My name is Kaitlyn Jeffers, I'm 28, live in Chicago, and you know, I thought I had lost interest in them, but then I realized -- when I was home -- that recently, I've been going to Emporium and those bar arcades. Like, any time I'm walking around and I see one I just go in there and start playing videogames. [Laughs.] So that's the most interest I've had in them in recent years, is playing them socially again. Which is sort of, I guess, how I liked them in the first place. Like, going to arcades for birthday parties and stuff.
Yeah, sort of more social than being home alone or whatever?
Yeah. And even when I used to play them a lot more when I was 18, I realized -- I had a boyfriend who would always play videogames, and we would always play. He had a GameCube and a Super Nintendo. So we would play Metroid and stuff, but it was always kind of a little more collaborative and social. People would come over and we would all just sit around playing videogames.
Right. So even if you weren't playing, you felt involved?
What did you guys do that you felt involved with it? Were you helping him figure out where to go, were you just yelling at him because he was doing all the wrong things --
[Laughs.] Well, actually, he had played those games -- or he finished them. So I was kind of going back and replaying them, because he hadn't played them in years. So I was actually playing it, and if I got stuck, he would -- I think he was a little more of a problem-solving brain? So he liked to go online and find out how people beat these things and all that stuff. But I didn't have the patience for any of that, I would just keep messing with it.
You didn't have the patience for what?
To actually go on a message board and figure out how to complete something, and --
Yeah, you'd rather just play?
[Laughs.] So, it's totally fine that you're back playing, it's not a big deal. I'm curious, though, what you -- it sounded like, from your e-mails, for a period of time, you associated videogames with a negative time in your life?
Oh, yeah. Definitely. Yeah, and I wouldn't even say I'm back playing. I really only go when there's an arcade bar and I have some time to kill. I would call myself back playing them. But yeah, no, when I was younger, I used to play them all night and get really, really frustrated. I played a lot more of fighting games, and, I don't know, I just had anger issues? I would play these games and get frustrated when I was losing, and it just felt very isolating and I think that's why I stopped. Also, then I got to an age where I was going out. Basically shows, and I would go out drinking and hang out with my friends, so I didn't really sit around at home.
Well, so what did you find -- I mean, what did you find isolating about them, even if you were playing games in that time?
Originally, I wasn't really playing them with other people. And I always really liked playing fighting games like Street Fighter and Killer Instinct and those were a little more singular. Because I think I'm not competitive with other people, so if I'm playing a fighting game with somebody, and they just keep winning, it's not fun, because I'm not trying to compete with my friend, but I'd rather play against a computer.
Right. So then, I don't know, how did you decide maybe you should put them down?
Well, my mom, when I was really young playing games, was like, "You should turn this off and stop." Like I used to get yelled at all the time for getting mad, throwing the controllers, so she would be yelling at me to stop. [Laughs.] And so I think part of that also kind of put me off to it.
Probably definitely being yelled at to stop playing videogames. [Laughs.]
I mean, was she yelling at you because you were throwing stuff around, or because you were worked up, or did she think games were a waste of time, or what?
Oh, she was yelling at me because I was throwing the controller and yelling and getting mad.
So she would be like, "Look, if you can't relax, then don't do it."
And that's kind of how I would react to everything, though. Like, I also have liked visual arts my whole life, and if I screwed up an ink drawing I would also throw it and freak out. [Laughs.] I don't do that anymore, but when I was younger.
Well, so then -- I think you said, too, in your email, you don't need them as a stress release any more. Do you feel like when you used to get in a mood before when you'd be like, "Well, I'm going to play video games because I sort of want to," not rage out, but you sort of want to have that catharsis, do you feel like when you get that itch now, you do something else instead that's replaced it?
Oh yeah, definitely. I've been more physically active, so now I'll just ride my bike, or -- I've been doing weightlifting and crossfit, so maybe I'll do that. But now I prefer to get outside and actually be more physical with a release of energy.
Do you think it's an either/or thing? Do you feel like you could be a person who wants to go outside and do stuff like that and also play games? I feel like it's very binary, typically, where it's either you can do this or you can do that, but you're typically not doing both.
I think with me, I'm always all or nothing. Because, I mean, my brother, for example, he still plays videogames, and he's 41. And he also works out all the time, so I know it's possible. [Laughs.] But I personally don't -- like, for me, it would be very time-consuming. And also, I didn't have a TV for a while, and I don't even own a videogame console any more.
Do you miss it?
Not really. Yeah, not at all, because I don't really play them. I don't know, I just really lost interest in them.
The one thing I always liked was Nintendo's games and how they're very problem-solving oriented. And I don't know. I think games sometimes feel a little more complicated in a boring way.
Grand Theft Auto. There's so much to Grand Theft Auto, and I would do the missions and be like, "All right, this isn't fun anymore." Because there's too much, maybe? I don't know.
I mean, I'll lose interest in Grand Theft Auto. I'm not, I think, as captivated by it as most people are. And the parts that I find the most fun are the nerdiest parts, where it's like, "Okay, you gotta do these heists, and so you gotta do project management, basically. And you gotta pick the personnel, and you gotta plan the route." That, to me, is more fun than anything else in Grand Theft Auto. [Laughs.]
Which I guess is problem-solving? Like, certainly you didn't put -- you didn't just completely flip it off, like you said. I don't really remember what all's at Emporium, but the things that you do play when you go now, do you feel like they have that same problem-solving stuff? Is that more inherent in arcade stuff, or what are you gravitating towards?
When I go to arcades, I actually do play the games I used to play, like Tekken, or I'll play Pac-Man more than I used to. Which, I guess that's slightly problem solver-ish. But I think it's more the nostalgia of it, too.
Yeah. So, from your perspective, if you don't really play, and you have lost interest, what seems weird to you about videogames today? Maybe from commercials you've seen, or anything like that as it pops up into your point of view online, or your day-to-day?
I think, maybe, one thing I'm not really into is how it's -- there's like Xbox Live, and there seems to be all this focus on playing complicated games with strangers. And it's again more alienating, because it just feels like it's the internet, but -- in your headphones.
How do you mean?
Well, the same reason I wouldn't really hang out in a chatroom, because I'd rather go out and socialize with people in the real world. I think it kind of feels more like that. And for some reason, I'm not really interested in using that to socialize, I guess, with strangers in other countries.
Was that something you were ever into or interested in?
No. Okay, well, I guess I used to like, when AOL first came out, I would be captivated by the fact that I was talking to someone from Ohio, or somewhere that wasn't my town. But now it just feels like, I don't know. I think I like the Internet overall, it just feels like such a wasteland or something. That I find really interesting, actually, but at the same time, I don't want to hang out there.
How does it seem like a wasteland to you? And I'm not saying I disagree.
I don't know, it's just everything is -- like I'm doing this AMA thing tonight, because I just find it so interesting that everybody thinks it's so important. I see on Facebook, people writing these big long cryptic messages that are clearly directed towards somebody. I think the internet is -- like, that's where their social life exists, or something. And I find that egocentric. I think that's really interesting, because it's kind of sad. [Laughs.] I don't know if that makes any sense.
[Laughs.] Oh, yeah, it does. But why does it seem sad to you?
Because it's not real. I don't take Facebook seriously. And I don't take -- I don't know, any of that. Also, if there's a crisis or something, the idea of making a hashtag, and then writing an opinion you have in a -- that's not going to change anything. [Laughs.] I feel like it's people being lazy, because they think it's more important than it is.
Do you feel like you see some of that self-importance, or the sadness you're talking about, do you see that in videogames as well?
Yeah, I think to some degree. I never really -- like, I'm not saying people who play videogames are sad and pathetic or anything. Because I get, too, that some people just enjoy -- it's a -- I'm trying to think of something I do that would be the equivalent. I don't know.
From the games you used to play, what was special about them? Do you think it’s not around anymore?
Yeah, but I think it's not in me any more, more than it doesn't exist. Because I have three roommates, and two of them have a Nintendo 64, and they're always out there playing games. Like, they come home from work and just hang out and do that. And I'm not being, "What losers!" because I get that it's relaxing. You had a long, stressful day and it's something you can do to just release and relax and stuff.
But I think, for me, I just don't like sitting in my house all the time. Like, even now, I'm outside. I can't even sit in my apartment to do work. If I have to even write something, I usually go somewhere and type it, like a coffee shop or something.
You say that, but I will see people out at coffee shops just playing World of Warcraft. I wonder: Who is that person? Why? I’m sure you’ve seen that, too.
Yeah. I feel like World of Warcraft, though, is a game that people get legitimately addicted to. [Laughs.] In the same way as you'll see someone walking down the street smoking crack, you know? I'm not shocked that someone would go to a coffee shop and start playing World of Warcraft.
Yeah. But I just wonder: Why go outside to do it?
Me personally, the moment I go home, I am relaxed -- I'm shut off, and I can't. Like lately I've been watching Mad Men, so I just go home and watch Mad Men for -- until I fall asleep. And then I just get up and go to work. And then everything else I have to get done, I usually can't be home to do it. Because whenever I'm home, I'm just in -- shut off, or something.
So I mean, what do you think it is about videogames, then? Where they can be so important to people, and then they can just sort of lose that importance? What are they lacking, where they can't stay important for long stretches of time in someone's life?
I think it depends on the person. Because, like I said, I always used them to vent frustration or as a thing to do in my apartment with my friends, but now, because I'm at a place in my life where I don't -- I can't -- I don't like hanging out in my apartment. I wouldn't bring my friends over to my apartment. I don't have much incentive to sit and play videogames. And I also don't know what games even are out there right now. But I'll still, if I see an arcade, I'll definitely go in there and just hang out and play all these games from the ‘90s that I grew up playing.
What's different with your friends, where they seem to never burn out on it vs. other people who are like, "You know, I'm just going to give it a break"? [Laughs.] What is that thing that's different?
I honestly don't want to say this in a mean way, or I hope that it's not misinterpreted that way, but I think it's just finding different ways to cope with stuff. It's the same thing as -- I have friends who got married and had kids, and have kind of calmed down with their partying, and I have friends who are the same age and are just completely incapable of that. They just can't stop going out. They don't have ways to feel this -- I guess, because I'm in this age group where people are starting to marry and settle down and have careers, and then other people are kind of, "I should be doing that" and all that. And I think for me, I do other stuff that relaxes me. I try to meditate, and I do some other stuff that -- to learn self-acceptance and all that crap, and I think that --
-- but, when I was seven, I didn't have that self-awareness, so I just played the videogames, and ate junk food, and watched a lot of TV, and just had all these different, more manic ways of dealing with stuff because I was not self-aware. And I think something -- I feel like there's a part of that tied into any sort of obsessive behavior. Because at the same time, I could -- I don't work out all the time, because I'm not looking at it as a means to an end. But there's certainly people out there who exercise too much, or they get -- maybe they feel a certain way so they go out and drink, or they go out and eat a ton of food, or something. And I think there's an element of that obsessive brain with people who play videogames a lot.
I mean --
Not everybody, of course.
No, of course not. But this is something else I ask, like, when you hear about "gamers," what do you feel the stereotype that’s commonly spread around fails to articulate? Like, from what I remember, it used to be a fat dude with a greasy face and glasses. Definitely overweight.
Food on his shirt. [Laughs.]
Food on his shirt. He's in a basement of some sort, and then somehow that got replaced with someone with a headset screaming? [Laughs.] And I feel like something we don't see as much is the OCD-ness of people who play games a ton.
Honestly, I feel like anything else, it's sort of because it's a little more interactive. Because you can hook it up to something. Games like Call of Duty or something, where you can talk to someone on your headset from another place that's also playing the game with you, and I think there's an element of it that also has a community around it, and I think that -- because I was actually at a theater the other night, talking to a friend of mine about the comedy community, or the improv community, and how some people are very religious, and there's an element of that that involves a community. And I think that having something that you're interested in, whether you're obsessed with it or just casually interested in it, creates a sense of belonging to something.
Yeah. And I think that -- didn't think someone who plays videogames as seen -- it's interesting it went from a person alone in a basement to on a headset talking to somebody, because that is more how it seems to be nowadays. Even going to the bar, you're standing next to other people who are playing videogames, even if you're not interacting with them. And I think that people are kind of catching on that it can be a little more fun. I was reading this article about some videogame that some guys made -- it's like a beehive, or something? And there's crazy lines to play it, and it's in arcades all over the country, or something.
Are you talking about Killer Queen?
With where you are with games now, if you hear a lot of people say, "Oh this game's really cool, really whatever," does that move the needle for you at all? Are you likely to care? Like, with Killer Queen?
Yeah. I mean, I would be interested in it. I might not go out and buy a PlayStation or something to play it, but I would definitely look into it a little more.
When you were more into games, were you reading magazines and websites and stuff, too?
When I was much younger I would.
What sort of stuff did you read?
At the stores I would get the game, I would just pick up magazines sometimes.
So you would just sort of thumb through it when you were at the store, then?
Yeah -- no, I would buy them and read about them, but I didn't consistently go out --
How long ago are we talking?
What do you remember about thumbing through those magazines?
Well, one thing that I realized recently, I always wanted to be able to do the fatalities in Mortal Kombat, so the thing I liked about those ‘90s games is that they would have some of that instructional stuff and I would kind of look at those. Because this is pre-Internet, so it's not like I could just go online and find out. .
Well, in those magazines, do you remember -- what trends do you remember, as far as stuff they covered, or stuff that they never covered?
I don't remember what they never covered -- but I would say, again, because my biggest thing was trying to figure out if I couldn't do something, or if I was stuck in a game, looking at it for possible tricks or whatever, to move forward.
Do you think as we age, we look for different things out of videogames? Or we look for more things out of videogames than when we were kids?
Yeah, I think so. When I was really young playing games, I know I would just get frustrated and give up if something got too complicated. And then I found when I was about 18, 19, and I lived with someone and played Metroid, I loved playing it, because I would have to figure it out. And I enjoyed that more. And even when I had a Nintendo DS, I would play Brain Age and stuff, and I kind of shifted more into problem-solving and puzzles, and more interested in stuff that's a little more practical.
Yeah, well. [Laughs.] Did you ever learn how to do those fatalities?
No! I've been watching YouTube videos of them.
I was gonna say, that's a life skill that could be practical and problem-solving also, I suppose, as a last resort.
Is there a way where you don't feel included by games right now?
I would say because I don't own the system, or have even really played many, that I definitely feel like I'm not up to speed on what's happening. [Laughs.] I don't even know what the current PlayStation or any of that. I feel like I age myself every time I talk about videogames. [Laughs.]
No, you're fine! I mean, I'm a little older than you, so it's fine, but, that's the thing. When you were a kid and I was a kid, games used to mean something very specific, right? Like, it meant a Nintendo or a PlayStation. And now games can be Facebook or iPhone or anything. So I don't know, nothing even like that catches your eye?
No. I think Facebook games actually annoy me the most. I don't really have strong opinions about PlayStation or Xbox, but -- because Facebook games, I get invited to play them, and I just find that frustrating, I think.
You get frustrated with them? Why?
I get frustrated being invited to play FarmVille or whatever. I don't know. But I also get -- unrelated -- if I get invited to "like" someone's page, I'll actually sit and be like, "Do I like this thing?" And then sometimes I don't, and I just won't do it.
Well, since I have you on the phone, do you want to play FarmVille?
[Laughs.] No thanks.
[Laughs.] Well, okay, so then let me ask you this: what would it take for games to be more worth your time again? Moreso than just popping by the arcade when you're bored.
I think if they were -- I don't know, maybe this wouldn't be marketable, but I like the older games. Like Metroid, I absolutely love. And almost more simple and less chaotic and overwhelming and having so much stuff in them? I don't know. There seems to be such a focus on making everything look real, or look too complicated or look very busy. I don't know, I'm not really interested in that.
Why do games have to look realistic? Aren't we kind of playing games because we don't want to interact with the real world? It's like, "Yeah, it's super impressive-looking." But also, isn't that kind of the least imaginative thing we can do, is --
Make it look real? Yeah.
Yeah. It just feels so not creative.
Yeah, I agree. And also, I'm thinking about all the iPhone games that I see people play that catch on really fast, and it's always something that's a bunch of numbers and you add them together, or dots and you connect them. It's never anything that's very complicated. It's always the most simple stuff.
Do you feel like games are getting less creative even from your perspective? Or do you feel like you can't even answer that from how much you pay attention?
I probably couldn't answer that. [Laughs.]
Because I haven't really been following. But just from what I have seen in passing, I think that they have been visually getting very -- they put a lot more work into, for better or worse -- and I don't really think it's bad. I don't think it's bad to try and make quality good, but I think yeah, if it was a little more -- I don't know where I'm going. [Laughs.]
No, that's fine. Please continue. I'm listening.
There's nothing wrong with trying to make it look good, but like you were saying, I don't know if it's serving anything.
I don't know. What do you think it is serving?
I think it just looks cool on the -- also, a lot of TVs are HD or whatever now. [Laughs.]
This is how little I know about all of this. But I know everybody wants those TVs. It looks bizarre. That doesn't look great, and -- I don't know. I think it all kind of makes sense with the way the world seems to be going, but -- I'm not big on CGI anything.
Like yesterday, my roommate and I were trying to have a conversation while our other roommate was playing a videogame, and we both kept looking at it. [Laughs.]
So I think that it's still around, even if you -- and I mean I'm on my phone, if I'm -- like I was just flying places, and I'll find myself playing, I don't know, dots or something on my phone.
I guess you're a person uniquely qualified to continue on this thread with me -- but I sort of -- some of it reminds me of improv. Where people get intensely into it, and then they're not getting out of it what they wanted -- I guess there are people in videogames now who can make income from it. As you know, in Chicago, there's maybe a dozen people who can support themselves doing it. [Laughs.] But I see the same thing where people get really excited about it, and then over a period of time, they're either lifers -- like the people who are either teaching, or still performing, or taking classes -- or you just sort of burn out and move on, and then you're like, "Oh yeah, I remember I used to do improv in Chicago." Or "Oh yeah, I used to play games."
Yeah, I can totally see that. And I think that you were pretty right in saying if you don't get out of it what you wanted to get out of it. And I totally see that with improv. Like I finished the iO program and there were some people that didn't get put on a team, and then I ran into one of my friends, and I was like, "Oh, are you still doing improv?" and he was like, "No." [Laughs.] "I didn't get on a team, so I'm not doing it."
And I know -- like I said earlier for me, I wasn't great at the games, and when I hit a plateau, instead of -- I mean, I would try and figure it out, but if I really wanted to figure it out, I probably could have. But instead, I was like, "well, this is frustrating, and I'm just going to move on to something else."
Yeah. I mean, I guess it's a lot like games in that sense, where eh, you can always come back to it later.
Yeah. And maybe with time and maturity and patience, you can come back to it with a little more perspective, and maybe even be more successful at it.