Now that I have written a couple posts, I thought it would be a good time to write a piece talking about the namesake of my column here at TurnBasedLiving.
The Gamer’s [Insert body part here] is a fun go to phrase that I have always thrown around when playing with friends and family. The phrase definitely feels fairly universal to me, but I’m not sure how much it is used by others. In general, it refers to an adroitness or phenomenon that (often stereotypically) exists amongst gamers.
For example, my brother and I can often shrug off the need for food in a heavy gaming session, aka the gamer’s stomach. We might attribute hand coordination or general manual dexterity to the gamer’s hands, or poetically suggest the gamer’s heart as a strong desire to become a player in the hero’s journey. I’ve thrown out a multitude of these throughout the years having different meanings and masking different connotations, but the idea that I love the most is the Gamer’s Eye.
A bit ago, I had the entertaining experience of playing through some of Donkey Kong Country Returns in a roomful of people with a wide range of gaming experience. As we were playing through, looking for the different hidden elements spread amongst the level, it was relatively obvious who were major gamers, and who were not.
The screen would scroll a little to the right with a clue like a mildly odd looking tree, a weird zoom or a faded glimmer behind some brush. A moment later there would be a “You see th…” followed by a quick “yup, I’m on it”, with half the room left entirely confused with what was going on.
Here’s another quick anecdote to consider. Sitting together in a room with group of gamers playing a game with puzzles, let’s say, Zelda or Ico. The group is stuck for the moment. What do I see? I see eyes taking in everything and minds exploding with ideas. Did you try this wall? Or how about that lever? And that item over there is clearly relevant. Curiosity bursting through the seams, each wishing to try A, B and C in this or that order. It’s a beautiful thing to observe (especially when it isn’t a boisterous bunch, which may quickly become a cluster f*** of overriding voices fast).
Ultimately, the Gamer’s Eye means a lot to me. It generally encompasses components of perception with connotations relating to those situations above. That is, gamers tend to have constantly wandering eyes filled with curiosity and optimism, which are geared towards finding subtle hints to implanted puzzles and secrets.
Now, I know I have a writing style that likes to coalesce a plethora of melodramatic verbiage into somewhat convoluted amalgamations we refer to as sentences, but that description of the Gamer’s Eye is very purposeful (as opposed to the rest of my writing…?! :P) so let’s try to break it down a little.
First and foremost, my Gamer’s Eyes are optimistic. A puzzle game isn’t going to put me into a puzzle room with no escape (unless it is some kind of bad ending of which there should be some cued credits or something). Similarly, if there are outlines representing the three large coins I can get in a Mario game, those coins are going to exist.
There is a right solution to things because we are following the expectations set forth by the game in a logical way. There are these axioms of progression and success that exist within the gaming world. There is a promise that in a locked room, I have what I need to escape, and there is the promise that if I run to the right and dodge enough pitfalls I will find success.
Promises like these are made implicitly and explicitly through every game. The most prominent and demanding promise being that success is achievable. This idea, thus makes me optimistic in my search.
Secondly, there is the wandering nature of my Gamer’s Eyes. In these carefully crafted worlds, people put in time to add graphics and gameplay elements to everything. Whether it is a design in the background or a trashcan that I can pick up and throw at people, everything has a purpose. It could contain some kind of item, some clue to solving a mystery or it could just be an atmospheric color choice.
Taking a moment to absorb all of that isn’t enough. It is a world that came out of the mind of some talented group of game makers! A WORLD! So I keep my eyes turning here, there and the other place looking for ways to not only interact with this world, but also understand it.
With those wandering eyes, however, comes a touch (understatement) of curiosity. I want to know what, if anything, I can interact with and who is going to be relevant in my journey to success. If all of the trees are a dark forest green and this other tree is more of a sea green, my internal radar goes off. Perhaps its a sign of some secret, or maybe its a sign of a genetic mutation in the trees, but that curiosity is always ticking.
For example, take any Zelda game. Retracing steps in dungeons once I have obtained the special item is a key element of the gameplay. So that period before I have the special item, when I’m seeing unreachable levers or weird tracks in the wall, my mind is just geared to question if I can 1) interact with them now and, if not, 2) consider what is coming later in the dungeon.
Another, simple example is noticing the elements that suggest a wall is fake in a Mario game. Perhaps it is slightly indented, or there are obvious signs of where a fake wall would lead. Thus, this curiosity in turn brings my Gamer’s Eyes to the the aforementioned hints to puzzles and secrets.
Comparing gamers and non-gamers can be quite interesting. It is easy to pick out a gamer versus a non-gamer by first interactions with a brand new game. Certain things that feel universally intuitive to me, are clearly not so universal.
In a platformer, as a new gamer slowly creeps through a level trying to understand the mechanics of the character’s speed, acceleration, slippage, jump distance, etc, they are often blind to the little tells that suggest different layers to the game.
It actually makes me quite curious if I went down that first pipe in the original Mario. It seems so intuitive now, but was that something I learned from either watching someone else do it, a vague curiosity, or maybe even entirely accidentally? Additionally, I’d be quite curious to study segmented gamers. How fast does someone that only plays sports games and/or FPSs pick up a Mario game versus someone that has never played a video game before?
There are clearly different elements of learning involved, and I’m curious how much of that is translatable outside of video games. I’m not claiming that all of these components have translated 100% into my life.
For one thing, framing is a large component in these skills. I’m optimistic in a game partially because I KNOW there is a solution. Perhaps this optimism is quickly washed out by the uncertainties of life. Similarly, I keep my eyes open for anything and everything because I know there are these little implanted secrets in games. I didn’t, for example, do an amazing job with this video when I first saw it. I can’t say gaming has necessarily made me someone who is obsessively observant (like say Shawn Spencer or Patrick Jane), but being a gamer has definitely partially molded who I am today.
I would be a fool to think my Gamer’s Eyes have no effect on my day-to-day interactions and my general philosophy on life. I am a truly optimistic person and I can’t help but feel this is partially a product of growing up with so much gaming. Playing game after game with an achievable goal has left me with this indomitable sense that life, too, has an victory waiting at the end.
I can’t say how I get to the endgame, or frankly, what that endgame even is, but that doesn’t matter. There are bound to be bumps in the road, and yet, my mind is filled with optimism. I may not be able to predict more than a couple steps ahead, but look at 2D Mario: he can barely see 2 feet in front of him (depending on the size of your TV I suppose), but he charges forward nonetheless, knowing that with bravery and tenacity (and some fireballs) he can succeed.
Even more than that, with an eye for the little cues to hidden secrets and treasures, Mario finds much more; he finds a world up amongst the stars. I think this is key too. Perhaps it isn’t grabbing secret coins down hidden passageways, but there are always cues to these pathways to success in life.
I know I personally find these cues from faces I surround myself with everyday. Whether it is friends, families, co-workers or just random acquaintances, the people in our lives regularly leave hints to who they are and what makes them happy in their words, facial gestures, and general mannerisms.
I rank bringing joy to others and understanding those elements of happiness quite high in finding meaning in life, but there are similar clues no matter how you define this success. Perhaps these cues are hidden in the results of a western blot for a scientist, or a window-of-opportunity at a networking night for the business savvy dreamer.
Ultimately, The Gamer’s Eye as a symbol for this blog comes down to all these elements and more. It’s about perception. It’s about the passive as well as the active efforts I put in to understand the world I have been thrown into.
That world may be Mushroom Kingdom or Emory University, a corporate setting or a Harvest Moon ranch, at the Connor family lakehouse or chillin in the Kong family treehouse, on Earth or in Sector Z. There are lessons to learn in all these places, if only I keep my Gamer’s Eyes open!
That’s all I have for this post. I’m curious to hear from you guys. What did the term “Gamer’s Eye” evoke as a concept before you read this article? Was it something along these lines, or a different idea altogether? Also, if you are feeling imaginative, how about throwing some ideas down below for your own “Gamer’s ____”. Like, perhaps, the Gamer’s Thumb! I’m getting images of my calloused thumbs from hours of Melee with the rubber worn off my gamecube controllers or Mario Party rotation games pitting my thumb and the N64 joystick in a battle to the death! But that’s just me. Let’s hear some of your ideas!
Stay awesome! Until next time, game on and learn on!