Gaming

Meeting the Real People of Gamescom 2016

We asked the gamers in Cologne who their favourite characters are, about their customising preferences, and if they could imagine being in a relationship with a non-gamer.

by Josef Zorn
22 August 2016, 3:43pm

This article first appeared on VICE Alps

Last year, I got drunk with pretty much everyone at Gamescom. This time, I went to Cologne's annual super-expo with the goal to actually get to know the people there, my thinking being: maybe I should talk with the gamers, not only about them for a change. That's why I asked some very different players in the gaming world about their favourite characters, if their ideal partners could be non-gamers, and how to explain the allure of playing video games to complete noobs.

This meant I didn't really get to check out many games – but I did get to know a lot of absurdly nice people and, through them, some other interesting titles that I wouldn't have encountered at Gamescom anyway. Karma, I guess.

If you do want to read about the games, click here for our Gamescom 2016 content.

All photographs taken by the author

MARIUS (18)

What's your profession?
I am a soldier. No, seriously, I am!

What's your favourite gaming genre?
I really like strategy, stuff like Stronghold. Also shooters like the Battlefield games, which also confront you with a lot of tactical challenges. But recently I have distanced myself a little bit from the shooter genre. There are so many small children playing and offending people, continuously. Honestly, I think those kids are "Net Eggs". They'd never dare to say anything to a person next to them, but on the internet they spout all kinds of horrible trash.

Do you have a favourite video game character?
Captain Price in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. He reflects the way I feel about myself.

What was the first video game you played?
An awful shooter on the Nintendo 64, GoldenEye. (Well, that's just your opinion, man.) I mean, the graphics were terrible, but as a game it was pretty fun actually.

Could you imagine your dream partner not being into video games?
As long my partner wasn't showing pure hatred against games, I could manage.

Say you meet an NPC (a non-player character in a game), who you could kill without any consequences at all. Would you do it?
That makes me think of GTA and all its pedestrians right away. I never hit them intentionally, but it happens. I don't think it's sinister running over NPCs, but I do actively try to avoid it.

When you can customise your player character in the starting menus, what's the first thing you do?
I always change the facial hair first. I give the character a beard, kind of like the one I have, only more of it and a little bit thicker.

Did a game ever annoy you so much that you thought of quitting video games altogether?
I've never wanted to quit games altogether, but I do lose trust in the developers. Black Ops II I wanted to throw out of the window a few times, because of all the lags and connection issues – but I still play it today.

How would you explain to someone, who has never played a video game in their life, what's so damn great about them?
Online and at conventions like this you meet a lot of people, funny ones – the kind you wouldn't meet anywhere else. You learn to speak foreign languages, especially English, over TeamSpeak. Therefore, gaming teaches you social competence – you learn how to talk to people.

LARISSA (22)

What's your profession?
I'm a game artist in Berlin, making concept art and digitally painted illustrations.

What's your favourite gaming genre?
First-person shooters, and at the moment I'm totally into Overwatch.

Do you have a favourite video game character?
Corvo in Dishonored.

What was the first video game you played?
In my whole life? That was some hockey game on the Game Boy, the old one, which didn't have colours. I unfortunately forgot the name. On PS1 I played a lot of Spyro.

Could you imagine your dream partner not being into video games?
When talking about work or gaming, I'd prefer somebody not reacting like: "What the hell is she talking about?" He should have at least some basic knowledge. The absolute ideal would be a guy also working in the same field.

Say you meet an NPC, who you could kill without any consequences at all. Would you do it?
Maybe yes, maybe no. Maybe I don't even care at all and just continue on. Depends on the NPC and how annoying they are.

When you can customise your player character in the starting menus, what's the first thing you do?
Nothing special, but in Fallout 4 I once made the most disgusting-looking character ever. That was fun.

Did a game ever annoy you so much that you thought of quitting video games altogether?
Everybody's "tilting" sometimes, or just feels "salty" – you know, furious or frustrated. And every game has its flaws; there is no "perfect". Sometimes you get stuck or encounter bugs, and of course you like saying: "fuck you!" But I've never wanted to give up gaming completely, and I doubt that will ever happen.

How would you explain to someone, who has never played a video game in their life, what's so damn great about them?
If you think of it scientifically, games speak to your primal instincts. And honestly, I can't even think of a person actually never having played a video game. Seems pretty unlikely. They are everywhere, and really fun.

SHUM (36)

What's your profession?
I am a photographer for G-Zone in Hong Kong, and I've taken about 4,000 pictures today and it's only 2pm. I haven't slept at all because of jetlag, and I am so tired.

It's a long way here from China, impressive. What's your favourite gaming genre?
Believe me, Hong Kong is not the same as "China". Favourite genre? I like strategic simulations, base building, like for example in StarCraft.

Do you have a favourite video game character?
Snake in the Metal Gear series.

What was the first video game you played?
Super Mario Bros.

Could you imagine your dream partner not being into video games?
My girlfriend isn't interested in gaming at all. She always says, resignedly: "Just go, do it!"

Say you meet an NPC, who you could kill without any consequences at all. Would you do it?
Why would I do that? Would I then be the king of this world, when everybody's dead? I don't know.

When you can customise your player character in the starting menus, what's the first thing you do?
I always do that part quickly, "Hot Potato". In and out. I just want to get to play fast.

Did a game ever annoy you so much that you thought that these things were just stupid?
Video games are not stupid! What I really hate at the moment, though, are VR games. I don't get why anyone would want that – our eyes are always tired and strained as it is. If those VR worlds would at least look crappy, then there would be a creative added value, but photorealism? I don't get it.

How would you explain to someone, who has never played a video game in their life, what's so damn great about them?
You can find yourself in video games.

ALESSA (28)

What's your profession?
I work for a little Chinese indie studio called Coconut Island, and my department is business development.

What's your favourite gaming genre?
I like all kinds of console games, because those are relatively rare in China. I always liked action games like Dark Souls and adventure ones like Uncharted.

Do you have a favourite video game character?
Silent Hill is my all time favourite series. So I'd say probably Pyramid Head.

What was the first video game you played?
That was a very traditional, Chinese RPG on PC, made in Taiwan. Translated, the title would be something like "The Millionaires". It's got Kung Fu, sword fighting, but it's kinda old now.

Could you imagine your dream partner not being into video games?
Nobody really "hates" video games anyway – except maybe parents. I would accept him not playing, but I would never let him prohibit me from gaming.

You meet an NPC, who you could kill without any consequences at all. Would you do it?
No. Although in Undertale I forced myself to kill all of the villagers to see what kind of achievement it might result in. But if I knew that nothing would happen, I wouldn't do it.

Has a game ever annoyed you so much that you considered quitting video games altogether?
Silent Hill. Like I said, I love it. But a few years ago it almost drove me insane. I got stuck in a room with some monstrous nurses outside. I was out of health potions, so I wouldn't have lived through it. There was no way out, so I restarted the game. It was hard!

How would you explain to someone, who has never played a video game in their life, what's so damn great about them?
I would tell them that in video games it is possible to live other lives – maybe as a lawyer, as a monster or as an astronaut. You can do everything! You don't have that in your normal life. And games help to release stress, because you are able to divert focus off of your real life.

DAMIR (31)

What's your profession?
I am a social worker focussing on children, teenagers and refugees.

What's your favourite gaming genre?
Indie games. I really like co-op games, as well as survival games, mainly with zombies as in DayZ for example. I'm big on teamwork.

Do you have a favourite video game character?
Zak McKracken.

Awesome, I would have said Guybrush Threepwood! What was the first video game you ever played?
Dig Dug on the Atari 2600. I looked a little bit like Donkey Kong. You play a little guy in a space suit and from the top of the screen monsters keep on digging down.

Could you imagine your dream partner not being into video games?
Of course, no question about it. I've found my dream partner already and she doesn't care about video games at all. It doesn't matter, as long as she lets me play!

When you can customise your player character in the starting menus, what's the first thing you do?
The beard! There are so few protagonists with a real beard – they always just have sorry little three-day stubble going on.

Has a game ever annoyed you so much that you considered quitting video games altogether?
Yeah, almost. I think it's called Never Give Up or Don't Give Up? Or just Give Up. Anyways, this game frustrated me immensely. I refused playing anything for days because of that.

How would you explain to someone, who has never played a video game in their life, what's so damn great about them?
You can slip into roles that help you to get through daily struggles. For my line of work, games in general are quite important. I work a lot with children and teens, and refugees. Some of those who had to flee their home countries play FIFA like crazy. And they always play in co-op, never against each other. Games just unite people, you know. Even people that are socially shy have friendships online and maintain social contacts. My dad plays cards in a pub with his friends all the time – and people without either of those things, friends to meet and somewhere to meet them at, can play online.

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SHANNON (23)

What's your profession?
I work in sales promotion and PR, and part time in a JD Sports.

What's your favourite gaming genre?
Tough to say, but I am a huge Final Fantasy fan. So, those kind of games. I started with Final Fantasy VII, which I loved, but from X-2 it really went downhill.

Do you have a favourite video game character?
Zell in Final Fantasy VIII. He's the blonde boxer with the face tattoo.

What was the first video game you played?
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on N64. My brother just put it in my hands.

Could you imagine your dream partner not being into video games?
Of course I could, but I'm lucky enough to have a boyfriend who's also a gamer. All good.

Say you meet an NPC, who you could kill without any consequences at all on the course of the game. Would you do it?
Yes, if I wanted to try out a new weapon with cool attributes or something. Sure, I'd test that out. Especially in games you should try out everything you can.

When you can customise your player character in the starting menus, what's the first thing you always do?
I always get stuck in there forever. Body, clothing – but there's no first thing I do. I just keep sitting there until everything about the character is perfect to me.

How would you explain to someone, who has never played a video game in their life, just what's so damn great about them?
We play video games because we sometimes need to flee from our daily lives – and I don't mean that in a negative way, we just need that from time to time. Games are like a dream you get to choose yourself.

MICHAEL (50+)

What's your profession?
I am a software salesman.

What's your favourite gaming genre?
Shooters.

Do you have a favourite video game character?
Larry Laffer of the Sierra games series Leisure Suit Larry.

What was the first video game you ever played?
My first game was Pong. We had that for our television set.

You meet an NPC, who you can kill without any consequences at all on the course of the game. Do you do it?
Yeah, but "killing" is a weird definition in this context. It's a game.

How would you explain to someone, who has never played a video game in their life, what's so damn great about them?
It gives you variety. Finally not having to confront yourself with reality all the time. You can unwind doing things you would never do normally – for example, shooting zombies.

ALICE (17)

What's your profession?
I'm still in school. But today I am the Cheshire Cat in Alice: Madness Returns.

That was a really good game. I unlocked all of the dresses. Tell me, what's your favourite gaming genre?
Horror!

Do you have a favourite video game character?
The father in The Last of Us. (We assume she means Joel.)

What was your first video game?
Pokémon Sapphire for the Game Boy Advance.

Could you imagine your dream partner not being into video games?
If everything else is in tune, fine. I'd rather have it the other way, though.

When you can customise your player character in the starting menus, what's the first thing you always do?
I turn the hair into something really piercingly colourful, so I find my character easier among other players.

Has a game ever annoyed you so much that you thought of quitting video games altogether?
No, I only remember turning off the German subtitles in Skyrim, because they didn't match at all what was actually being spoken in the game. I found that to be extremely irritating.

How would you explain to someone, who has never played a video game in their life, what's so damn great about them?
Because you can be a character that is completely different to yourself, without any consequences to your normal life. I also really like playing online with my friends. That's great team building.

MARLON (30)

What's your profession?
I'm senior staff writer for the gaming site Now Loading.

What's your favourite gaming genre?
Action adventure. I loved Metroid for the NES and Super Metroid on the SNES. Ocarina of Time also encapsulates my taste in games pretty well.

Do you have a favourite video game character?
Solid Snake, from Metal Gear. He has something so innocent about him. His whole background story gives him so much gravitas.

What was the first video game you played?
It might have been Space Invaders, but what I clearly remember is playing Super Mario Bros. at my grandmother's place.

Could you imagine your dream partner not being into video games?
Yes, I can. It might make the whole relationship even more exciting. As you slowly but surely confront her with your gaming interests, opening up with that kind of "intimacy" that makes you become closer to another person.

You meet an NPC in a game, and you can kill them without any consequences at all. Do you do it?
No, I don't think so. I probably would feel so bad afterwards! That's almost like the question in Blade Runner with the turtle turned upside down.

When you can customise your player character in the starting menus, what's the first thing you always do?
I almost always make my character a black woman – no shit! They are so on the periphery, and under-represented in gaming, it's insane.

Has a game ever annoyed you so much that you thought about quitting video games altogether?
Well, there are such games now and again. FIFA 16 had wonderful graphics and photorealistic animations, but it plays like a game from the '90s! I have to say I lost the love for football games back then; but then I held the new PES in my hands, and it was back!

How would you explain to someone, who has never played a video game in their life, what's so damn great about them?
I read a lot, like a madman. For example, Tolkien and that kind of stuff. With games you actually get the opportunity to enter many of those fantasy worlds of literature. Within the given rules of a video game you can really live out what you want. And when you are suffering from depression like I do, there's also an emotional release with games, when you get the chance to sometimes leave the real world behind and relax.

MATS (27)

What's your profession?
I am an educator in a care home. At Gamescom some stormtroopers and me are just "free trooping" for the German Garrison 501, a cosplay faction officially licensed by LucasArts.

What's your favourite gaming genre?
I mostly like "Ego-Players", by which I mean the ones in which you are alone on missions, a solo experience. For example, games in the Assassin's Creed or The Witcher series.

Do you have a favourite video game character?
Yes, Cloud in Final Fantasy VII.

What was the first video game you played?
It was Rayman for the original PlayStation.

Could you imagine your dream partner not being into video games?
Yeah, because I am married and my wife isn't into video games at all.

You meet an NPC, who you can kill without any consequences at all on the course of the game – do you do it?
That depends a little bit on what kind of character I am playing. In online Star Wars games I play a Sith, so naturally I am with the Dark Side. Ergo, I act like an evil character would act, and how it would be most fitting to the overall story. In general I am not the "slaughtery" type, though.

When you can customise your player character in the starting menus, what's the first thing you always do?
Physically I make the player character match my body. It doesn't always have to be the muscle-bound butch guy. I mean, I'm not like that.

Has a game ever annoyed you so much that you thought of quitting video games altogether?
It never got that bad, but the new LEGO Star Wars had a horrible bug. At 98 percent of the game played through, it hung itself and the save slot was gone, completely. That game I threw in the trash.

What's been your weirdest moment at Gamescom?
A guy earlier lay down on the floor and wanted me to put my foot on him and strike a victory pose, as if I just defeated him. I also signed a breast! We go along with all of that silly stuff.

True "free trooping"! How would you explain to someone, who has never played a video game in their life, what's so damn great about them?
It's a fulfilling pastime and easier than going out. When you visit a gym, you see the results after weeks, maybe, whereas in a video game there is instant gratification. And game progress also triggers dopamine and happiness hormones. I'd say: "Try it out in any case, and if you don't like playing, no harm done."

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ALEX (29)

What's your profession?
I'm a graphics director and pixel artist. With two colleagues I made a little game called Mother Russia Bleeds, which is published by Devolver.

What's your favourite gaming genre?
Right away Inside comes to mind, although that game doesn't really have a genre. I enjoy a good story, which makes me experience something special and out of the ordinary. Actually, the type of game doesn't matter to me. I just want to look at the credits at the end and think: "Wow!" I want to feel something. I guess, "Feeling" is my genre.

Do you have a favourite video game character?
I loved the protagonist in Firewatch. He was narratively really well constructed. Kind of a broken person, but also really funny.

What was your first ever video game?
The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. Wait a second, I had a Commodore 64. I always played "Ninja Something" on that. I can't remember. But it had "Ninja" the title, that always worked back then.

Could you imagine your dream partner not being into video games?
I like open-minded people, and in this gaming industry there are many stubborn minds. With a good partner you always have to go back and forth with your ideas. Oh, or did you mean "partner" in a private sense? The same thing applies here, I guess. I prefer also opposite tastes in a girlfriend. After work I need to breathe, and don't want to keep on talking about games with her.

You meet a NPC, who you can kill without any consequences at all on the course of the game. Do you do it?
I would, probably. If the character just stands there without another way to interact with him, why not? I would want to see what it looks like, when he drops, how the fall is animated, if there is blood or a cool sound design. I am dev, man – I instinctively have to test the limits of a game.

When you can customise your player character in the starting menus, what's the first thing you always do?
I often try to build a representation of myself. But I really suck at it.

Has a game ever annoyed you so much that you thought of quitting video games altogether?
That'd be a very extreme reaction, but the big Ubisoft games often make me angry. They use the same tools as in the last game, and put out a slightly changed copy of it, almost identical with just a lot of new stuff to collect all over the map. The game stays the same every time! But that also happens to the indies: (one of) the makers of Journey also made Abzû, which basically is the same game principle remade. Time for new things!

How would you explain to someone, who has never played a video game in their life, what's so damn great about them?
Video games are a mixture of all variations of art: music, illustration, design, sculpture, acting, editing, video, narration. All of that, plus the possibility to interactively control what's happening. I can't imagine somebody not liking video games. Either they really don't know anything about games, or they haven't found the right one for them yet.

@theZeffo

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