Remember those PlayStation Vita commercials? You know, the ones where an average-looking dude sits alone in his average-looking apartment, hacking away at another game of MLB 12: The Show. His eyes staring intently at the television screen, he suddenly snaps out of his game-induced daze, realizing that it's time to join the huddled masses, time to get to work.
A snarky voiceover sets the situation: "It's a problem as old as gaming itself: Stay home and just keep playing, or get to work on time so your coffee-breathed boss doesn't ride you like a rented scooter!"
Ever-devoted to his games, our everyday gamer has found a way to skirt this "age-old" dilemma, though. Like clockwork, he rises, activating the cross-platform play feature on his shiny new PlayStation Vita. Now, he can pick up right where he left off in his prior PlayStation 3 gaming session, belting another home run with Adrian Gonzalez on his futuristic handheld. Now, he can simultaneously cross the city streets to work, and never have to take his eyes off his game.
Thanks to the Vita, the ad goes on to say, that fundamental "choice" between work and play has been utterly thwarted. Our Average Joe Gamer can now give his boss a big "suck it" upon entering the office—nevermore will that jerk be able to cut his precious game time short; no longer will his oppressive reign against digital fun remain intact. Finally, the everygamer has been given the key to his ultimate happiness. Finally, he can "never stop playing." This must be gamer nirvana, right?
Wait, what? Never stop playing?
Let's take a step back for a second. When we analyze the implicit notions behind a slogan like the Vita's "Never Stop Playing" line, we see those obvious, long-held misconceptions about gamers rear their ugly heads once more. You know, those outdated ideas that posit video game players as somehow being separate from the "normals" of the common populace, or the ones that still associate the word "gamer" with the image of some basement-dwelling, Hot Pockets-downing obsessive. To see this kind of misguided ideal being pushed, whether intentional or not, by a foundation of the game industry like Sony is pretty disheartening.
This is all because the inherent belief behind ads like these is that gamers never want to stop playing games. When the commercial proposes the notion of endless gaming sessions, it expects game players to respond gleefully. "Finally," they should think, "a new way for me to dodge all of my responsibilities! This is awesome!"
The idea in this campaign is that adult gamers—at least, I'm assuming adults, since they are given to us in the ad, and they would dish out the most cash—can get, and want to get, as wrapped up in their virtual worlds as they are in the real one, if not more so. In the constant play between reality and fantasy that video games provide, the Vita is propositioned to us as a blurring agent, one which will allow you to never leave the game's domain while technically continuing to exist within reality.
The actual reality here is that adults quite simply are adults. The majority of us don't want to live in their games to the extent that the "Never Stop Playing" campaign would suggest. We know that there isn't really a "choice" between playing games all day and being a functioning member of society. We know that there are responsibilities we must bear, and bills we must pay. We know that to "Never Stop Playing" is to emotionally regress to some sort of mutant 10-year-old whose parents aren't paying enough attention to their kid's well-being, and we know that there comes a time in every game player's day where he realizes that it's time to put the controller down and do something, even if it's for just a little bit. We get it.
Now, we also understand that one of the many, many reasons gaming is so great in the first place is because of its ability to let us live vicariously through its fantastical, often out-of-this-world beings. The Vita itself lets players toss a playoff no-hitter one minute in MLB 12: The Show, then search for ancient mythical cities of gold the next in Uncharted: Golden Abyss; it's all very cool, and it has been for a long time.
It makes sense for Sony to want to capitalize on the dreamy nature of interacting in these experiences. Sometimes, it's hard for gamers—especially adult ones—to not want to take refuge in the unreality of game worlds—where they're usually in control—when they know the cold, scary real one always awaits them. Would I like to be Nathan Drake rather than Jeff Dunn? Sure, sometimes. He has perfect hair and sexy British girls lusting after him; I still have leftover traces of acne and friends I don't even like. Like most adults, I sometimes look back on the decisions I've made and wish I had a reset button of my own.
But I live with it. That's called responsibility and accountability. That's called life. It cannot be ran from, avoided, evaded, or eluded, no matter what these "Never Stop Playing" ads may try to promise you. You can play endlessly all you want, but reality is always going to be lurking behind that beautiful, brilliant façade of a touchscreen, and you're better off confronting sooner rather than later. Games are awesome, yes—that's why I'm taking the time to write this, after all—but to "Never Stop Playing" them? That's just unhealthy.
Look, I know Sony is just trying to make money, like any good business should. The Vita is a wonderful piece of technology, and an exciting new platform for portable gaming. It's just a shame that it's being promoted by a campaign that, in effect, encourages an inhuman lifestyle.
While the Vita is a great way to experience the magic only video games can provide, let's remember that it's okay to use it in moderation. Let's remember that there are people to appreciate besides party members, and places to go that aren't on a minimap. Let's remember that sometimes it's okay to stop playing. In the end, I think we'll be better off for it.
Date: October 16, 2012
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*