Today I am going to answer the one question I get asked the most from friends, family, co-workers and more often than not, complete strangers. “Why do you play video games?”
I guess the easiest answer would be that I play games for the stories. Like everything else in life, you tend to evolve from one thing to the next. You crawl, then you walk, you run, then you sprint. And for my creative side it was no different. As kids we all go from storybooks and toys to hear and create our own stories. As we get a little older we start to watch cartoon shows and prime time TV. From there the next step is movies, each with it's own unique way of telling a story like no other. After watching so many movies you develop a craving for something more substantial and funny enough, books are usually what we go back to to get that fix.
But what is the next step after that? When you've come to a point where a world can be so vividly reproduced in the pages of a book that the images, characters and voices take on a personality of their own, what could be better than that? For me, it was the experience of being there, to be a part of the story, to shape it, to add my voice to the cast and characters.
Imagine you're watching your favorite movie or your favorite TV show. What would it feel like to be right there living out those moments with the characters you know and love. What if you could bear hug Kaylee from Firefly, or sucker punch Joffrey from Game of Thrones? How amazing would feel to be flying beside Luke Skywalker as he takes out the Death Star, or be “The One” in The Matrix?
In my time spent as a gamer, I have been a soldier who saves his country countless times, a gifted student who uses his abilities to defeat evil, a warrior from ancient times who slays dragons, a space marine who stops the destruction of the universe, a cowboy who wants nothing but redemption, a father who will stop at nothing to save his son. I've been a treasure hunting scoundrel, a god among men, a slayer of zombies, a slayer of mushrooms, a father, a lover, a friend. That's what I've done in my life, how many people can say the same?
It would be easy to write it off with the word “escapism”, being a very popular phrase nowadays, but I really don't think that would apply to me. Escapism would mean that I am running away from some sort of boring existence or depression. In my normal day to day life, I work as a massage therapist with 20 or so of the greatest people I've ever met, every single client I work with lights up when they see me and leave saying my hands are next to godliness. I am a healthy, independent, world traveller who gets paid to have people inflate my ego after a back rub.
My life is all kinds of awesome! So I'm sorry to say, escapism does not apply to me. :)
But there is an emotional tie that binds me to video games and I believe this can be said for most gamers. Every game has a unique element about it that brings out a feeling or emotion within the player. Be it happy or sad, rage or reflection, it brings whatever reaction it tries to illicit and brings it right to the foreground. And maybe, just maybe, it is because the absence of such emotions in our everyday lives that get us to come back time and time again to the types of games we love.
For myself, I can be straight up and say that if a game moves me to the point of tears running down my cheeks, I will most likely love it. Like I said, my life is pretty rockin', not many tears are shed on a daily basis. So when I'm playing a game and a character that has been by my side from the start is dying in my arms after a gruelling fight for survival, I get a little misty.
And then I get down on my knees and crawl to the screen shrieking, “NO CARLEY!!! WHY DID YOU HAVE TO DIE??? WHY?????”
Or something along those lines.
So when you think of the stereotype for a gamer geek, that shy, soft spoken kid who wishes he had the courage to walk up to a pretty girl and say hello. And he's escaping into a world where he not only gets the girl, but is revered as a hero in the eyes of his peers. All that kid is doing is experiencing a feeling or emotion that others might take for granted. Why is this a bad thing?
If a calm and collected individual goes online in Call of Duty maybe they don't get that sort of rush in their day to day life? When someone jumps into the world of Amnesia and wets themselves with fear, is it possible that they are fearless in real life? Do the isolated workers find solace in World of Warcraft? Do the stifled creative minds find an outlet in Minecraft?
This is just a theory of course. One of many reasons I'm sure as to why people become gamers.
As for me, I just like the stories. :)
So why are you a gamer? Let me know with a comment of your own.
And as always, if you'd like to see the video version of this article, head over to YouTube and find me under Deep Seeded Geek.
Take care everyone!