It’s that awkward moment at the table during Thanksgiving. Your relatives crawled out of their various crevices and crypts and, after asking you about what job you’re going to get and why you aren’t dating a nice human, the questions hit you: “What have you been up to? What do you do for fun?”
Of course, you have that panic-thought about whether or not you should lie and say, “Nothing!” or something mundane like, “Stuff.”
But in her some 90-odd years, Grandma Jo learned how to probe like the worst X-Files alien. So you admit that you've been playing video games and brace to explain how they aren’t just arcade machines and Pong. It’s embarrassing, awkward and unavoidable. Age and technology differences aren’t limited to pleas for help with email or signing up for “the Facebook.”
Here’s the how-to on escaping with a little dignity in tact.
Casually explain video games as interactive movies. Why watch a clay King Kong get gunned down when you could do it yourself? Why watch Saving Private Ryan when you could save him yourself? It’s media, with a script, director and actors, and you play the protagonist.
Confidently exclaim that they’re high art. Not only will you get laughed at, you’ll shut them off from listening to you. You can’t start at the top of the ladder — a professor isn’t going to work from the conclusion backwards. This is a solid way to sound like somebody desperate to justify his or her obsession.
Offer to show them a simple game. If gramps likes football, show him Madden or an old copy of NCAA Football. If he likes noir or crime, show him a snippet of an interview in LA Noire. Tailor the experience to fit the interest.
Rattle off a list of important games or game designers. Talking about Hideo Kojima won’t convince anyone that games are an important thing. Saying that Ayn Rand’s influence on Bioshock, Bioshock 2 and Bioshock Infinite is haunting, sounds like you’re making something up.
Laugh at yourself. A cinephile is still going to laugh at the silly mistakes of movies like Gods of Egypt. Some games are silly or ridiculous. Admit it, and enjoy it.
Take it poorly if they don’t understand or agree. That’s fine, not everyone will get the angry fan mail that convinces them to recant their anti-game stance like Roger Ebert. It's okay to disagree. After all, it's not who wins — it's who has the most fun.