For Love of the Games

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A controller was plopped in my hands at a young age; I barely knew what to do. How do I…oh, push that button; but what if I…gotcha! Over twenty years later, sometimes I still wonder what I’m doing. Why haven’t I outgrown video games? Why hasn’t the culture of video games exasperated my love for them? Fan boys and trolls are annoyances, sure; it costs a ton of money to stay current, absolutely; and some games are huge disappointments, c’est la vie. Despite those, I find myself utterly enthralled with this hobby.

Most people have hobbies like rock climbing, mountain biking, skiing, card collecting, and so on. I have one hobby, one source and form of entertainment that occupies most of my free time. I enjoy watching movies, but I wouldn’t choose to watch one over playing a game. I find television rather boring. Those hobbies I mentioned? I’m too much of a scared-y cat to try most of them (except card collecting, something I just never got into). Playing games stimulates my thoughts and emotions, and I would rather have my mind active than kick-back on the couch and veg-out.

I once tried convincing my grandparents about the benefits of video games. They humored my enthusiasm for a while, but in truth what they wanted to say was my time and effort could be better spent on a worthwhile hobby. People are still trying to convince me of these same things to this day. I don’t blame them for being concerned; it’s easy to see faults in hobbies you haven’t vested yourself in.

I’m going to school to be a game designer. Does a degree even matter in the game industry? I sure hope so. Am I wasting my time? I sure hope not, it’s certainly not free. So far, I’m enjoying peeking behind the curtain. I’ll let you know if things change.

My current class is Foresight Development. At first, I couldn’t figure out the importance of this class. The professor had us start our daily discussions with the end of the world. Over time I realized the benefit of this: By starting with the end, by picturing an end-result, we were slowly working towards a beginning. And once we reach that beginning (the class is on-going), we will see the whole picture. It’s fascinating, truly. I’m sure this will be helpful in designing a game.

Has all the time I’ve spent playing games been worth it? What do I have to show for it, a couple of Achievements? A few Trophies? “Guys!” I say. “I beat the newest Call of Duty on Veteran!”

“Big deal,” I reply to myself.

What does it mean? I conquered a difficulty setting manufactured by a video game company; let’s shoot off fireworks to celebrate. You bring the champagne, I’ll grab some balloons. It’ll be fun…maybe.

The truth is I have a hard time justifying my time and money on something so intangible. I’ve spent countless hours in fake worlds, jumping on fake platforms and shooting fake guns at fake bad guys. I don’t live in the real world; I live vicariously through whatever game character I happen to be playing at the moment. It’s a bit ridiculous.

Yet I can’t stop.

I don’t mean that in a drug-addict sort of way, though. I mean I can’t stop playing and talking about video games in the sense that I love games and want them to be part of my life. After all, they have been for more than twenty years. As far as I can tell, that will continue.

Did you know that Dr. Seuss is one of my favorite author’s? He created these worlds for children to explore and ponder, and also learn about and love. He pried open the depths of his imagination and pulled out brilliant characters and fascinating places. Fox In Socks is a work of genius; you should read it.

I bring up Dr. Seuss because games have allowed me to explore other’s imaginations in ways that, arguably, surpass what is possible simply by reading words on a page. I’ve explored worlds I could have never imagined; I’ve performed feats physically possible to a human being; I’ve connected with groups of people that share my passion – my passion for playing games.

But has it been worth it?

I need to cut back on the amount of hours I spend playing games. There are, admittedly, better uses of my time. I’m married with three kids, they need my attention (and I do give it to them, trust me). But games have helped create who I am, right now. Without games, I’d be a different person; for better or worse, I cannot say.

But I can say this: I play games because I love them. Billy Joel once said, “If you’re not doing what you love, you are wasting your time.” I agree.

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