Happening:

First Person


Cyle Talley

‘... there are so many questions about video games, that we fail to pay attention to the great things that come from them’

Brett Masse, on his love of video games and their place in popular culture
Ar 170619561
Cyle Talley/DGO

Brett Masse
Ar 170619561
Cyle Talley/DGO

Brett Masse

I know Brett Masse as an artist, a photographer, someone who can tell me about astrophysics without completely losing me, and a guy who is constantly working on his VW Bug – not a guy who plays video games. So when he tells me that he can’t believe how cool video games have become, I can’t help but ask him to tell me more. I tell his story here, in his own words.

The first video games I remember playing are “Super Mario,” “The Legend of Zelda,” or “Castlevania.” Eventually we got Game Boys and completely murdered my parents’ wallets in AA batteries. They think [the Game Boy] was a great invention for road trips, but they must’ve taken out a second mortgage for AAs alone. They probably could’ve retired early.

I had four friends growing up. Granted, it was Bayfield and I didn’t go to church or any place that someone who grows up in Bayfield has to be a part of to make friends. It was video games. That’s how I made friends. I remember playing Game Boy and being bullied and made fun of. Nobody liked “Star Wars,” certainly no one gave a shit about “Star Trek.” And now all of that stuff is popular! I worked with a man who has a family with three kids, and they’re a “Doctor Who” family, and I remember feeling pity for them. “Oh you poor, beautiful souls. You’re going to be so jaded by the time you get out of high school.” But the dad was bragging to me, saying, “That’s all any of them [teenagers] do! They throw around obscure “Doctor Who” jokes, and play video games, and it’s cool!” I was shocked! I don’t understand how that happened! I don’t want to be the bitter guy who suffered and now who wants others to suffer the way that he did. You know, “Ah! You should suffer for your interests and love for things! How dare you be genuinely interested in something!” But it does feel weird that something I had to hide is now a badge of honor. Does that mean we won?

My brother hosts a bi-monthly LAN party at LPEA and it’s been going for over 15 years now. There’s a solid community around these things. It goes from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m., and we just play. There’s a lot of yelling. There’s a lot of shit-talking and shouting and I think it probably sounds like one of the most hostile possible environments when you first walk in, but it’s actually the most tight-knit group of camaraderie I’ve ever seen. You’re shit-talking guys who you’ll be the best man for at their wedding. And gamer shit-talk is the best because it’s fueled by a sugar-high and primal rage.

My parents never got video games, and they still don’t. But they never told us that it was a dumb thing to do. My mom, bless her heart, even gave it a shot once, but I unintentionally nipped that one in the bud. For some reason, I thought that the thing she ought to try was 1 v. 1 against me in “Halo.” I don’t know why I thought that was a good idea. “Here, Mom. Not only is this a competitive game, but you also have to learn these complex controls in three dimensions on a controller you’ve never held, but which I have basically been bred to manipulate.” It ended poorly and very quickly. I was trying to be really encouraging, but my enthusiasm was pretty misguided. That said, my parents were good at giving us balance. For every hour that we spent playing video games, there were a couple spent outside.

I’ve always taken the position that my interest in video games and comics and all of that, is exactly the same as my interests in movies or reading or photography – they’re just another way to tell a good story. It just happens to be a brand new art medium that is experiencing the same growing pains that comic books, with TV and radio, even rock ’n’ roll have experienced. The exciting thing is that video games are a combination of all of these forms of media: there’s music, art, performance, strategy. And then there are all of these unintended, co-arisen properties about them that nobody could’ve foreseen. For instance, the multi-player aspect. “Pong” was multi-player, but it couldn’t have foreseen you playing with people that you’ve never met, who speak a language you do not, and in a country you’ve never heard of. And yet, you can play a game together, and interact in meaningful ways. We say video games are dangerous in much the same way that people were asking, “What are these rap lyrics are telling our kids?!”, or “Why is Elvis moving like that?! He’s seducing our poor daughters!” Not to say that there aren’t adverse effects, but there are so many questions about video games, that we fail to pay attention to the great things that come from them – camaraderie, community, shared experiences. People are getting to explore their personal identities – gender, sexuality, their selves – through avatars, and they’re finding acceptance for it. Through video games. That’s amazing.

Cyle Talley will watch sportsball with you any time you want. Email him at: cyle@cyletalley.com