How to feel okay about your creator-consumer relationshipMay 19, 2008
If I spend too long in Kinokuniya or at game sites, I actually get anxious about this stuff. Reminders to myself:
1. You don’t have to follow forever.
For a couple of years, I was actually pretty up to speed with Japanese console gaming (and comics, and popular music). I lived in Japan, I had lots of free time and curiosity and spendable money. So I walked around game shops all the time. I saw what was getting attention, I bought a lot of the stuff that interested me, and I participated in the culture: Sakura Taisen, Xenosaga, Shenmue, various shooting and fighting games, the post-death Dreamcast, and weird stuff like The Chikyuuboueigun. When I got back to the USA, I spent a lot of my time keeping up with what I’d left behind, and a lot of my income importing stuff I’d missed: visual novels (Kita e, some Yokota Mamoru games, even Sentimental Graffiti on Saturn), Cave games, Nippon Ichi games, and so much more. But not a lot of people can indefinitely prolong that phase of their life, where they’ve got the circumstances and resources available to sustain such hobbies at such an intense level.
So when I get worried that I’m not keeping up with all of the goings-on in the console gaming world, I need to remember that I already put a huge amount of attention and money into that system, and I got out a lot of enjoyment, memories, and hooks for future enjoyment. Now instead of voraciously seeking out everything new, I can branch out from what I already have. As new Sakura Taisen games come out, I play them. If a company or an individual I like works on a new project, I check it out. If something gets praise from people whose opinions I trust because of our gaming connections (like Sendai Tom or Julian), then I look into it. These things appear in front of me without very much effort on my part at all, and they are more than enough to fill all of my free time with gaming enjoyment. So I shouldn’t feel like I have to try so hard to keep up with everything that comes out. Even if I’m missing some things, I wouldn’t be able to play it all anyway.
2. You don’t have to follow everything.
I am actually quite deeply absorbed in the game company Gust. I could probably pay attention to nothing but Gust games for the remainder of that company’s career, and never lack for gaming enjoyment. I buy everything they make, I am a member of their special online fan club, I read their newsletters, I participate in their intricate online promotions, and I’m ready to buy whichever next-generation system they decide to develop for. So in a way, I am still following the hobby very closely; it’s just a tiny subset of the whole hobby.
So when I get worried that I’m not keeping up with all of the goings-on in the console gaming world, I need to remember that I still put a large amount of attention and money into a small part of that system, and I’m still getting out a lot of enjoyment, memories, and hooks for future enjoyment. Even if I were to keep up with everything that comes out, and find another place to put this amount of devotion, I’d have to give up my devotion to Gust in order to afford it in time and money. I should be glad that I have Gust, and lots of side dishes from other companies, to keep me satisfied.
3. You aren’t the only one following.
I actually get a vague worry that if I don’t seek out and support all the great stuff that suits my taste, nobody will. As if I’m the key member of these creators’ target audience (even though I’m not even from the right country!) and their success and happiness depend on my commitment. Of course, that’s preposterous. As I said in items 1 and 2, I can’t follow everything forever. I paid tribute to lots of creators in the past, and I’m still paying tribute to a few creators now. Right now there are millions of people at the stage of life I was at in 2002 in Japan, and they are keeping up with everything, and supporting lots of creators. When their discovery phase is over, they’ll probably settle on a few creators (different from the ones I’ve settled on) and continue to offer their support like I’m doing now. Oh yeah, and there are also millions of people (most of them actually born and raised in the country where all of this is going on) who never do leave that stage. The whole system isn’t resting on my shoulders. I have done, and am still doing, my part. I have a steady stream of new things to try from my friends and my connections and my news sources, and I can continue to enjoy this hobby indefinitely. It’s even okay to go back and play old, old games that I missed when they were the hot new thing, even years after the game’s inital gambit in the market, when my support is not going to be apparent to the people who created it anymore, and my posting about the game on the web isn’t going to help it succeed.
This is all so obvious, but I have to remind myself of it sometimes.