The following post reflects my personal experiences and feelings and may not represent yours.
Gaming can and should be a social hobby. Probably like you, many of my fondest video gaming memories involve gatherings of friends enjoying each other’s company while trying to best them at everything on screen. While some gaming stigmas still exist, video gaming as a hobby has continued to be more accepted and normalized. Unfortunately, the road to this acceptance was slow and dotted with maligning and misconceptions.
A common pejorative is the idea of the lonely gamer. The person who chooses electronic accompaniment over human interaction. This was a criticism that I encountered more commonly over the early internet or when meeting new people as I branched out as young adult. While I believe that fitting examples exist it never really occurred to me as a young person playing my NES or SNES that I was a lonely gamer.
One unique reason I didn’t face this stigma growing up was that I went to school in a rural setting. It just wasn’t easy to socialize with friends outside of school hours simply due to geography. Miles and miles between neighbors tends to throw a damper on hang out time, especially before driving age. This was true for everyone, so we all used the phone to bridge that gap.
I had friends at school to discuss video games with. For any of you gamers too young to have experienced it, he propagation of Legend of Zelda tips in a pre-gamefaqs world was incredible and exactly like you’ve heard it described.
But even playing alone in my bedroom, I was never lonely. Mostly since I didn’t feel as if I was alone. As I moved away from arcade style, score attack games, toward secret and goal oriented home console games, I found the joy and pleasure of well designed games. The way I see it, playing a score attack game like Pac-man or Space Invaders feels like me vs the game or machine. But playing a well designed goal oriented game with hidden secrets, like Zelda, Metroid, or Mario feels like me vs the designer.
Finding hidden power-ups, paths, loot, or lore felt to me like going one-on-one against a person, the designer or design team. To me, it still feels like this. A microcosm D&D, me vs the DM. Recognizing new methods they use to obfuscate my rewards, HA HA! Not on my watch! This is the type of pleasure I get from my preferred game genres, even to this day. This is why on every level of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, I have to start by going to the left. This is why I find Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest to be a much better game than its predecessor. This is why I use gamefaqs as a last resort rather than a regular resource. This is why I enjoy the satisfaction of a 100% completion. Whether my victory is via the dexterity of my thumbs, or my mind, this is a core reason why I’m a gamer.