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Reader Comments (52)

Posted: Dec 6th 2011 4:08PM DancingCow said

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It's only "just" a game when they disagree with you (and usually agree with the developer) about something. When it's something they care about but aren't getting, the "just" takes a holiday.

i.e. quite normal but irrational, sophist gibberish.

Posted: Dec 6th 2011 4:11PM Azules said

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Thing is, most of the time the expression 'Just a game' is used is when someone is taking things drastically out of context, getting exceedingly angry over nothing at all, or putting the game before their real lives.

That's when it's right to say "Chill out, dude. It's just a game, You've not seen sunlight in days, go the hell outside."

If someone is saying that to you, especially within the game itself, it might be time to re-evaluate your current habits/behaviour.

Posted: Dec 6th 2011 6:52PM sortius said

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@Azules Which is the totally wrong way to diffuse a situation. It's the last bastion of a childish mind to antagonise someone further by devaluing their feelings.

Generally people who say "It's just a game" are people who refuse to accept that their actions (or inaction) removes the enjoyment for others. If we all took the view that "It's just a game" & refused to accept that others wish to enjoy the game too, then what's the point of an MMO? Why not just play single player games, seeing as you don't respect the mental & emotional investment others have in the game?

People who tend to use this phrase tend to do so during Raid/Dungeons where they've done something wrong & refuse to admit it. The best way to diffuse a situation is to be honest both with the other person and yourself. Admit you screwed up, admit you weren't paying attention, admit you really don't care about the game (so they can find someone else who does), whatever it may be. If you don't, it's just a childish troll from a small minded selfish person.
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Posted: Dec 6th 2011 8:18PM Azules said

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@sortius I have no problem at all with poking fun at someone so blatantly incapable of sorting their priorities. If a game is making someone that angry, or they're that obsessed and unable to take a step back and calm down, Then they're likely the one you want to point the finger at for childishness.

In a trolling/trolled situation, it's the person whom is trolled and takes the bait that is the idiot, If someone who does have some sort of sane perspective wants to poke them into squealing/ragequitting then more power to em. Less no lifers around to play internet warlord that way.

I See your point though, I know a lot of people come out with 'It's just a game' when they've done something inexcusably douchey or stupid. That's a point I can't refute, I'm thinking more in terms of people who're living more in the game than real life, whenever a group wipes, this is the guy that's squealing and wanting to know/single out the person responsible. I don't mean after a particularly silly wipe, I mean any wipe at all.

While the argument that because the activity you're taking part in is entertainment only you shouldn't care about the results is annoying in terms of ass covering, There are a percentage of squealing armchair dictators that need to go outside, if only to be humbled by how low society at large regards them.
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Posted: Dec 7th 2011 9:13AM Celtar said

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@sortius

Couldn't have summed it up better Sortius. well stated.

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Posted: Dec 6th 2011 4:19PM jeremys said

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Nice article, Eliot. I share a similar sentiment. It's like what my Bio has always said,

"...He finds MMOs to be both incredibly fun and lighthearted video games, as well as potential breeding grounds for deeper, rich life experiences, story telling and learning...."

Posted: Dec 6th 2011 4:25PM enamelizer said

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Great article (essay?).

Very well thought out and written, one of the best I have seen on Massively.

Posted: Dec 6th 2011 4:46PM Jef Reahard said

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Nice read, and pretty much agreed on all points.

I wonder if the (over?)use of the "just a game" phrase has any correlation to the migration of MMOs from virtual worlds to "just games," and the fact that there are more people playing them as disposable diversions than as the forms of extended escapism that seemed to typify the early days.

Posted: Dec 6th 2011 5:29PM hereafter said

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@Jef Reahard

I think that if it is showing up more in regards to MMOs, it's only because more people are playing them. You hear it regardless of genre though, it's just more grating to MMO players because of the investment involved. Marathon-ing Skyrim will also have your friends telling you it's "just a game" if you're snapping at them for interrupting you or something.

It mostly depends on the context. A player being flippant on a forum about a major game change might fit the scenario you're pondering, but a friend saying it when you refuse to get together for drinks in favor of a night of solo gaming is a completely different matter.
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Posted: Dec 6th 2011 5:47PM Mikx said

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@hereafter About 4 or 5 years ago I was in the game aisle of Best Buy, (this was back in the good old days of yore, when BB had a lot of shelf space for PC games) and these two older women ("moms") were talking videogames, and one of them explained to the other what world of warcraft was, that you bought the game but paid a continuing subscription to play it, and her son loved the game, and that it actually saved her money because he wasn't playing or wanting other games.

I was happily playing WoW at the time, and while I gave her "cool mom" props, she really got it and all that, I felt a bit dirty inside, and thought something like, "Its just a game" because even though she was entirely positive, it still seemed like the subscription was an elaborate scam-- and I was actively paying the subscription (and did for 2 more years).
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Posted: Dec 6th 2011 4:48PM Felnor said

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I think people need to balance what they do in life in general ether it be a game or something they are devoted to. If you don't you become really shallow and no fun to deal with.


Posted: Dec 6th 2011 4:47PM Silverangel said

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You use the analogy of a sports team as an example of how a game matters. On the other hand, you say that the statement "It's just a game" bothers you immensely and offends a lot of people. Ok, so lets go from there back to the sports analogy. If I said "It's just a football game", should I expect my significant other and his friends to flip out, be deeply bothered and angry, and write a long article about this? Should I expect "many" to be seriously offended by my statement, including all of his friends who play football 40 hours a week, and raid for days to get a new shoulder pad?

No, that would be idiotic. Time to file for divorce.

Posted: Dec 6th 2011 4:52PM irontroll said

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@Silverangel the difference being is that people don't use the "it's just a game" as an excuse to be an a-hole in most sports - specially as spectators. I think the point the author was trying to make is that there are a lot of things we care deeply about - and some are games. It doesn't make the game mean less or be less cared about, it's just an observation.
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Posted: Dec 6th 2011 5:14PM CoffeeMug said

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@Silverangel You miss the point. The article is about how games aren't 'just' anything. They're an important part of human interaction and quite often the semi-tangible representation of an investment of time, knowledge, and learning.

Calling a game 'just a game' can be interpreted as disrespect and, ultimately, invalidating what's perceived as a deep and nuanced interest. We identify our personalities based on our interests, and if those interests are perceived as inferior or trifling, then our natural reaction is to assume that WE are the same way.

People don't take well to being told, indirectly, that they're misguided and ultimately inferior for their interests. It's rude and short-sighted. That's the point.
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Posted: Dec 6th 2011 4:50PM irontroll said

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"it's just a game" is the mantra of ninja-looters and griefers everywhere. It's how they excuse their antisocial behavior.

(and yes you can be play against people in a game without actually being antisocial).

Posted: Dec 6th 2011 4:57PM EventVox said

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People will act like their hobby is infinitely more social or productive than gaming. The funny thing, sitting on a couch watching TV is not social or productive, so leave me alone ;)

Posted: Dec 6th 2011 5:01PM Space Cobra said

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Well, for me, that statement is used in arguments so casually by those who don't care about RP-aspects, lore, texts, or other things. IMO, it's rather funny/ironic that they'll trow this statement out in an argument, but that begs the question, "What are they doing in this game if it is not important to them?"

I mean, why waste time on an idle past time if they consider it nothing? It also boggles me that people who don't care for immersion are so keen to play in a specific game/theme/universe. If the game play of stick-figures are good, why care for graphics? Good gameplay is good irregardless of the dressing one puts on top.

This is a pretty poor counter-argument. True, I know the sentiment of, "Take a chill pill." But that guy is in my hobby as much as he is in mine. I tend to be easy-going for most things.

Still, I feel people making those kind of statements either "don't fully get it" or they are not really into gaming (and should not really take the time/effort to even be on forums/message boards. Irony rears its head again!) or they are just trolling to different degrees.

In this society, it is easy to belittle such things.

"It is a kid's hobby."

"Who would be crazy enough to go out in that costume?!?"

"Waste of time."

You could say this about ALL hobbies, be it restoring old cars or Cosplaying or Music or what-have-you. And yet, here is this "critic", in your hobby and doing the same thing. In some ways, it may be that he is assuring himself that he is "mature", so he says what his peers may want to hear. But it ain't that mature, IMO, if you criticize people so much and put your nose in their business. "Live and let live," I say. Go about your life, you don't have to stick your head in my world, but folks do.

Again, I bet their response would be sour if I did the same and disparaged their favorite hobby.

Posted: Dec 6th 2011 5:12PM Mikx said

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It's just a game can be constructive criticism for people that take games way too seriously.

Case in point, a recent game of LoL (yes, it is not an MMO, but you cover it on massively, so I'll just stick my tongue out at you, so there.) this guy started screaming at me before the minions even spawned, that escalated to obscenity and then he whipped out some slurs. And I dropped the "It's just a game" on him, and loved it when it enraged him even further. I should point out that this was co-op versus AI, and on beginner mode no less.

I mean, sure, its just a game, but reporting him was one of the highlights of my day.

One of the cruel contradictions of MMOs is that they're not persistent. If anyone was dumb enough (I assume, I haven't played it myself, but anything that was sent to the junkpile en masse can't be all that good) they could go get an old atari and play E.T. The Extra-terrestrial today. That offers a persistence that much newer and better games like Tabula Rasa, the newly zombiefied APB, or the soon to be deceased SW Galaxies can't offer.

Posted: Dec 6th 2011 5:17PM CoffeeMug said

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@Mikx You might think it's constructive, but I doubt he found any valuable takeaway there.... which means it wasn't that constructive after all. You'd have been better off just sticking to the report, methinks.
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Posted: Dec 6th 2011 5:34PM Mikx said

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@CoffeeMug

It is constructive advice, whether he chose to accept it is out of my control. ;) If anything actually changed his behavior, it was when I rhetorically asked him "So, you're resorting to slurs now?" which made him realize he'd gone too far. Shaming trolls generally produces better results than reason, retaliating, dropping the game, or non-confrontation.
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