The Case For Games: Revisited

I'm a devoted PC gamer, I enjoy them because they stretch the imagination, immerse you in plot, and transport you to another world. Plus they let you repeatedly make bad decisions and blow up crap with stunning graphics and sound!

As far as I'm concerned games are the natural evolution of entrainment media. Consider:

  • Books rescued people from the humdrum boredom of their life, and the harsh realities of the local paper. They allowed for unreal imagination and helped the reader discover the intricacies of their language.

  • Movies were the immersion media of their time, they had the ability to squeeze the vital juice of a book, play or story and portray it in two hours or less. They bombarded viewers with a wonder of sights and sounds they had not experienced previously

  • Television is a vulgar media, like the stupid cousin of movies. Chopping viewing time to minutes and subjecting you to unwanted ads, and weak story lines. Regardless they have managed to bring a small amount of the movie experience home and allow for the serialized story so I will list them here

  • Most people want more. When you see a good movie, read a good book, watch a great series on television, you want to subject yourself to further experiences. Relive the experience with others, and re-capture that joy of not knowing what is going to come next.

  • Video games are the answer. They give you the immersion that you can never have with movies, television, or even books. They allow you to control the choices of your characters. I've been playing PC games for 20 years, and they have grown unbelievably complex in that time but at their core is imagination. You can almost always approach a problem from different angles.

    One of the first games I played was a series called Kings Quest. It blew my mind. You didn't have a clear path. You had to solve a puzzle and reason for the answer. Sometimes you got it and sometimes you died. Before that I has just had an Atari. And while shooting at pixelated blobs was somewhat rewarding, it certainly didn't engage my mind in a story.

    I spend a lot of time playing RPG's (role playing games). As the name suggests, you take the role of a character and use your strengths and weaknesses to guide your interaction with others, and what you can or cannot do. Some characters are strong fighters, some are thieves, and some use magic to accomplish their means. Some good, some evil and you get to decide what you'll be. Consequences. Like a choose-your-adventure book with infinite possibilities.

    Like any good medium creators of RPG's stretch their craft by placing players in space, in suburbia, even in Victorian England. With PC Games you can spend 30-100 hours of gameplay before reaching the end of the story. Most good RPGs have a solid driving story and dozens of side quests. PLus you can play the game over and over with different characters, objectives and even alternate endings. For the money, they're the best entertainment ratio of dollar to hour.

    PC gaming can also be a great social activity. Not every gamer need be an overweight, anti-social, geek (some of us are just lucky that way). I like it when we all get together for a LAN party. This is the time when you find out who your real friends are. Who will you make allies with? Who will be the first attacked? Who can hold out the longest? Who will drug your Mt Dew? The truly cunning will keep up the diplomatic relations all the while caching a deadly arsenal of minions and WMD's.

    "No Carl, I'm with you, man."

    "Then why are you parading an army of heavy tanks into my base!!"

    "About that..."

    I have plenty of male bonding stories that took place while blowing the tar out of a friend’s poorly guarded base. It's not personal, it's gaming.

    I'll leave you with a brief summary of one of my all time favorite RPGs.

    Arcanum is set in a Tolkien style world in the middle of an industrial revolution. The graphics were poor even by 2001's standard but the story captivated me. It pulled me in and wrapped me up in a way that I haven't experienced since. You can pursue magic, learn to build electric lights, steam engines, or Molotov cocktails. Even the game manual is written in the style of the game, as diary excerpts of an anthropologist exploring the countryside. A very immersive game and well worth your time, even a decade later.

    Of course I'm not living in the past. I play through about a game every couple of months I'm always up to try the next game and see how far we can go. I doubt we've even scratched the surface of what is possible.

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