At the beginning of the millennium I succumbed to a wild madness Super Smash Bros. melee combat: I thought I was good. On weekends and during the week I would snap back and forth from my parents’ smug sofa with the GameCube’s little yellow C-Stick and crush my opponents. And when those opponents – two consoleless buddies and my 7 year old brother – cried and swore and were told it was time for bed, I thought, “I’m not good at a lot of things, but I’m the best at … That is it, the peak of my talents. ”That was luck back then.

When a couple of older kids later beat up me during an installation in GAME, a UK GameStop equivalent, I was chastised but not demoralized – closed miracles, I told myself. Then I entered a modest size Smash bros Tournament organized by a boy from school. I was disgustingly confident until about a second after the first fight began, when my opponent’s Marth started whipping back and forth, spitting white smoke from her feet. It was a short time later – when my jigglypuff flew through the air like a pink frisbee and I pretended I knew something “Wave dashing“Meant – realizing that no legends would be written about me, that I was stranded on the bell curve of player skills at the summit. I was average.

Video games have always encouraged competitive comparisons: they are, at least games. But complete ignorance of your abilities, like I was as a kid, could only happen at a time when the internet was just background noise. Today, fed by leaderboards and YouTube clips, we know our cheesy little island in Deer crossing, with its sad weeds and aimless paths, it cannot be compared to a vast paradise of stately mansions and Orchestra on the beach. We know we are not that good Dark souls Player who strips down to his underpants before they parry you. Your kill / death ratio is not ideal and you know it. In fact, everyone knows it. It’s never been more obvious how average we are at games.

There’s an element of nostalgia here that goes beyond gaming, namely that having access to tons of information about our hobbies makes those hobbies less mysterious. Gaming folklore like finding the Ice Key in Banjo Kazooie or Mew in Pokémon red used to be disseminated through word of mouth or magazines; Now you can find it on your phone.

There is a direct line between this shift and the competitive consumerism fueled by the internet (and, of course, the consumer capitalism below it). Just as fast internet surfing can fill us with a toxic mix of envy and ambition – people’s outfits on Instagram, their accomplishments on Linkedin – certain games put us in a ruthless, semi-public performance. In his book Game Criticism and Design in the Age of Gamification, the academic Partick Jagoda argues that many modern games are completely “economized”. Investigate candy Crush Saga, he advises that all achievements are tracked and ranked: players are assigned a numerical score, a rating on a three-star system, and their performance is recorded on a leaderboard linked to their Facebook. On social media, the player can earn extra lives by recruiting and interacting with other players. The game “maps activities such as social media use and career competition,” he explains, and concludes: candy Crush Saga “Encourages players to develop their own worth and compare that value with others online.”

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