Monday, November 1, 2010

Post-A-Day: 5 Reasons Why I Game

(This month I plan on posting a blog post a day to try to get myself in the habit of writing every day. Let's see if I can make it!)

2 years ago I gave up video games for a year. Ever since that time in my life, there's been a twinge of guilt associated with my gaming time. There's so much I'd like to do with my life, how do I justify setting aside time to sit around playing in make believe worlds? Well, if you really wanna know...

5 Reasons Why I Game

1) Achieving Perfection
(Examples: New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Batman: Arkham Asylum and many, many others)


Just another day in the Mushroom Kingdom.


How many things in your life can you say you've perfected? I've been brushing my teeth for DECADES now, and I'd probably give myself a B, B+ tops in my tooth-brushing ability. But in how many games have I collected every coin, toppled every boss, and explored/conquered every square inch of land? Too many to count.

There's something incredibly alluring about a world that provides you a healthy challenge while also making it very clear you will catch that carrot if you put in enough time. It's like being able to live out Bill Murray's last repeating day in Groundhog Day, with a fraction of the time investment (and none of that silly personal growth and self-improvement business to get in the way of getting things done), and while it's also part of the reason people start and never stop playing game likes World of Warcraft, in small doses I think it's an encouraging experience.


2) Sharing Epic Experiences
(Examples: Resident Evil 5, Borderlands, New Super Mario Bros. Wii*)


You shoot him a lot in the face. I'll uh, do that too.


Another reason for WoW's appeal (and I have to stop reference that game soon, lest I rename this post "Why WoW is so addicting and why I can never, ever, allow myself to play it) is playing with others. Exploring a dangerous land with a party of computer controller AI that do as they're told and offer up nothing in the realm of personality is nothing compared to doing it with others.

Co-operative gaming with a friend or competent and non-racist player online is always more fun than going solo. The same goes for actual in-person gaming. These days I rarely get a night home to totally veg out and game alone, but I'll still go out of my way to plan game time with others who are interested.

3) Kicking Ass & Taking Names
(Examples: Halo: Reach, Street Fighter IV, Blur, Geometry Wars)


I miss being good at fighting games.

On the flip side, a little healthy competition is also good for the brain. I'm known to be a HIGHLY competitive gamer, which gets me my fair share of criticism from friends who don't see the point in taking any game too seriously, but COME ON ALREADY WHY ARE YOU EVEN GOING TO PLAY IF YOU'RE NOT GOING TO PLAY TO WIN??!??

There are moments, in down-to-the-last-kill Halo matches, Street Fighter matches where both players are one hit away from death, or heck, even a competitive chess match where at a certain point nothing in the world matters more than what's going on in the game at that moment, and you're firing on all cylinders mentally, and win (if you're me) or lose (if you're not) it's truly a wonderful feeling.

4) Appeasing the Professor (Solving the Puzzle)
Examples: Professor Layton, Limbo, Machinarium, Picross 3D

I give up. Let's just get the plastic explosives and be done with it.

I've met exactly one person in my life who claimed to never have done or been interested in puzzles, and she described it as a big life regret. I think we're wired as humans towards solving puzzles - whether it be the ones we encounter day to day in our lives, or the ones we choose to do on our phones or in our newspapers when we have a spare moment.

Great puzzle games have a collection of great stumpers that make you rack your brain for a few minutes before letting you come to that "aha!" moment that makes it all worthwhile. To quote the great Professor Layton: "Nothing satisfies like a puzzle solved."

5) Choosing Your Own Adventure
Examples: Mass Effect 2, Dead Rising 2

I choose to remove that bra, and accept all that will follow this decision.

One of the best new developments in gaming that is custom tailored to the medium is player-controlled (or at least, partially controlled) storytelling. Letting players make decisions that affect the way the story plays out is an incredibly compelling (if totally a bitch to program, as I'm sure it is) function. And while this device is still in its infancy, the potential for it is endless, and it may be where video game storytelling eventually carves out its own special niche.

There's something really cool about knowing the story of Mass Effect that you played is (theoretically) entirely  unique to you, and it makes the whole experience much more personal. Sure, we're all gonna save the galaxy at some point, but the 'how's' and 'why's' belong to us. And hearing stories of the decisions other players made, and the consequences of them are equally fun as well. I can't wait to see how this trend develops over time.

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Day 1 complete! I may have some more of these for tomorrow, but then after that, I'll have a new topic for sure. These will also, in general be much shorter, as I won't always have a full hour or so to write one. And I'll probably be thinking of these day of as well, which is a little scarier, but also another part of the experiment, since I tend to plan more than I need to with my writing.

-Matt

PS: 5 More reasons listed here.

*In theory. Just don't suck, ok?

1 comment:

David Scholl said...

Don't leave your Smash Bros. at home when you go back to college, that's all I have to say.