Whilst I am an avid consumer of most sorts of media, video games is one format that has for years left me, for the most part, underwhelmed and disinterested. I love books, I love films, I love art, all for their creativity and the pleasure I get from experiencing this as well as the immersive experience they offer. Games are another escape from reality, and a more interactive one that should surely be more engaging because of this, so what is it I am not getting? Lately, especially since I am now dating and spending a lot of time with a game designer who devotes his life to the craft, I am finding myself more and more intrigued.
My level of interest seems to be developing in phases. I have considered myself for a while now in the phase of a ‘social gamer’, i.e. In the same way a ‘social smoker’ and ‘social drinker’ operate, I play games only in the company of other people, for mutual enjoyment and as a way of socialising and feeling part of a group. Games like Guitar Hero and Wii Sports were designed with this type of gamer on mind, they encourage participation and friendly competition. The trouble is that the ‘lack of company’ has rapidly become a feeble excuse for not being a regular gamer. Nearly all games these days it seems you’re playing as part body an online network of friends and strangers. This seems nice I suppose, except that aren’t games supposed to be escapism? I want the people I’m playing with to behave properly as the computer intended! I can’t imagine trying to co-operate with some of the gaming types out there, as much for their enjoyment and overall experience as mine. I mean I would be useless as part of a team of experienced shooters! and I’m not sure I could trust my team-mates not to shoot me in the back?! I have enough of those kinds of people-handling issues (albeit less life threatening) to handle in real life!
Despite this, I have recently found some types of gaming I enjoy. Skyrim at the end of 2011 really got my attention. I love the scope for creativity the game offers, the power of creating a unique character and building a life for it was in my hands which really appealed. It was like creating your own story, without picking up a pen. However. I have not played it in a long time and I feel if I went back to its now I would feel quite disconnected from it, I wouldn’t be starting where I left off because I would have to redevelop all the skills I learnt, and I would struggle to remember everything too! It’s not a storyline you can read back over, like with a book. I think of it now as my ‘holiday’ in Skyrim. I spent some time there, enjoyed myself but now I’m back in real life and it’s not so bad without it. The Holiday Phase of gaming, I think I know some others out there who are in it. Or in the ‘Honeymoon’ phase of the gamer perhaps, where they allow the game to lure them in with easy levels and seemingly satisfying rewards before it becomes unforeseeably difficult and consumes more and more time and effort, becomes more and more frustrating to the point of quitting, they are on the verge of quitting games forever! But then another new title catches their eye and they go through the same agony all over again.
I’ve realised now though that my relationship with games is more like an affair, the ‘affair’ phase. I get curious about one, I give it a try and I love it for a bit, for a brief time but always go back to what I had before, a much more satisfying book!
Jody Playing Skyrim in true, nerdy nerdy-gamer style. (November 2011)