Vertical Slice: Xmas Special

Vertical Slice: Xmas Special

by December 23, 2013

December 25th means different things for different people – people of different religions, ethnicities and personal traditions. But for many, many people around the world, one thing is true; the inescapable holiday juggernaut that is Christmas will soon be here.

Those annoying “classics” are on the radio 24/7, the iconic, fake plastic trees can be seen every which way, and many of us are begrudgingly buying uninspired presents for uninspirational relatives – yet still we love Christmas.

And love certainly is at least one word that can be used to describe this bizarre, global phenomenon that sees us putting our worries aside and doing nothing but spending time with close friends and family.

Of the two previous opinion pieces I’ve written for TSSZ, one addresses the Sonic the Hedgehog fanbase and the other addresses Sega’s free-to-play business practices, and both do so negatively. But why? Why did I decide to tackle aspects of Sega I disagreed with instead of celebrating its recent achievements?

For one thing, it always helps to be topical when writing such articles, and Sega hadn’t given consumers or fans any good news at the time the two articles in question were written. Instead, Sonic Dash for Android had materialised from the ether and the Ken Pontac “scandal” had generated heated debates amongst fans – both of which were topics begging for commentary by yours truly.

See, it’s my thinking that human beings have an affinity for the negative. We’re inexplicably drawn to controversy, carnage and the moral failings of others. Just look at the headlines of any form of news reporting, be that video game news or otherwise. Simply put, we crave reasons to hate.

And to hate comes naturally to us. It’s so very easy to hate. The English language is especially attuned to expressions of hate and negativity – describing why we dislike something is far easier than describing why we genuinely love something. Even the word “love” itself is more difficult for most people to use with the same enthusiasm and passion as their daily usage of “hate”.

hate defined tssz

Last month I attended a quarterly show titled “Modern Playing”, run by professor James Newman of the Bristih, National Videogame Archive and Iain Simons of the popular British festival GameCity festival. As is the case with GameCity, Modern Playing focuses on the social aspects of “gaming” rather than on videogames themselves.

With a theme of “Christmas”, this quarter’s show opened with footage of two young children making their way downstairs on Christmas morning and opening presents to Happy Xmas (War Is Over). Needless to say, fond videogame-related Christmas memories of washed over me – Sonic & Knuckles, the Nintendo 64, Metroid Fusion, even Sonic Colours – those good times; those Christmas times.

But then Simons relayed his personal Christmas conundrum to the audience: his parents in law wanted to give his son — their grandson — either a PlayStation 4 or an Xbox One as a Christmas present and looked to Simons for advice on which console would be more suitable.

Simons described how his gut reaction was to keep his son away from both of the recently released consoles altogether because, despite the love he himself holds for videogames and videogame culture, he was all too aware of the raw hatred that many gamers frequently brought into the equation.

And as Simons finished speaking, the same sequence from the start of the show played again, but with a sobering difference. The young children again made their ways down the stairs and Lennon sung away in the background once more, but this time the footage over overlain with the disgusting, hateful social media comments from offensively ignorant Sony and Microsoft “fanboys”. It’s a world of hate far beyond the harmless playground squabbles of the 90’s and it’s a world Simons would rather shield his son from completely.

And so I come back to my TSSZ opinion pieces. The first, regarding Ken Pontac, Sonic canon and its apologists was intentionally inflammatory. As expected, I received comments from a small proportion of disgruntled readers that thought it acceptable to insult me, my opinions and my work.

But I don’t mind.

In fact, I’m extremely grateful for each and every person who read the article, let alone those who took the time to leave a comment. I’m also grateful that the Sonic fanbase is still robust enough to warrant the existence of sites such as TSSZ, therefore providing me a platform from which to communicate my thoughts and opinions.

But like I said, us humans love to hate, and thanking readers for reading an article that simultaneously lambastes them just doesn’t work – but doesn’t that make me part of the problem? Doesn’t that mean that I’m contributing, even in the smallest way, to the videogame culture negativity that Simons wishes to shield his son from?

So as a special Christmas treat, I’m going to buck the trend:

Thank you for taking the time to read my work – regardless of whether or not you agree with it – and I hope you all have an absolutely smashing Christmas.

See you next year!