narratives, but I also have renewed my love for games like Rayman Legend, which has little narrative but is super addictive anyway. I love cut scenes. I love/hate battling the boss to get to the cut scene that I just have to see. I love the escape. Sometimes in my academic life, I have periods when deep, sustained study is necessary (like prelims), and games like Rayman Legends offered a quick escape that didn’t draw me into a long narrative, allowing me to quickly refresh when my brain started lagging from reading all of the modern rhetoric.
I critique games because it’s fun. Maybe some people won’t like hearing that. But, it’s true. While many gamers want politics and critique to stay away from their games, I invite it. I don’t subscribe to the notion that games cause social problems; for example, I would never say I think games cause violence. But, I do think games (like all other popular media) reflect society. And, as such, games tend to demonstrate the challenges our society faces. To that end, I critique games as a means to show the problems. Games reflect the real social justice issues that we work against daily.
My LEGO story is similar, except I was probably away from LEGO for closer to 2 decades or more. I find I have a deep, abiding love and appreciation for LEGO that even surpasses how much I love games. I critique them for the same reasons I critique games. In both cases, I feel qualified to write about them, even though I spent years without thinking about either one of them. Or maybe qualified isn’t the right word. I’m not a gaming expert, nor a LEGO expert. But, maybe it’s ok that I write about them anyway because I enjoy it; because people have different experiences and different voices (in my opinion) are welcome and necessary.