Tuesday, March 8, 2011

I, Gamer.

Another recycled facebook note today, my time is pretty limited right now. Plus, most of my notes would be more at home here. I have modified this slightly from the original, as there were some points I missed before.

A friend recently asked me, "What's the point of gaming? What do you get out of it?" To these questions, there are many answers, and not all will apply to every gamer.

1. Gaming is an escape. In my everyday life I go to class, go to work, do homework, sleep, and eat. Sometimes I get to see my girlfriend or spend some time with friends, but mostly it's classes and work. Videogames let me get away from that for a little while. They let me assume the role of a cybernetic super-soldier protecting humanity from aliens, or a soldier in World War II, or one of the last survivors in a zombie apocalypse fighting and running for my life, or I'm some commanding officer directing my armies in an epic battle, or I'm the star of some sports team, or I'm a sorcerer/warrior/whatever on an epic quest to save the world and my love from an evil wizard. They let me get away from the real-life challenges and problems for a little while and assume the role of someone else, making actual, perceivable progress and overcoming challenges as I play. When I stop playing, I know that all of my real-life problems are still there and that I must deal with them, but while I play? None of that matters for just a little while.

2. The chief reason I play games: entertainment. When I get home from a long day of classes, or a hard day at work, I'm too tired to do much more than sit down and stare at a screen. I want to do something to relax, to get away from the everyday pressures and stresses for a little while, and I want to have fun and be entertained. So I pop in a videogame and just play. It let's me unwind while having fun.

3. Gaming is a social thing. Yeah, I know I'm sitting by myself in a room with a controller and a TV screen, but what's on my head? That's a headset. What am I doing with it? I'm talking with other people. I'm collaborating with teammates to coordinate strategies, or I'm talking trash playfully with my opponents, or maybe I'm just talking with my best friend while we play a game together, even though we're about two hours away from one another due to college. Videogames let me reach out and get in touch with people ALL OVER THE WORLD, and help me to stay in touch with the friends I already have.

4. Competition. Every game has a competitive aspect to it. As a male, I have an inner drive to compete with others. Whether I'm trying to kill more monsters/aliens/nazis than my opponent can, or the opponent himself, or trying to beat my friend's high score on a timed mission, all of it is a competition. I'm not very athletic, and I don't have the time to devote to playing sports on a team, but videogames let me satiate my drive to compete with other men (and women, girls play too you know!).

5. Games tell stories. With the exception of sports and puzzle games, just about every game tells a story. Just like movies, just like books, and just like television shows, games are just a medium for telling a story. In fact, games are one of the BEST mediums for storytelling. Books let you imagine things as you want while feeding you the plot and dialogue and movies and television show you the action and the drama, but videogames actually pull you into the story and put YOU into the shoes of the main character. YOU have to figure out the puzzle before the time runs out, YOU have to slay the dragon, YOU are the one running for your life from hordes of zombies or monsters. It's much more than simply telling you or showing you what happened, you actually LIVE it, in a way. What's more, is you can CUSTOMIZE how the story goes, to a degree.

For example, in a single encounter in a level on Halo, there are hundreds of ways you can approach it. Do you sneak around the enemy and never even let them know you're there? Do you find some high ground and snipe them from afar? Do you run in, guns blazing and throwing grenades like a mad man and hope to kill all the aliens? Do you backtrack a bit to get the vehicle you left behind? Do you make a dash for the rocket launcher to get some heavy firepower? Do you use the stationary turret positioned by that rock for cover? There are so many ways you can approach this ONE encounter, that I honestly believe that no two players will ever have the EXACT same experience playing through the game.

6. Games are an art form. Whether it's the graphics, the sounds, the controls, the storytelling, or some combination of all of the above, most games have a distinct artistic flavor. Gears of War is dark and gritty, Call of Duty is realistic, Bioshock has an atmosphere of time having been paused, and Crysis is just plain gorgeous. RPGs portray epic, bigger-than-life characters, environments, and stories. Even puzzle games have their own styles. Games, just like movies, are a medium for artistic expression just as much as a medium for the stories they tell.

There are many more reasons why I, and many others, play videogames, but these are foremost in my mind, and I hope it's enough to answer your questions.

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