Over the course of the next couple of months the staff at +10 will discuss why we play games, and what in particular we get from them. We’re starting today with our graphic designer, Mhorgain.
When Raeyn asked me to write an article describing why I play games, I have to admit I was reluctant to do so. Don’t get me wrong, I love gaming—and I’ve written essays about what gaming has to offer people, from the emotional abstract stuff to the technical details (say, for example, you’re going to have surgery—well, ask for a surgeon who plays games: statistics say they’re more accurate and faster).
But tell people why I play? I’m a scholar…my personal experience doesn’t tend to show up in very many things I write. But I’m an expert rambler, so I’ll just tap into that.
To begin…well, sometimes I get bored.
I know, I know—getting bored is such a rare thing, isn’t it? But the truth is, the condition of boredom sometimes afflicts me. Usually when I should be sleeping, but that’s beside the point. When I’m bored, I usually do one of three things: read, watch a movie, or play. If I choose to play, it’s because I feel like gaming has a level of interaction that the others don’t. Watching movies is a particularly passive pastime (although not so much for me, because I obsess over nearly every movie I watch—analyzing, quoting, crying. But that’s an article for a different place) which I only do when I’m feeling particularly lazy. Reading requires a different kind of interaction than games, because all of the action takes place inside your head, but it is still somewhat passive in that the journey you take is only one way. Even the best authors cannot give you access to all the nooks and crannies in their worlds—you are stuck with the perspective and the locale of whatever character(s) you are following.
Gaming, on the other hand, offers options. Options and options and options and options. For someone like me, this is both a curse and the most exciting thing in the world. Creating a character? One of the best things on the planet, in my opinion. It can literally take me an hour to make my person ‘look right.’ I even spend crazy amounts of time creating characters I’ll never play, just because I like all the options. How would this hair look? Ooh, what do the different tattoos look like? It’s endless hours of entertainment for me.
And then once I get in the game (and out of the starter zone) I have the opportunity to explore. Raeyn and I spent hours playing the Zelda games, not because we were struggling to finish them (although we certainly had issues at times—blasted water temples…) but because we would get on Epona and ride around. And explore the depths of Lake Hylia. And talk to every. single. person. in Castle Town. Multiple times, in case they decide to say something different. One of the craziest (but best) things I think we ever did was obsess over how the characters’ dialogue changed in Twilight Princess as Link completed different steps. In particular, we checked back after nearly every temple was completed to see how Rusl was doing after he got injured. When he disappeared we nearly had heart attacks. That’s how involved we get in games—or, that’s how involved we want to get in games. So for me, a huge part of the appeal of gaming is how you can interact with the characters in the world, and how many options you can have in doing so.
There are other reasons—feeling of accomplishment (I recently got the Achievement for exploring all of Kalimdor in WoW…yay!!), hanging out with Raeyn, Syndrome, and others—but the most important reason I play is because it gives me a way to interact creatively with an environment I’ll never experience in the everyday world we live in. Games (or at least the ones I play) are incredibly beautiful. The desktop wallpaper on my laptop is a slideshow of all the concept art for Warlords [of Draenor] because I find it absolutely stunning. Games can also have incredibly beautiful stories and people, and amazingly complex and interesting plots and histories.
And then, in the end, they’re fun, too. 🙂