Poser Status: Gaming With Imposter Syndrome

Pokemon GO

Twitter is now my favorite place to consume gaming content. Quick, easy, visual, and the ability to 1v1 anyone on their very literal latest opinion or creation. I was nonchalantly scrolling on my battered phone (probably ten centimeters from my face because I have no depth perception) before coming across this tweet by Girl Tribe Gaming.

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I tapped it, ready to input my two cents by replying to the tweet as I don’t have a Reddit account, and then froze, mentally reprimanding myself. I couldn’t answer that question. My horde of 100 followers couldn’t know that the first time I ever played Street Fighter was in my first year of university, or that I caught my first Pokémon ever in 2016. They couldn’t know that I was a fake! I even have an illustrated Twitter icon, the hallmark of ‘I’m professional, yet hip; approachable, but discerning in the ventures I have dotted about in my bio.’

And then I realized that I should probably address this.

The year 2016 has definitely been a year for the reboots, remasters, remakes, sequels, and prequels—even before we talk specifically about gaming. At E3, Tekken 7 was announced and Microsoft Studios showed off the Gears of War 4 demo in all its high-def glory. Naughty Dog bestowed the huge news of a Crash Bandicoot trilogy remaster and release on PlayStation 4, which sent long-lost fans into a completely understandable frenzy.

Pokémon Sun and Moon gameplay were also displayed, and audiences both physically present and streaming the conference online cast opposing opinions on the new Pokémon. Some adored them, efficiently dispatching doodles and parodies onto social media, while others criticized the Pokémon for not being as interesting or inventive as the creatures from the original games.

Finally, Hideo Kojima emerged on stage from the shrouded rumors at Sony’s conference, stating simply: “Hello, everyone. I’m back!” The audience loved it. I remembered Kojima was important for something, but not what. A quick Google search before watching the Death Stranding trailer filled in the shameful gaps in my memory.

Fast-forward from a 45-minute talk at E3 2016 to now: the world has bore witness to the success of Pokémon GO, which has been the word on everyone’s lips—even presidential candidates. How could it not be? The game monopolizes the “same generation hypothesis.” Kids of the ’90s and early 2000s are hooked in by the heady nostalgia, accessibility, and ubiquity of smartphones over handhelds.

Pokemon GO

Excluding in-app purchases, Pokémon GO costs nothing to the player, removing the hassle and expense of buying a separate system. Additionally, exporting this Pokémon format onto the smartphone enables people to boot up the game (servers permitting) whenever and wherever they’d like to, making it an easy distraction during a coffee break or catching the bus to work. Pokémon GO moves with the stresses, bustle, and speed of life for young people in 2016—not against it.

I am honestly in awe of the number of factors and the difference in importance and weighting that have harmoniously synchronized to allow Pokémon GO to be the app that has more active users than Tinder, and soon, Twitter. In a world that seems to be spinning out of control, I’m proud of my generation’s devotion to virtual critters that make them happy.

This feeling doesn’t actually make sense, seeing as I never played any of the games as a child, nor as an adult. The Pokémon games are child-oriented, not adult- oriented, trading off the dream of being the very best like no one ever was. It’s special to those children that grew up with it and will grow up with the new Sun and Moon games now. I am separate to both of those groups.

Bereft of the Pokémon series and nearly every other mainstream game and console of the early 2000s, I was primarily playing on a PC. I had a selection of historical city-building games; Caesar III, Pharaoh, and Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom. I was afraid of conflict, anxious that the 2D sprite armies would ruin and pillage my beautifully planned gardens and residential areas, and ruled peacefully and balanced the moods of the gods with well-received festivals and offerings.

My cities thrived, but my micro-managing skills were not to be trapped in the past. I also played Theme Park, Theme Hospital, Zoo Tycoon, and its successor Zoo Tycoon 2. I bred several generations of Tyrannosaurus rex and cured afflictions from Broken Hearts to Uncommon Colds across many hospitals before I was riding my bike without the stabilizers. If only I could put this on my CV.

My gaming childhood was characterized by simulation games only, epitomized by the fact that my first Nintendog was named after a pre-made Sim in the The Sims 2. (It was Dustin Broke, if anyone was wondering. And he was a Miniature Schnauzer.)

Pokemon GO

As games progressed, we all grew up, and my personal interests developed, I felt intensely isolated from the group I desperately wanted to be a part of. I couldn’t relate to Call of Duty memes shared constantly on my Facebook feed, and I had never touched an Xbox 360 controller up until June of this year. I could be a relatively convincing poser through sinking many hours of my free time into YouTube Let’s Plays of the latest releases, and anything I didn’t get, well, Google is always your friend. Forging the missing pieces of my knowledge and ‘culture’ like this, however, is not a substitute for innate familiarity with this industry and its evolution.

I can’t help but frame my gaming childhood negatively! I want to write about it objectively, but I’m shown every day that it doesn’t count. It didn’t tick enough boxes. Do I even know all [insert number here] Pokémon in the first Pokémon game? I had to force myself not to research that number. And to not look up whether it was Pokémon Red or Blue that came first. Or if it even is ‘Red’ or ‘Blue.’ Maybe I’m thinking of Digimon? That was a joke.

That makes me nervous about where I stand in the crowd. I really want to continue writing about games past, present, and future, but if I can’t open my article with a cute, nostalgia-infused statement about Crash Bandicoot, is what I’m saying worth anything at all?

I mean, even writing this gives me anxiety. I’ve placed a metaphorical megaphone to my mouth and yelled “I’M A FAKE! I THOUGHT STAR FOX WAS A WEB BROWSER UP UNTIL RECENTLY! I DON’T HAVE MUSCLE MEMORY OF THE KONAMI CODE! I’VE NEVER PLAYED MAJORA’S MASK, AND TO BE HONEST, IT LOOKS A BIT WEIRD!”

Games are culture. I wouldn’t feel this way if they weren’t. But if one delves into the debate of what is and isn’t culture, and what is and isn’t a real game, it starts to get a bit offensive and restrictive. Our experiences are valid, whether we started playing Skyrim in our seventies, or we play Candy Crush Saga in our breaks between classes, or New Super Mario Bros. Wii is the only game we’ll ever need.

Instead of being petrified that one day my ‘poser’ status will be exposed and I’ll have to run for the hills, I should calm down and eat some fruit. I have nothing to worry about. It’s just a game, or few, after all.

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8 Comments on “Poser Status: Gaming With Imposter Syndrome

  1. Let me take this opportunity to welcome you to the world of Pokémon! It’s been my impression that the gaming franchise goes out of its way to be open to newcomers. What I’ve witnessed over the past two weeks of playing Pokémon GO is this ideology of acceptance translated into the real world, with older or more experienced players actively helping younger or less experienced players.

    To give a concrete example, I live by the National Zoo in DC, which has a ton of pokéstops (as one might imagine). When I go for walks there, I’ve seen players approaching people who seem confused about how something in the game works, and the zoo employees and volunteers have been engaged in helping the kids who come up to them and ask for directions. I’m sure there are hardcore people lurking by the gyms, but the overall approach seems to be one of enthusiastic welcome.

    I don’t want to brush aside the fascinating and productive discussions on how Pokémon GO can be more accessible to a wider range of gamers, of course. I sincerely hope that these conversations bear fruit, because it’s been amazing to see how an inclusive attitude regarding gaming has become a means of fostering real-world kindness.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hear hear. Anyone banishing you to the sidelines for not having all the original pokemon memorized isn’t someone whose approval you (want to) want anyway. A PC gamer myself originally, I didn’t touch a console till the twilight days of the PS1, which I know is still earlier than you but people are no slower to deem the experience unworthy of true gamerdom. And on the flip side you have the creative types I spent the majority of my youth around anyway, all of whom turned their noses up at any kind of gaming at all. Both sides are, as you point out, dealing with culture, but both turn up their noses so religiously — it’s either “you weren’t hard core enough in your cradle to join my club!” or “you didn’t eschew enough LOWBROW PURSUITS to produce ART!” — that they they end up sidelining the majority of the population. Which is, culturally speaking, the equivalent of digging their own graves. So go on and enjoy exactly the amount and type of gaming you enjoy. Comment on it, critique it, consume it, whatever. And everyone passing judgment on your or anyone else’s identity (gamerly, artistic or otherwise!) can take a hike.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I also didn’t really start gaming until pretty recently. I don’t see it as a negative thing or making us posers. Instead, it gives us a unique perspective. I’ve been going back and playing older games and writing a little about it, and it’s interesting having discussions with people who feel nostalgia for the games while I’m seeing the game with fresh eyes and no nostalgia.

    I do happen to know a lot of the original pokemon because one game I had access to was Pokemon Blue version. But my favorite is playing with people who don’t know the names, and the ways they try to describe which pokemon they are seeing or just caught is hilarious. You’re not a poser, just new, and everyone started somewhere once!

    So welcome to gaming and it’s nice to see someone else writing for FemHype that’s newer to gaming! (I wrote several articles for them before, under the name Kayla).

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I totally know how you feel. I didn’t start playing video games until I was an adult, just a few years ago really. I also watched a lot of Let’s Play videos early on to catch up on games, and I would sink hours into my favorites so I learned fast! This is such a great post as I relate to a lot of it. But it’s cool to have a perspective of being new to some old classics. We have a unique view! It’s also been fun playing Mortal Kombat lately with my boyfriend — it’s my first time playing it, whereas he’s been playing the series since he was 7 years old. Those are the kinds of experiences that are really fun when gaming as an adult for the first time… kind of being brought into a loved series by someone, and having a fresh perspective on it. It’s like you get to be a “kid” playing these games for the first time!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Awesome post. And newbie to Pokeman here too! But I have to say, the old pros I know have been accepting and encouraging. They’re all about sharing the love. 🙂

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  6. My parents got my brother and I an Atari for xmas one year and we blistered our thumbs playing Pac-Man, Defender and Space Invaders. We occasionally visited arcades and I sucked consistently at Rampage (but loved it just the same)… and then I didn’t play games again until college when I met my to-be husband, who’d worked in an arcade, and who had a Playstation. I can’t count myself among the rabid, devoted, or obsessive. So what if I’m not in a top-rated WoW guild? I can’t quote stats, loot tables, or name all the original Pokémon, but I am a gamer. And “I’ve got nothing to prove.” These are *games* and it’s about having fun, right? I hit level 14 at the park last night, and I’ve got two more eggs incubating; if I just walk around the neighborhood a little more, maybe they’ll be something really cool. 😀

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  7. I try to view it as, if someone is upset that you haven’t been gaming since you could sit up by yourself, they are a horrible representation of the gaming community. They should be welcoming to gamers whenever the come in. I pretty much just started getting into gaming myself, and was the Roller Coaster and Zoo Tycoon myself! Everyone should be happy that you and I and everyone else is trying it out and not criticizing it and out-casting it.

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  8. Yup. I know exactly what you’re talking about, but I’ve taken the opposite tact of just declaring myself a gamer and letting everyone else know they can call themselves whatever they want, regardless of how they spent their childhood or how many original Pokemon they can name. Eat your fruit. Ignore the haters. And love what you love without reservation.

    Like

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