The other day I was indulging my nightly wind down ritual of a drink and a few rounds of whatever video game I'm currently immersed in (At the moment it's a replay of Final Fantasy XII because I find a contemplative peace in level grinding) when I realized that I was a grown-ass man sitting on the carpet to play... and I didn't have the foggiest idea why.
It's odd, but pretty much every console gamer I know that doesn't have some sort of super gaming chair sits on the floor during play. Why? I have a couch right behind me. In fact, that's what I'm reclining up against. It's a nice enough couch that I have no problem sitting on to watch TV, so what is it about playing a game that makes me want to get down to floor level.
Admittedly, there's an adult reason, I realized... that aforementioned glass of Brother Booze that eases back the incalculable stress of the a job where I get paid to talk about Doctor Who and that makes my playing of Poker Night at the Inventory 2 resemble the complete lack of sense of consequence I noticed during the government shutdown debates. There's nothing wrong with setting my cheap-ass mix of Nikolai Vodka and Kroger-brand Sprite on the coffee table in front of me while sitting on the couch, but it's just easier to have in a straw-drinking height so that all I have to do is lean my head port-wise and sip without ever taking my eyes off the action.
Plus, when drinking, the closer to the ground you are the safer you are. It's like smoke inhalation, but the opposite and on purpose.
Another reason remains that it's just plain easier to see things when you're half a foot closer to the screen, even when you own a nice big HD plasma screen TV. Games are so detail-intensive, and when you get to something like Final Fantasy XIV that is clearly still thinking in PC terms, not console terms, then you're pretty much not going to play at all unless you close to melee distance with your screen.
Games aren't like movies. Sure, films and TV shows have lots of hidden bits in them for you to ferret out. David Lynch built a career on it. The thing is that you don't have to notice those tiny details in a film to keep the movie going. Did you know that Blu-ray has finally settled once and for all whether or not the AI HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey is an IBM computer? Well, it has, but even back when the debate was still raging you could be completely oblivious of it and still get to the end of the movie. When you're playing a game, a few pixels' difference can decide whether or not you progress or you die.
Booze and clarity, while two things that don't often go together are clearly better-than-average reasons to hunker down on the floor during a session. It still feels ancillary, though. I sat on the floor even before I drank, and even if I'm playing something totally retro that a blind person can it pick up I never sit back on the couch to play.
Piece continues on next page.
I think it has something to do with controllers, personally. These days all controllers are wireless, and in fact the only reason I ever game from the couch is because of titles like Skyward Sword on the Wii that make me because of motion sensors. Of course, it actually took me a year before I realized that the PS3 controllers are all wireless, which maybe why I stuck with old habits initially.
Wireless controllers back in the NES and SNES days were definitely luxuries, even for an item that is pretty much defined as a luxury itself. I didn't know anyone who owned a wireless controller over among the poor folks in Jacinto City. The system came with two controllers so quit being a whiner was the general parental sentiment of my childhood.
"Besides," my dad once added after I asked. "You'll just lose them when you throw them after getting frustrated by that Ninja Gay 'Em thing. At least with a cord we can find them." My dad was a wise man, though I never did convince him that Ryu Hayabusa was not a homosexual ninja.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
So that was your lot, tied to the system by a cable looking up into the big electronic god that you were trying to bend to your will. I think video games are important for kids. It gives them something to conquer on their terms, and that's helpful in a world where they exert so little control.
As an adult, it's a sentiment that I still feel. Bills need paying, houses need cleaning, jobs need doing, and sometimes you feel very small. When you're a kid, an adult is a huge thing that looks like the master of his realm. From the other side, sometimes you get to know a new kind of being powerless.
I think that's why I still game from the floor. When I do it, eyes riveted on the screen as I take down a monster so much easier than I take down a past due notice from the IRS, I remember the best parts about being a kid. I remember the feeling of accomplishment you got from timing a jump just right. When I do it sitting on the couch, I just feel like a man who should be writing instead.