I’m a backseat gamer.
Before I begin, I just want to clarify that I do love playing video games myself, I just don’t play them as often.
Where did it all begin?
At first I was a bit ashamed to admit I was a backseat gamer, I was labelled as a “fake fan” because I didn’t actually play Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, for example, when really I loved that game. Yes, it scared the heebie jeebies out of me. The music made me anxious and I felt overwhelmed at the thought of nailing the controls. However, I couldn’t keep my eyes away whenever my sister played, and I would get upset if she played without me there.
It began when we were gifted a pink Playstation 2 for Christmas, at the tender age of 12 and 13. My sister and I didn’t know we were about to be introduced to a whole new world. My sister and I bought games for cheap at Gamestation and GAME, brought them home and played them all almost to the end. We bought Final Fantasy X2, not realising there was a predecessor to that, and we were hooked. The story, the characters, the cut scenes, the songs (I still sing to 1000 words, no I am not ashamed), this was amazing, but I didn’t want to play.
I was the watcher. It was a livestream in my living room and I had front row seats. We reacted together, we went through GameFAQ together and printed out the walkthrough. We debated how annoying Tidus was (very annoying), but I never once picked up the controller to play myself.
But why not?
As I’ve grown and watched many games be played in front of me, I ended up not wanting to play. I felt like I had played even though I wasn’t smashing the X button on a controller. I felt I knew the story and if I was going to play then I’d have to sit through the beginning of a game and wait hours before it got good *cough cough* Kingdom Hearts 2 *cough cough* . By the time my boyfriend or sister had finished playing, I had lost interest - the game and the story itself still interested me, but I had no real desire to play.
My sister can sit for hours playing a new game and I can watch for hours, but for me to sit there myself for hours and play? No, no. It’s taken me almost a year to finish Yakuza: Like A Dragon because I like to take my time, not rush the game. I don’t always want to play a game, sometimes I like to sit outside with my cat, and sometimes I’ll be asked “well, if you have nothing to do, why don’t you play something?” and the answer is usually “hmm.. Maybe, I’ll think about it” and then I think and, you guessed it, I don’t.
A part of me is worried I won’t understand the game mechanics and I shy away from trying something new in fear I won’t enjoy the game because I’m awful at it! First person shooters are a prime example of this - I freaked out on Overwatch in the warm up area because I couldn’t get to grips with it. Games like Fire Emblem make me nervous too. I know the games are great, the story is fab, it’s a cult classic, but the thought of having a member of my team die and die forever? No thanks, I’ll let them live by me not attempting to play.
I’ve spoken a lot about the negatives to being a backseat gamer, but what about the pros?
Being a backseat gamer, I am introduced to new games I wouldn’t have played or picked up myself. I’m in this moment with my sister and/or boyfriend. We are shocked, happy, sad and excited together. We’re all feeling the same emotions and we can have a discussion together about what we’ve just witnessed. A character was betrayed by his own family and none of us saw it coming? Let’s pause and discuss. A cut scene was so beautifully made it made us speechless? Let’s pause and attempt a discussion. It feels like watching TV, or a film, and being so immersed in it.
I get such joy seeing the people I love around me enjoy themselves playing games. I’m involved too, I get to name the Monsties in Monster Hunter Rise. I get to choose outfits for characters. I get to do quicktime song events if my boyfriend can’t do them - no matter what, I’m always involved somehow. That makes me a part of the gameplay itself and, in my opinion, giving me the satisfaction of the game too.
My conclusion to this is I enjoy being a backseat gamer, but I need to stop being so worried and try something new!