Welcome to The Skeptic’s Corner, the monthly column in which I share my reservations about various books, movies, TV shows, video games and more!
When it comes to the holidays, I’d much rather get all of my shopping done from the comfort of my home than brave the madness that is the rest of the world. Even in the Midwest, where we know how to deal with ice and snow, there’s just something about the combination of winter weather and short holiday tempers that results in a plethora of accidents and generally unpleasant behavior. The way I see it, if I don’t have to subject myself to these lunatics, I’m not going to. One of my first stops each year is ThinkGeek, where I browse the most recent geeky goodness. Every year, it’s the same: my eye is drawn to that 8-Bit Wreath—not because I think it would be a perfect fit for someone I love, but because it would be the perfect gift for me.
But every year, this innocent little wreath kicks off the same battle in my head:
Oh! Look how adorable that is! I’m going to add it to my cart for myself.
Ahem, what? Name one 8-bit game you enjoyed as a child.
Good. Now, name one 8-bit game you enjoy now.
Well…I like Minecraft!
I see. You play that, what, every day? Once a week?
A few times a year?
Mmhmm. Yes, that wreath looks like a perfect representation of who you are as a gamer.
8-bit images, and even music, have become the universal sign for gamers in recent years. But how many of us really love this old school design? Now, I’m sure a lot of you do, and there’s nothing wrong with that. You can proudly place that wreath upon your door without shame. But what about me, or people who hate the 8-bit aesthetic? How about younger gamers who have never even seen that classic, pixilated design? How can I, in good faith, get my sister this adorable bow when I know that, like me, she isn’t really into games that look this way?
Perhaps I’m thinking too much into this, but I can’t help feeling like a fraud when I add an 8-bit item to my wishlist, knowing that I don’t even like 8-bit games.
Maybe the problem isn’t necessarily that these items exist, but rather what they’re trying to do. Gamers are an incredibly diverse group of people: we have different beliefs, different backgrounds, and different passions. How many people do you know who can genuinely say they love (or even like) every single game genre? Probably not too many. The problem, therefore, lies in the idea that companies can make merchandise appealing to ALL gamers. While 8-bit designs may be the most easily recognizable for non-gamers, the fact remains that they may not be the best fit for gamers as individuals.
But if you can’t buy the generic 8-bit gift, what’s left? Plenty of things! Take these awesome Portal earrings, or an adorable Murloc plush doll. I got a friend the Warglaive of Azzinoth for his birthday this year, and he was over the moon.
As a gamer and a geek, I understand the drive to feel like a part of a community. Being a gamer isn’t just about the games you play or why you like them. What separates a person who simply enjoys games from a gamer is the idea that, for the latter, there’s a community of other people out there with the same love and passion as you. It means that there are other people who will get your silly jokes, people you can spend time with, chat with, and be at ease with. For many of us, it means that we are finally able to find people whom we can connect with on a level that, perhaps, we haven’t been able to in the past. And who knows? Maybe you would’ve never met your new best friend if you hadn’t been wearing that 8-bit bow, or if they hadn’t seen the wreath on your door. Maybe that’s what started the first conversation that blossomed into such a glorious relationship.
I just realized the point, didn’t I? Maybe the 8-bit gift isn’t’t a bad thing. Maybe people like me don’t have to feel like posers when we hang that delightful little wreath from our doors. It may be true that the wreath doesn’t represent the games I love, but it does represent the overall feeling of ownership. It means that I own the geek I am, and I’m not going to hide it any more. That wreath means that, while some may laugh with malice, others might laugh with genuine joy. With all of this talk of fake geek girls and fake gamers, let’s take a moment to let this object be what it truly is—a symbol of what we all love. It doesn’t mean that I’m avowing my love for everything old school. It doesn’t even guarantee that I’ve played those games. All it means is that I love games, and if you love them too, maybe we should be friends.
I wish you all a very wonderful holiday—stay safe, have fun, and if you want that bloody 8-bit necklace despite having never played an 8-bit game, just buy it. Life is too short to fret over the things you love.