The couch is a romantic piece of furniture.
Coming home, it’s the first thing I see, just inside the front door. It’s big, offensively orange, and usually adorned with some sweet, furry, four-legged being taking a nap. Across from the couch is our glorious TV and gaming setup, and in between the two is usually an alarming little pile of near-empty mugs of liquid, a project involving embroidery needles and string, and perhaps another four-legged mammal of some sort.
Today when I came home after a long day of not-sitting, I submitted to gravity and collapsed onto the couch next to my two roommates who may have been enjoying an otherwise lovely afternoon. But it’s OK because that’s what the couch is for. After a few moments of whining, I peel off my shoes and take in what’s on the screen. It’s January and so that means it’s the time of year for gamers to band together and raise money for charity! Obviously.
Games Done Quick is an annual, week-long videogame event held in Washington, D.C., usually at a convention center of some sort. This year’s event was held Jan. 5 through 15. Scheduled throughout the week, through day and night, gamers from all over band together on a couch and play through videogames, beginning to end, as quickly as possible, while streaming the entire spectacle online over Twitch.tv. Viewers can tune in online and see a screen displaying the game being played, video footage of the gamers, the enormous crowds that pile into the convention room behind them, and various statistics about the amount of money being raised in donation to the Prevent Cancer Foundation. Viewers can also make donations and submit comments online about the event, some of which are read aloud during the event. You can expect a lot of sweet and loving comments being dictated while someone furiously mashes buttons, attempting to break the record for fastest playthrough of “Pilot Wings 64.”
Before online gaming, massive-multiplayer online games, and streaming were in existence, my friends and I would gather at one another’s houses and monopolize the couch and TV set. Part of me wonders if online gaming was invented by upset parents who really just wanted their TV back so they could watch the news and catch the latest episode of “Frasier.” We would show up to each other’s houses with our personal controllers, memory cards, a cherished little library of games, and maybe a toothbrush. Whole worlds awaited us as the sun set and would not cease to enthrall us until the sky started turning light again. Worlds stretched thin and held within a few inches of plastic. Worlds within which we could explore new versions of ourselves. I see a couch now and I envision it wrapped in a blanket of darkness, illuminated by a solitary TV, controllers spreading out from it like vines climbing a brick wall.
Now I’m looking through the TV and watching someone else play. The game is “Metal Gear Solid 3” and Jaguar_King, the gamer speeding through, has just wrapped up one of the most absurdly quick playthroughs I have ever witnessed. The nonstop explanations, cheers, laughter, and comments die suddenly as the final cutscene renders in the game: the graceful and sad death of a fictional hero plays out. As the cutscene ends, Jaguar_King quietly, slowly salutes the screen and everyone in the room follows suit. I won’t admit that I have tears in my eyes seeing a room packed with a sea of people salute a dying character in a videogame, but I will say I am feeling some intense emotions. As the credits begin to roll and the game’s theme song, a thematic tribute to ’60s spy films, begins to play, another gamer takes the stage to sing along with it karaoke-style and everyone sings along with her. The gaming session ends and players prep for the next game to speed through, I take note that the donation counter is continuously rising up over $300,000.
Beautiful nerds. Magnificent nerds.
Not so long ago the couch was the only platform gamers bonded over and accompanied each other on storied journeys. Now those journeys are shared on millions of couches in unison, all over the world, sometimes while raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity.