As someone whose brain is attuned to language and its use – at times painfully so – there are certain phrases that inspire negative reactions within me. In the context of gaming, one of those phrases is content consumption and its variants. It’s not that I think that people should stop using it (I’m not so arrogant as to impose my preferences and dislikes on others via the categorical imperative) – it simply rubs me entirely the wrong way when it comes to interacting with and inhabiting a form of entertainment which I would rather not label as “entertainment.”
From my perspective, games are forms of creative expression, works of art, worlds, stories, myths, fora for exploration, and theatrical backdrops for roleplaying. I don’t necessarily engage with all of those modalities, but those things are what games mean to me. I suss their significance and derive their value from the myriad of (inter)personal interactions within a medium that is better not thought of as a medium. Anyone who’s ever uttered the aphorism “the medium is the message” is likely to be unaware or unconcerned that what they are really saying is that the medium via which something is transmitted is very important and that they would like to emphasize this and/or they are very, very excited about it.
So if you’re one of those people who enjoys making cost analysis and “bang for the buck” spreadsheets when it comes to potential game purchases, well, then, go right ahead and do your thing. Just consider for a moment that being very interested in particular criteria or constituent elements does not legitimize the reduction of games to those elements. We have decided, for example, that that physical world is made up of molecules and atoms and protons and neutrons and electrons and quarks and so forth – this is very, very useful stuff. It’s just one perspective, however, and doesn’t help us explain the stadiums full of books on the topic of love, true love, that have been written without reference to the chemical equations associated with hormones.
When games are therefore reduced to their commercial and financial aspects, my jimmies are rustled. I fully acknowledge that these are complicit co-wizards in the black magic that brings games to life and keeps them alive. I just don’t expect people to walk into the Sistine Chapel and say to themselves, “That’s a wonderful bit of commercial art work.”
Anyone who enjoys playing games is well within their right to research their gaming purchase decisions in the manner of their choosing and apply those personal metrics which appeal to their sensibilities. One person may be looking for a game that provides enough longevity and enjoyment to justify the buy-in cost, while another may say “OOH SHINY” and throw down fat stacks of cash provided the game does not feature a prohibitively expensive early access founder’s pack. In my case, a few simple questions are enough to describe my thought process when looking at buying a game: Do I have enough money to buy it? Would buying other things with that money be better? Will I feel comfortable playing as one of the game’s characters? Do the game’s aesthetics and world appeal to me? Do the mechanics and the experience of having played appear to be satisfying?
In my particular case, finances serve only as a barrier to entry; they do not retain their primacy throughout the rest of the decision-making process. Despite the fact that I find it rather wretched that others base their purchase decisions and subsequent analyses in large part on financial considerations, I do not begrudge them their perspective. I’m a hobbyist, a layperson, one of those obnoxious people who plays games for fun without having to worry about funding and development costs and staff salaries. So if you ask me, well, it’s not all about the Benjamins, baby.