Vague Patch Notes: Can the gaming industry move on from high school, please?


So this weekend had at least one incident that was, I’m not remotely sorry to say, exceedingly funny. If you’ve been paying any attention to Twitter, you know that Elon Musk’s latest progression through his “actually very stupid and World’s Most Divorced Man” arc involved getting rid of Twitter’s verification system and replacing it with paid verification. This is an obviously bad idea, but Twitter users who have half an ounce of sense immediately decided that anyone who now has a paid-for blue checkmark is someone to mock and block.

Along with a number of people posting ridiculously stupid “why would you make fun of people for buying a service” takes, this prompted many people with more money than sense to start chiming in about how dare you laugh at me. And these people included Epic Games’ Tim Sweeney, a man who has more money than any of us will ever see in our lives, who compared people needling him for buying a checkmark to people shoving him into lockers in high school. And that leads me directly to the point of this week’s column, which is simply summarized as follows:

Man, when are you getting out of high school?

Now, please don’t misunderstand me. High school sucks. It really sucks if you’re a kind of weird nerd, which I definitely am. Through a confluence of circumstances, I wound up actually being fairly popular during the back half of my high school experience, but I was still a weird nerd at my core (but it was a combination of weird nerd that worked for me then). High school was not something that I consider a fun time. It is not an experience I am eager to relive!

But that’s also why I have spent the subsequent 23 years of my life… not reliving it. I don’t think about it. I have a few high school anecdotes I bring up regularly because they’re entertaining. I remember it. But high school doesn’t matter to me at this point. I’m 40 years old, and I’ve spent more of my life not attending high school than attending it, so who cares what happened during it?

Oh, did a girl break my heart? My heart has been broken way worse way more intensely subsequently, and I was a little twit then anyway. Whatever. That was decades ago. Who cares any more?

Did I not get the part I wanted during a play? Well that’s definitely something to obsess over; it’s going to make a real difference in my life. Last I checked none of the people who got parts I wanted in high school are starring in major Hollywood productions, and I’m not either. Whatever.

Were there bullies? Sure. Do they have any more influence on my life now that I don’t give them? Abso-farting-lutely not.

Yes. This is the way the world ends.

This stuff just does not matter. It kind of mattered at the time because it was my life, but it has not mattered in any meaningful sense for decades now. It’s seriously time to stop thinking about it. In the worst-case scenario high school was an unending cycle of misery for you, and believe me, I have nothing but sympathy for you in that case. I understand that it must have sucked if you were bullied and felt disliked and had nothing but your small circle of friends to fall back on.

But I spent my first two years of high school with zero friends of any kind in an uninsulated shack on a tiny island, and you don’t hear me complaining about it, in no small part because complaining about it now is, I’m sorry, pointless. I am not going to get a voucher forgiving me for credit card debt because I was hard done by in high school. That’s not a thing that will happen. I can either move on or just stay mad about it, and neither one will make my memories somehow sweeter.

And the thing is, it’s not just hurting people who have more money than sense who are still trying to divide the world into “bullies” and “not-bullies” as if anyone who criticizes you and your behavior is a big bullying meanface, just diving headlong into geek social fallacies like they’re a fun pool to swim in. It’s hurting the people who are still basically embracing high school as having persisted as if the social hierarchy there mattered.

Nobody cares if I was popular in high school any more beyond it being trivia. But more importantly, no one is waiting to shove me in a locker because I really like toy robots or learning about trains or discussing religious doctrine. That’s just not a thing that’s going to happen at this point. I’m lucky enough in all of my jobs to work around some really unique folks with very distinct interests, but I decided years ago that I was done pretending to be normal and trying to hide the stuff I actually did on a given weekend.

What did I do this weekend? I played some video games, and I’ll tell people about it if they want to know. Because I’m not ashamed of it. Why should I be? Video games are basically ubiquitous.

Take on me.

Even more importantly, though, video games are not my identity. Yes, I’ve written about this before, but it bears repeating. Because that is some high school nonsense, when you had to pick A Thing to survive. You pursued something with all of your heart, threw yourself into it, and that became a defining element of your personality because that was how you weathered high school. (And an awful lot of weird, nerdy folks would be surprised at how many seemingly “normal” kids were doing the exact same thing.)

But you’re an adult now!

You don’t have to live there any more. Just like a diet of nothing but meat or vegetables isn’t healthy for you, consuming only one sort of media isn’t healthy for your brain. And for that matter, making media your only form of interaction with the larger world isn’t healthy for you either. You can do more than one thing! You don’t have to exist inside a narrowly described box!

It’s fine if maybe you really like MMOs but also really like running and cooking healthy and building model planes! Or maybe it turns out you’re fond of martial arts, or you like just going for hikes. And your life will, in fact, be all the richer for having more things in it, for not being limited to just one spectrum of interactions.

Trying to build a world where you imagine that everyone who disagrees with your decisions and opinions is descended in an unbroken line from your high school bullies isn’t just unproductive; it’s actively harmful to you and your personal development. And yeah, it’s definitely easier to still be worried about Who’s The Bully. I get it. But it doesn’t actually help you interact with the world. It doesn’t give you new insights. It just gives you a persecution complex and flattens away criticism without engaging it, discarding it as being a priori incorrect because you’re just a bully as if someone signed up with the National Bully Register.

Or, more simply? Seriously, fam, get out of high school. After age 21 it’s just not relevant beyond the broadest strokes.

Sometimes you know exactly what’s going on with the MMO genre, and sometimes all you have are Vague Patch Notes informing you that something, somewhere, has probably been changed. Senior Reporter Eliot Lefebvre enjoys analyzing these sorts of notes and also vague elements of the genre as a whole. The potency of this analysis may be adjusted under certain circumstances.
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