The Value of Selectivity

First world problems.

The theme for this past week’s edition of The Escapist has been about the console wars and the investments that many gamers are forced to make in having to decide which console they will be able to play games for.  It’s a dilemma that’s less common now with with the proliferation of multi-platform releases, but games are still expensive and even if gamers have the hardware to play them all, they still don’t have the cash to buy them all with.  So we still see plenty of angst concerning which series of games that people choose to play.  These aren’t qualities that are generally held in high regard inside or outside of the gaming community.  We like to pick sides and then battle to the death.  But after having watched this video I have actually started to admire the doggedly selective nature of gamers.  As silly as the community’s debates can be, it could be much, much sillier.

After moving almost two years ago, I gave up cable TV.  I have no regrets at all about that.  I don’t miss commercials and mediocre programming.  Most of all, I enjoy not having to be at the mercy the TV networks and their programming schedules.  In other words, I really appreciate being able to select what I’m going to entertain myself with; be it Netflix, my RSS reader, or any assortment of games.  So what is ultimately supposed to be a video demonstrating the superiority of cable television really just made me think “Thank god I stopped watching cable TV.  I don’t want to end up like this.”  I understand the rationale for their complaints, but it’s a perspective that I can’t relate to anymore.  Not in the least.  Specifically the complaint that these services (Netflix, AppleTV, etc.) were forcing them to actively choose what they wanted to watch instead of having a programming schedule fed to them.

“… when I have cable on, it’s continuous.  When I have the shows on Netflix … the show would end.  And then you have to go back to the start up … It wasn’t just ever continuous.  So it wasn’t like you could just put something on and keep it on all day.”

“We’re so passive, TV viewers, we really want someone else to decide for us.  We can’t be making all these decisions.  It’s too stressful.”

“I think TV is kind of like a passive activity.  They’re trying to make it an active thing.  You know where you pick what you want to watch.”

When it gets to the point that trying to figure out how you want to relax or entertain yourself becomes stressful, I’m not sure what exactly you are expecting from life.  But whatever it is, it’s ridiculous.  Entertainment that allows you to “escape” works two ways: you can be escaping to something that’s attractive, or escaping from something that’s undesirable (sometimes both.)  When you don’t care what you’re watching, so long as something is always there, with no input from yourself, then you are only trying to escape from something.  So while video games are accused (dubiously) of provoking rape and/or murder, at least they don’t cause brain numbing deference like cable television does.   Gamers are invested in actively selecting what they want to engage themselves in, and are proactive in their desire to see games get better.   We don’t always choose the best games, but at least we are choosing games for reasons beyond “it just happened to be there and I have no idea what I would do otherwise.”  I’ll take the mindless tribalism of gaming allegiances over the empty assurance that I am watching the same thing that lots of other people are watching at the same time.  NOW PUT THE GLASSES ON! PUT ‘EM ON!

Okay.  I’m getting off the judgment train now.


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