Why I Play Video Games…

Image taken from the download section of Bethesda Skyrim website.

Image taken from the download section of Bethesda Skyrim website.

It occurred to me as I was thinking about my first blog post that I wanted to start with something easy. Something simple, like why do I play video games. I play because they are fun. There that’s it, simple, but there is a problem. I have in my time been frustrated playing, to the point of yelling, nearly throwing controllers (which are too expensive now to throw), and cursing at my TV. My wife has asked in the past why do I play if I’m acting this way. I usually respond with because it relaxes me (with a snarky tone). Thinking about it more though, there are many reasons why I play games, probably the same as you. Games are fun, that’s the most basic reason, if you are not having fun, what’s the point really. I have in the past slogged through a game just to try to finish it, but that generally ends in me hating the game and feeling like I wasted my time (which is precious now a days).

There are though deeper reasons why I play games; escapism is the most prevalent to me. I enjoy losing myself in the world the game lives in. I will spend hours in Skyrim just wandering around with no a real direction or spend too much time inspecting every room and nook and cranny in the beautiful falling apart city of Rapture just to find a little piece of something I’ve never seen before. How many of us have burned every bush in the original Zelda just to see what it would do? I love exploring the mean streets of Gotham in Arkham City or the not-as-mean streets of Steelport in Saints Row. I felt a sense of awe in Columbia, until I had to start taking out people, in Bioshock Infinite, the new DLC Burial at Sea promises a view into Rapture before its fall and I’m eagerly anticipating exploring there for hours,

It strangely feels like going home. There are whole worlds created for us to play in and I love that aspect of gaming. This is also why I love Dungeons and Dragons: the world building and exploring the world created by my DMs. Give me an interesting, fully-realized world (for a game) and I will most likely fall head into it, escaping my world just for a little bit (or a lot of bit).

I enjoy the challenges games give me. Portal provides me puzzles to solve that I feel like a genius for figuring out. Zelda provides me a different experience in every dungeon, many times within the same dungeon. Zelda feels particularly great at time because I can see the puzzle I’ve known for years when I walk into a room, even in a new dungeon, and know how to solve it … all I need to do is figure out how to do that. I enjoy the puzzle aspect to games like Batman, through the Arkham series, as I look down on a group of Joker’s gang and decide how to take them out as quickly as possible or how to grab them in the predator rooms without alerting the others. Fighting games alone provide a challenge against the computer or even more dangerous another person. Playing online has only increased the level of challenge for me. Halo and Gears of War provided me with hours of fun trying to figure out how to best my friends, or work with them to take out others. Challenge creates a fun environment and as long as everyone can keep it cool, I will always look forward to a night of chainsawing opponents or hitting them with a sticky grenade.

My wife helps me realize the next reason. Level building and moving, she has become somewhat addicted to Candy Crush Saga, and when I asked her why, she said she loves how her pieces move on the game board (it’s set up something like Candy Land). She said it gives her the feeling that she is getting better or she can see her moving on to a new level, a feeling of accomplishment. This one simple aspect has become one of the most powerful things in gaming. It has, in its own way, pretty much taken over gaming. It has been the staple of RPGs for years, though back when I was a kid, they were not as popular as they are now. The level-building concept has infiltrated almost every part of gaming, from shooters to puzzle games. As I talk about this, I know that you always gained new levels in puzzles games, but, I mean it in a more visual way or else my wife would be hooked on any puzzle game. Adding the simple piece of moving on a game board has made the game that much more compelling to her. I can’t tell you how many kids I know tell me what level they are in Black Ops or how what level they’re at in Final Fantasy. As an old school gamer, when you beat a level, you simply went to the next level, but now, the RPG element of giving you new abilities, making your character stronger, or unlocking certain aspects has become standard in games. Nothing feels better than playing Borderlands 2, hitting a new level, and seeing the giant Level 35 (example) explode out of the screen or seeing new perks open up in Fallout or Skyrim. Leveling is a motivating factor for many players. Jinx, for example, plays many games, and this is his favorite aspect of gaming. Many games have leveling available that you may not even realize, like Bioshock. It doesn’t present to you like a level building RPG but it does follow a path that provides powers in the beginning and more powerful versions later, along with more powerful enemies. This ,along with other games, keeps you leveling just to keep up with the game or it levels enemies to meet you, always keeping it challenging.

Why do I play games? For many reasons, you probably play for similar or for very different. There are as many reasons to play as there are games to play. We all play games to suit our interests or to suit our needs that the game provides. For many of us, the reasons we play are a diverse as we are. Armed with the knowledge of why you can even better find games that are perfect for you in the future. Some may think the “why” is not important, but to me it is, I play games for many reasons. Why do you play?

About Ness

As a chaotic good nerd I try to be as well rounded as possible, from video games, comics, tabletop RPGs, anime, and cartoons I try to fit it all in. Although I enjoy all of it, video games have always dominated the majority of my time and attention. My plan for here is not to write previews or reviews but to talk about how I relate to the games I play. Hopefully we can all play along.

Comments

  1. Nice first post Ness. I get the escapism argument for video gaming. Hell, I’ve lived it often enough. But for me it has also been about connecting as often as not.

    Whether it is by connecting with my local gaming buddies; (as we’ve aged and our families have grown it is getting harder to commit to Board Game night let alone investing the time needed to get in a miniature game), or it is by making anonymous connections with other gamers whose ID I see a few times a week, but have never talked to, digital games draw me into connections with others that in many ways I’ve never been able to master face to face.

    Be wary of your wife and Candy Crush. Every Family needs at least one parent grounded in reality. Between being your wife, and my cousin, she already has two strikes against her when it comes to that evilly addictive game.
    Best,
    CMc

  2. Dan Silverman says:

    Pre-Xbox 360 and post Xbox 360 I play games for the stories. I have ADD which means that if a story doesn’t get my attention fast and keep it moving, I am going to hate it with a passion. Games that I have seen people rave about such as Mass Effect have left me bored out of my mind and ended up thrown out in the trash before I could even learn my character’s name. On the flip side of things I can’t get into meaningless games. Call of Duty games which are run and gun (with the exception of Ghost which I am enjoying) bore the hell out of me as well. I need a purpose for what I am doing and a quickly moving story. Even Halo bored the piss out of me. I was into Bioshock for about 3 hours until it became a grinder game and that lost me in the end.

    I’ve enjoyed the Gears of War games and even some games that got solid 1 in reviews such as Darkest of Days. The stories were great and kept things moving along. The Telltale Games Walking Dead is incredible. I’m enjoying Infamous: Second Son right now and so far it’s been fun with a great story.
    Now I said pre and post for a reason… I was playing games for achievements. I have completed such “masterpieces” as Hannah Montana the Movie Game, My Horse and Me 2, and every Disney movie game that ever was released * (I did enjoy some immensely such as Bolt.) I would play multiple games over a 24 hour window just for that 1000g sense of accomplishment that was like a drug that I hated yet couldn’t give up.
    In regards to Candy Crush… I find that to be the worst game in the world that I can’t stop playing. I’m almost on level 500 and look to the day I can get to the point where there are no levels ahead of me and I can say “screw it, I’m done” and never look back. I think there are 530 now and as long as they do not add more before I get to that point I will be happy.

  3. CorumMc, I can totally relate to the difficulty finding a date to play
    tabletop games with friends. My D&D group (now play Shadowrun) has
    to plan game days out about a month in advance and that still may fall
    through. Luckily for me I play with really great guys who are willing to
    reschedule and reschedule to make it work. Also fear not for my wife,
    she is definitely the one grounded. I wrote the post a month or two ago
    and since her interest in Candy Crush as all but disappeared. So we’re
    back to status quo.
    Dan Silverman, you hit upon one thing that I didn’t comment in my post, story. I have no idea why it didn’t come up. I totally play for story. I think I was focusing on the mechanics or something. It’s the reason I love Bioshock along with Infinite. As you stated I’ve heard nothing but great things about the Walking Dead game and know that Tell Tale are great story tellers. I’m actually really looking forward to their Tales from the Borderlands. Which as a Borderlands fan I’m super excited to see the world from a different perspective. I also love Gears, it has the right amount of story and action. It’s a very well balanced game. I totally get the achievement hunt as well. I mostly use it as a clear sign of progression in a game but I’ve definitely hunted them down in games I love, it adds some fun and gets me to try things I otherwise wouldn’t have.
    Thanks to both of you for checking out the blog. I love hearing why people play to see how some mirror mine and how some differ.

  4. Ness, I think you really hit it on the head. For me, it’s about the
    escapism as well, and as you rightly said, losing myself in a game’s
    story and world, and enveloping me in its environment. Games like
    Fallout 3 and Skyrim do this masterfully.

    When I first came out
    of the vault in Fallout 3 and started to wander the wasteland, it FELT
    real. The houses that were in complete shambles, the towns that were
    just a bunch of decrepit parts thrown together or the fact that everything you
    picked up (for the most part) had a use and could be sold for
    bottlecaps. (currency in Fallout 3) You literally felt like you HAD to scrounge for everything just to survive.

    Skyrim puts you in a place
    where you want nothing more than to explore every nook and cranny
    looking not only for loot, but just because it’s so damn visually
    enjoyable to do so.

    Ness is right; I really love to power game; leveling up and finding the perfect combination of feats, perks,
    whatever you want to call them,is just one more reason for me to love
    playing.

    @Dan Silverman:
    I can relate to you as well, as if it doesn’t keep my attention, I have
    a hard time moving forward with a game. Mass effect is one of the few I
    pushed through, even though the planet scanning (especially in #2) was
    god awfully painful. I’m not terribly interested in any of the COD’s
    (and their brethren), however I found some enjoyment from Halo not from
    the campaign, but from playing with friends in multi-player. Other than
    that though, it didn’t hold much interest for me.

    I am surprised
    to hear that you felt that Bioshock felt like you had to grind at later
    levels. I found that game to be flawless and by far one of my
    favorites. Their environment setup / ambiance is one of my top 5 and I
    felt like the game held well through it’s entire campaign. At what
    point did you feel like it was a grind? I’m curious…

    Never personally cared about the achievement ratings, though was frustrated when I realized that most of my points were not on my XBOX live account and on my original (non XBOX live) account. So my points are split between the two, which doesn’t accurately portray my experience of games played. Oh well.

    @CorumMc:
    As Ness said, it is hard for us to find a date where 6-8 people
    schedules line up (like trying to get a game when the planets are all aligned), but we do our best to make it
    work because we really want it to work. As you rightly said, with
    families growing and time management becoming harder to achieve, it’s
    not easy, but well worth it!

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