From the Freeplay Board – Cam Rogers

Welcome to this series of blog posts by the board members of the Freeplay Independent Games Festival. Today, we speak to board secretary Cam Rogers about what it means to enjoy games, especially in the context of an independent games festival.

I never used to see myself as a gamer. I spent my university years living with a guy who was particularly dedicated to the pursuit, and this largely formed my view of what a gamer was.

I used to walk past his room late at night, and the sounds of various body parts being explosively removed from torsos would gruesomely echo around his room, courtesy of whatever MMO had captured his attention that month. Normally it was something like Unreal Tournament, and this kind of thing didn’t interest me in the slightest.

I studied film production at uni and I always viewed games culture as something of a distant cousin to that of film. I never really saw myself as part of the culture of games, but I always enjoyed hanging out with gamers and the conversation that went part and parcel with it. Playing Championship Manager was about hanging out with friends, and playing GTA was as much about listening to Hans Oberlander on SF-UR for me as it was about carjacking Blista Compacts. My interaction with the actual screen was pretty limited, happy as I was to engage with the game itself second hand when hanging out with friends.

Accordingly, I never identified as a gamer. I became actively involved in the Melbourne indie games scene in about 2008-2009. It is fair to say that this changed my whole outlook on what ‘games culture’ was. Around that time I met some amazingly dedicated people working in the area who inspired me. I soon found myself hooked on various games, including the absolute time sink Tiny Tower, and the platformer Canabalt. Games like this made me think about what games were, what they could be, and what the Average Joe’s relationship to games actually was. Did people even realise they were playing games? Does the guy in a suit on the tram playing Words with Friends identify as a gamer? I wouldn’t have thought so. My nine-year-old nephew certainly doesn’t identify as anything. He is just happy seeing Barry Steakfries avoid getting electrocuted.

So, I have asked myself, what is my relationship to games? What is the archetype of a person who plays games? I soon realised that such a person doesn’t exist. When you think about the sheer scope of the games that are on offer, any such conceptions are quickly abandoned. It turned out that I had been barking up the wrong tree. I learned that I am primarily into casual games. Right now for example, I’m playing Neven Mrgan and James Moore’s Blackbar and I am most of the way through the home-grown Voxel Agents’ game Puzzle Retreat. But was my relationship to gaming in my youth any less valid because I didn’t see myself as someone who actively played? I certainly spent a lot of time thinking about games and hanging out with those who did, and I think that is definitely engaging in games culture.

I have come to understand that there is no wrong or right way to be a part of games culture. How you engage with it is up to you. My idea of what I considered a ‘gamer’ was just one snapshot of what is a very broad spectrum. The culture is out there, and how you fit in as a part of that is a matter for the individual.

Which is, of course, what Freeplay is all about. Freeplay aims to explore games culture. It celebrates gaming for the sheer love of it – not just the development of games, but the gaming experience itself, and the relationships that are forged between those who embrace that culture. It doesn’t matter how you engage with it; it is the fact that you enjoy it that matters. I’m really looking forward to this year’s festival. I know Katie and Harry have been working very hard, and the program is looking great. Hopefully I meet a few people who introduce me to new games. I’m looking forward to getting hooked on something new.