I am a bit of a dichotomy, as a gamer. I consider myself to be reasonably knowledgeable with regards to video games, gaming history, and in general, gaming culture. I will fully admit that I’m not up on the latest thing in today’s gaming scene, but from a standpoint of “retro” games, I’ve got a pretty broad base of information. That said, I know that I don’t know everything, and there are some definite gaps in my own knowledge. There are consoles I’ve never seen or played, games I’ve not heard of, and experiences I lack as a whole, that prevent me from being the “be all, end all” of video game know-how. I’m a student of life, like anyone else, and I’m always learning.
Bearing that in mind, why would anyone who admittedly doesn’t know everything call themselves a “guru”? Why would I want to subject myself to the level of scrutiny that comes from identifying oneself as a “guru”? What is my motive for elevating myself so much, other than to draw attention to myself? Am I crazy enough to think that I know enough to even refer to myself with such distinction? Do I deserve to even be referring to myself by such a title?
First, let’s look at the definition of the word from the Merriam-Webster dictionary:
noun gu·ru \ˈgu̇r-(ˌ)ü, ˈgü-(ˌ)rü also gə-ˈrü\
- a religious teacher and spiritual guide in Hinduism
- a teacher or guide that you trust
- a person who has a lot of experience in or knowledge about a particular subject
I think we can immediately scratch definition #1 off the list, because I have nothing to do with Hinduism. I am a Christian, though that doesn’t necessarily intersect with the game reviews I write, other than my faith informing who I am and what I do. Definition #2 is short and to the point, and I like it. I could be considered a teacher or guide, given that I’m writing about games and sharing my experiences, as well as recommending (or not) games to others. Definition #3 is a bit less subjective, but strictly by that definition, I am probably not a “guru” in the classic sense. I am playing games and learning about them as I go along, but as of this writing, I’m no expert on the Game Boy library of games, or the hardware. My goal is to get to that point.
I like the way Wikipedia frames it:
Guru (Devanagari गुरु) is a Sanskrit term for “teacher” or “master”, particularly in Indian religions. The Hindu guru-shishya tradition is the oral tradition or religious doctrine or experiential wisdom transmitted from teacher to student. In the United States, the word guru is a newer term, most often used to describe a teacher from the Hindu tradition. In the West some derogatory interpretations of the word have been noted, reflecting certain gurus who have allegedly exploited their followers’ naiveté, due to the use of the term in certain new religious movements.
As a noun the word means the imparter of knowledge (jñāna; also Pali: ñāna). As an adjective, it means ‘heavy,’ or ‘weighty,’ in the sense of “heavy with knowledge,”[Note 1] heavy with spiritual wisdom, “heavy with spiritual weight,” “heavy with the good qualities of scriptures and realization,” or “heavy with a wealth of knowledge.” The word has its roots in the Sanskrit gri (to invoke, or to praise), and may have a connection to the word gur, meaning ‘to raise, lift up, or to make an effort’.
Again, though I have nothing to do with Hinduism, the idea of “teacher” is present. “Master” perhaps I’m not, but I hope to one day reach that point. If you look at the 2nd paragraph I’ve quoted here, you’ll noticed the phrase they use as “imparter of knowledge”. I quite like that idea, and it echoes much of what I hope to accomplish through this journey. The Game Boy library of games is not nearly as well documented or well known as that of the NES or even the Sega Genesis or SNES, so to try and uncover as much about it as possible is part of my goal. I want to impart my knowledge and experiences about the games as much as I can so that others can hopefully make informed decisions about purchasing those games, especially considering that as supply decreases, demand may increase, along with price, so those looking to get into Game Boy collecting will want to know if what they’re paying for is worth the money they’re considering spending.
Here’s another perspective to consider from the Wikipedia article:
A traditional etymology of the term “guru” is based on the interplay between darkness and light. The guru is seen as the one who “dispels the darkness of ignorance.”[Note 2][Note 3] In some texts it is described that the syllables gu (गु) and ru (रु) stand for darkness and light, respectively.[Note 4]
The 2nd sentence highlights what I’m attempting to do: shed light on the subject of Game Boy games, and help separate the good from the bad. I’m here to ‘dispel the darkness of ignorance’ by playing games and then recommending the good or decent ones, and letting people know when they might want to steer clear of something that has little or no merit, replay value, or fun involved. If a game deserves your time, attention, and hard-earned cash, I’m going to tell you that. If a game is completely terrible, I want to make sure that everyone knows it, so they don’t spend their money without at least being informed. My responsibility, as a self-proclaimed “guru” is to make sure that you have all the information you might need to make an informed purchase or play decision.
I firmly believe that no one in a position of teaching others ever stops learning themselves. Just like watching a movie multiple times, and picking up something new each time, or reading a book multiple times, and noticing new elements in the subtext upon each read through, teachers are in a constant state of learning. How else would they improve their ability to convey information, or have a better sense of the context of that information, if they weren’t constantly attempting to increase their own knowledge in that area? As a consumer of games and gaming culture, it’s important for me to not only be steeped in that culture as I know it today, but to continue to learn about it, so my understanding of that culture can be greater and more full. If I ever feel like I’ve learned enough about the Game Boy, its games, or the technical information surrounding it, I’m wrong. I need to keep learning.
In summary, I call myself the Game Boy Guru, partially in jest, since I’ve nothing to do with any of the religious or spiritual connotations that implies, but also partially because my goal is to reach that stage; that place of Game Boy “enlightenment” if you will. I want to become an authority on the subject, so I’m putting it out there that this is what I’m going to become. Do I expect to ever be as learned as Jeremy Parish of Game Boy World? No, probably not. He’s been a games industry writer for a number of years, and is far more “professional” than I ever aspire to be, in terms of his writing and composition. Don’t get me wrong, I strive for all the hallmarks of good writing: proper grammar, correct spelling, good use of transitions, proper punctuation, and variety in my use of synonyms. But compared to a professional writer who is being and has in the past been paid to write about video games, I’m just another guy. He’s the business casual guy in the room, unassuming but confident, safe in the knowledge that he’s at the top of his game. I’m the nerd in the corner wearing a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles t-shirt, camouflage shorts, and silently blogging about my latest portable game conquest, while tweeting about how much I hate the motion blur on the original Game Boy DMG’s screen. So yeah, I wear the mantle of Game Boy Guru with pride, but also with a grain of salt, and tongue planted ever so firmly in cheek. I hope I can live up to the name, and I hope that this helps to clear up any misconceptions people might have about the somewhat presumptuous moniker I’ve chosen for myself. Game on!