Friday, 14 September 2012

The Hypnotic Power of Watching Someone else play

I don't think I need to convince anyone reading this that watching other people play video games can be an incredibly absorbing experience that prevents the watcher from getting on with whatever it was they were going to do that evening. I recently played through a full star run of Super Mario Galaxy in my house's common living area and my poor housemates could have easily done their laundry, had showers (which they needed to have... my god) or attended that pesky wedding they were invited to if it wasn't for the compelling spectacle which was me being bossed about far too often by penguins (seriously those guys seem to own space in that game). Come to think of it, what on earth is the Super Mario series' recent obsession with penguins?

Imagine trying to put this costume on. Really think about it step by step.

I've hinted at this phenomenon before in another sense and there's no question that there's a booming industry in watching other people play video games on YouTube (I would add the GameGrumps to that list of LP'ers now, which is kinda like watching Ren and Stimpy trying to work a variety of Nintendo consoles) but there's something else I want to comment on now. What happens when a bunch of primary card carrying gamers share a house together? Only enough talking points to fill a blog post so don't you dare make a TV show out of this.

Type 'people playing video games' into Google. Not a single real gamer makes any of the faces you'll see there.

Seriously I don't usually let image captions leak out into the main body of text but the fellow pictured above looks like he'll be shot on sight if he doesn't convince a panel of judges that he is having fun and really into the game he's playing. Having watched fellow 103% writer Tom Dransfield grinding through 'Adventure Mode' of Super Smash Brothers several times I can say first hand that gamer's faces are expressionless at their most animated. The prevailing signs of life from Mr. Dransfield were his violent acknowledgements that he'd 'fucked up', which as I've found occur at eerily precise three minute intervals, which is of no use to me at all. What is of use to me is the unlocking of the various characters and stages of the game for our inevitably regular party sessions.

Let me hear you say 'Hooooo!' if Dr. Mario is one of your 'mains'.

What ends up happening is that as I watch Tom torture himself with this unenviable task I offer to take over proceedings to assist in what has now become a house project. We could have probably built a shed outside in the time we've spent doing this. Single player Smash Bros. is dull as ditchwater to play and even worse to watch but yet when I relieve Tom of his duties, he still manages to find himself watching the same dross he was in direct control of only moments prior. I'd like to think this was because of the strength our friendship but that can't possibly be true because I despise Tom more than anybody in the world. We've entered a situation where our social interactions are based around something we don't ultimately enjoy doing. This is the true hypnotic power of gaming. Be warned.