Kim has found out that The LEGO Movie Videogame holds a surprising amount of wisdom, thanks to a seven-year-old in a Mario hat and with a fondness of Mario impressions by the name of Ethan.
|Name:||The LEGO Movie Videogame|
|Publisher:||Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment|
|Release date:||February 2014|
|Platforms:||2DS, 3DS, iOS, Mac, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PS Vita, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One|
|More information:||Official website|
Last year I moved to a different part of Essex for a fresh start and, after a few months of living in my new seaside town, I had the pleasure of meeting Pete in a local pub. After a long conversation over a couple of beers we discovered we had grown up in the same area on parallel streets, share a similar sense of humour, and both eat fish and chips more frequently than is good for us. We’ve since visited the chippie on the seafront on many occasions and have become really close.
But while we hit it off instantly and got along like a house on fire, I was reluctant to tell him about my association with 1001Up at first. It wasn’t because I’m not proud of the site or my teammates or what we’ve achieved; it was more to do with the fact that I’ve mentioned it to others in the past and they tend to get this look in their eyes which says ‘Women don’t play video games, let alone write about them.’ I didn’t want to get into yet another discussion where I had to justify myself as a gamer, trying to convince the person I’m talking to that I don’t play Candy Crush and am quite happy spending a Friday night with a retro adventure.
But eventually I plucked up the courage and you know what? Pete actually believed me straight off the bat and wanted to know more. Our conversation then turned to the subject of gaming and he confessed that he was a bit of a gamer too, having run a Vietcong server in his twenties and sinking way too many hours into World of Warcraft. He even told me that he was the guy who made the winners’ trophies for Games World and, being someone who was a teenager during the nineties, I have to admit that I was seriously impressed.
Video games and friendship
Although he has no desire to write, Pete is interested in 1001Up and went to his first expo with us earlier this year.
Since meeting we’ve hung out pretty regularly and video games feature in our relationship. We worked our way through Costume Quest 2 on Halloween; took a trip to the Heart of Gaming for Phil’s birthday where I kicked his butt at Street Fighter II: The World Warrior (barely); got through an hour of Thief before deciding it was way too much like Dishonored but not as good; and spent Christmas playing Alien Isolation while eating our body-weight in chocolate (Pete has a serious sweet-tooth). Although he has no desire to write, he’s interested in 1001Up and went to his first expo with us earlier this year.
There are many things I enjoy about our friendship but there are two factors which stand out. The first is that Pete doesn’t look at me any differently because of my gender when it comes to video games, and he never dismissed the fact that I’m a female who writes about them. I’d like to think we’ve both learnt a lot from each other: I’ve introduced him to the world of the indie developer and guided him through the perils of Kickstarter, and he has told me about classic titles I’d never even heard of before and didn’t laugh at me when I forgot the control system while trying to play The Witcher 2. Our discussions are those of two people who love gaming and accept each other for who they are, and it’s refreshing not to see that look I mentioned above when we talk.
The other factor is Pete’s son Ethan: a gorgeous little seven-year-old with boundless energy, a cheeky sense of humour and countless knock-knock jokes. He carries his 2DS with him wherever he goes (along with a toy giraffe imaginatively named ‘Giraffey’) and can do an excellent Mario impression. He’s played The LEGO Movie Videogame so much in my presence that I now know the words to the annoying theme tune off by heart. Next on his wishlist is Minecraft, he often turns up wearing a Mario hat I bought for him at EGX last year, and he completely freaked out when his Dad revealed a Wii U for Christmas (yes, I’m training him up for reviews).
It’s obvious from his description that games feature regularly when spending time with Ethan. If he and Pete come over for breakfast on a Sunday morning, he’ll tell me to sit down next to him because he needs to complete the next part of my ‘training’ on Super Smash Bros. He has watched us roam (nothing more) through the mountains and forests of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim while pretending to be a knight with a sword. And there was one lengthy announcement where he revealed he is going to be a game developer when he grows up, with his first release being ‘Warcraft Insanity’ and featuring ancient Egypt, mummies and grenades. It’s got a 1001Up award stamped all over it.
The thing all gamers have in common
Since forming the 1001Up team at the beginning of 2012 we’ve seen several controversies rock the gaming industry and – although it pains me to say it – the community surrounding it has become so much more hostile in recent years. I’m not going to turn this into an article on feminism or write this feeling sorry for myself, but it can be particularly hard being a woman at times: take the abuse thrown at Anita Sarkeesian upon every release of a new episode of Tropes vs. Women or more recently the GamerGate scandal. I’m fortunate in that I’ve never experienced this aggression to the same extent that others have, but I’ve been ignored at expos in favour of my male teammates, received horrible comments via Facebook posts, and tend to stay away from online gaming.
The one thing we all have in common as gamers is exactly that: gaming. We may be of different genders, from different countries, of different sexualities, and even consider ourselves fans of different genres or styles, but all of us share a love of video games and it’s a common ground that should bring us together. We’ve all shared that experience of picking up our favourite title for the first time, eagerly awaiting the release of a much-anticipated sequel (and then taking time off work just to play it), and spending way too much money during a Steam sale then bankrupting ourselves until the next one.
While certain members of the community are ostracised, we limit both ourselves and the community as a whole.
Unfortunately however, some gamers don’t see it that way and instead choose to target other players for their differences. Abuse written on forums and dished out both verbally and on onscreen during online games is now seen as the norm, with ‘gay’ and ‘gamer gurl’ being among common insults. While certain members of the community are ostracised, we limit both ourselves and the community as a whole: we deter new talent from working within the industry, we lose unique ideas that could lead to amazing experiences, and we perpetuate the view of gamers as being caustic and hostile.
Both Pete and Ethan don’t see me as a ‘girl’: they see me as a gamer who happens to be female, one they’re happy to spend time with talking about and playing video games. It doesn’t matter to Ethan that I’m of the opposite sex, or so much older than he is, or that I suck at most of his 2DS titles and regularly forget control schemes. He just wants us to stick on a game and sit on the sofa together so he can train us and become the ‘Uber-Master’ of everything he plays (a title he made up himself). He may only be seven-years-old, but sometimes he can be wise beyond his years.
Hope for the future of gaming
I have to admit that this makes me hopeful for the future of gaming. When I was growing up, video games were seen as a bit of a ‘speciality’ hobby and not something that everybody did; but there are many children out there now who are familiar with and accept them as a part of everyday life. The majority will experience gaming at least once if not be a fan themselves, and because of this they’re more likely to be more accepting of other players despite their differences.
When you see Ethan’s expression after discovering a new shortcut within Mario Kart 8 (usually followed by a ‘Whoa!’ or ‘Easy now!’), and consider the fact that he wants to share this with you regardless of who you are, it’s hard not to smile and wonder what the gaming world will be like when he’s my age. There’s every reason to believe that the hostility and discrimination so apparent within the community at present will eventually die out; I just hope I’m still around to witness it.
As a woman who writes for a gaming journalism website, I’m tired of continuously having to justify myself as a gamer. The sooner the community can accept the fact that every member is equal and has a worthwhile opinion, the sooner we can get back to doing what we love and playing more video games. Perhaps we should all try to be a bit more like Ethan, and maybe the theme tune of The LEGO Movie Videogame holds more wisdom than it first seems…
Everything is awesome; everything is cool when you’re part of a team.