Have you ever sat down to an activity with friends, or a partner? Say for example it’s a lazy weekend, and you’re sitting up in bed with a coffee and a newspaper while your partner is next to you also with a coffee and a newspaper? Then you may both “mmm” or “ahhh” over the stories in the news, and this would be perfectly fine; you could talk to each other if you wanted to, but both of you are separately enjoying your various activities.

Another example, and this is one from more personal experience. Sometimes, particularly around public holidays, my family will be gathered in the same room all doing different things. One reading the paper, one watching the television, one making a cup of tea, one playing the DS (guess which family member that is). There’s talking, but nothing too extensive and rambling if we’re busy doing other things.

Maybe we can play some of these games later, dear, what do you say?
Maybe we can play some of these games later, dear, what do you say?

When people don’t talk to others, they may have a tendency to ramble to themselves. This is fine, but it really catches my attention when the other person I’m sitting with is gaming. When playing together, when everyone’s involved in the action, there’s sure to be the odd bit of chatter. But something particular can happen when people in the same room are doing different things, but one of them is playing a video game. You will always find one solo gamer who cannot resist giving some kind of running commentary of the action. I’m not talking about, “oh hey, I totally pulled off this neat move.” I’m talking about an actual point-by-point, firmly-in-the-present stream of chatter.

“Ok, so I’m just going to pick up this ammo here, maybe it’s a good time to reload, too. And up, then let’s creep around here, oh there’s that guy over there who would be an easy target. Oh crap he saw me! Duck! Ok, I’m down, maybe he didn’t see me after all, let’s peek out for a second, oh never mind, there’s the bullets, maybe it’d be a good idea to hide down here for a while. Oh no wait, I have some grenades. Yeah, take that!Yeahhh who’s watching who now? I’m gonna make it up that ladder to the roof of that building, hahaha. Suckers, the lot of you.” Ramble, ramble, ramble… Solidly, for as long as the gaming session lasts.

It would be great to hear these guys do a running commentary of a shooter.
It would be great to hear these guys do a running commentary of a shooter.

This running commentary appeals to the person/people who may be listening but then turns into a blow-by-blow account.. “Did you see that guy? Did you see how I totally did a, b, c… Now I’m doing x, y, z…” It’s like having the video game action audio-described, and it’s very bizarre going from being talked to, to being talked at. In fact, you might as well not be there at all. Strangely enough, if you weren’t there to witness it, odds are the commentator would not be commenting at all, but would be playing the game with the odd exclamation should something of particular note happen.

Why does this happen? Is it some kind of inherent need to involve a non-spectator in the action? Is it a search for some kind of approval, a pat on the back? Well done for pulling off a very difficult move that I inevitably missed because I wasn’t actually watching you. Well done also for describing it exactly as it happened, it feels very much like I was watching you except I wasn’t actually listening properly, so it was more like watching through a patchy blindfold.

I’ll say one thing about the running commentary though. Even though it disturbs me while I’m doing my own thing and causes frequent breaks in concentration, even though it does on occasion annoy me… It almost always makes me want to actually participate. The commentary sometimes makes me want to watch and it can also be good enough that it inspires me to pick up a pad and join in. It’s an unconscious cry for someone to share in what you’re doing, whether that’s by watching your moves or by joining in on your mission.

Either that, or somebody just doesn’t know how to keep their mouth shut.