United States of William (USWM)

Why Does Everything Suck?


Reflecting on the passions that excited me as a child, it's intriguing to consider why what we once cherished seems to be merely a shadow of its former self today. Is it possible that the decline in quality stems from an attempt to cater to a broader audience rather than niche communities? Consider video games, for example. The release of Grand Theft Auto III on PlayStation 2 was a pivotal moment for my father and me, akin to the bonding experienced by fathers and sons during a hunting trip. We spent an entire week entrenched in our living room, one of us masterfully navigating the game while the other consulted the strategy guide like it was sacred text. At the time, the game's technological advancements had us on the edge of our seats, a feeling that might seem almost laughable when looking back.

Fast forward nearly two decades, and despite significant advancements, gaming now feels like an empty shell of its former glory. Turning on a console today feels akin to visiting a mall, where distractions bombard you and derail you from your initial intent. Even if you manage to resist these distractions, they linger in the back of your mind, vying for attention as you play.

In the past, video games were immersive showcases where one could thrive for extended periods. Now, the expansive worlds created by large corporations serve as mere placeholders until the next big release. Each new console launch promises more than it delivers, and my interest in these machines and their games has waned, despite their impressive technical capabilities. It’s not just about getting older—many avid gamers continue to engage passionately. Yet, one must wonder if their loyalty is more about sticking to what they know rather than exploring other avenues that might demand a significant shift in identity.

Today, everything feels tribal. In the 90s, most men I knew enjoyed video games, yet few would identify as gamers. Now, gamers immerse themselves deeply in their chosen niches, complete with RGB lighting, streaming setups, and ergonomic yet uncomfortable racing seats.

This tribalism isn’t limited to gaming. It permeates all my interests. In photography, enthusiasts squabble over technical details that the average visitor to a SmugMug profile would ignore. The type of bag one carries their lenses in seems to define their identity as a photographer. Sports fans invest in expansive home theater systems and clothe themselves in their team’s colors, passionately debating topics of little consequence to the outside world.

Why this shift? While marketing certainly plays a role, it seems that when you strip away the superficial layers, you find that most endeavors are, at their core, rather trivial. The fine details that initially attract outsiders often lose their allure once fully understood.

Thus, the inconsequential aspects like team colors, logos, brands, and slogans are what get celebrated. My advice? Don’t seek a tribe. Forge your own path, and like-minded individuals will naturally align with you.

DISCLAIMER: This was originally posted on my WordPress blog at OpenPLUTO. It was imported over here as part of the OTD Project. This was proofread and grammatically checked with ProWritingAid when I first signed up with the service and they first rolled out AI features. I did often take up their "rephrasing" suggestions due to my early-on amazment with the technology. Reading it back now, however it does seem to have taken quite a bit of my voice out of the text — and I just wanted to make that very clear. —William Apr 2024

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