Fun By Proxy

A former coworker of mine passed along a link to a pretty good read — a "Let’s Play" thread going through Knights of the Old Republic II (a game produced by my former employer, Obsidian Entertainment). If you’re not familiar with the "Let’s Play" concept, it is essentially a running commentary (with screenshots or video) of a game playthrough. Good LPs are well-written, involve the audience in making key game decisions, and provide insight on aspects of a game that readers may not have experienced. The KOTOR2 thread mentioned has tons of detail about alternate paths through the game, content that was cut from the game, and story explanation. It’s extremely long, but worth reading if you’re interested in the game. There’s also a site,, which reposts these sorts of threads.

This kind of discussion, along with the general popularity of gaming message boards, is something of a counterexample to a popular view of gamers, one which I most recently saw in a commercial. (I believe it was some sort of insurance commercial, but I could be mistaken.) The commercial’s message had something to do with making lifestyle changes — one scene showed a lone child, playing a videogame, in a nearly monochromatic home. The next shot showed the same kid outside playing basketball in the driveway with another kid, the frame being much more lively and colorful. There are two messages here: 1) exercise is better than sitting on the couch, and 2) playing videogames is a solitary, anti-social activity. I have absolutely no problems at all with the first message — however, the second is more than a bit misleading.

Why? Well, the act of playing a single-player game may be a solitary experience, but everybody loves to talk about games too. Whether it be discussing their exploits (AARs, or "after action reports"), talking strategy, aesthetics, or preferences, or just seeing what other people think about games, there’s no shortage of discussion out there. With that in mind, it seems to me that playing games is no less social than reading a book or listening to music, from a standpoint of encouraging interaction and sociability with others. Of course, nobody would insinuate those other activities were "poor lifestyle choices." Games just happen to be a convenient whipping boy for those looking for an easy way to communicate the idea of "wasted time."

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