Something I have been asked a few times, and something that I feel a lot of the older generation doesn’t understand is why people play games. Gaming has been a part of my life pretty much since I was a wee lad. My first gaming console was an actual Atari 2600 and Odyssey 2, and then I got into the Sega Master System, the NES, a PC (Compaq Presario 520 All in One Desktop!) and then branched out into Board games, Magic the Gathering, Dungeons and Dragons, and more.
In essence, I don’t think there a style of gaming, whether video games or board games or card games or mini that I have not tried. But growing up the question I seemed to get the most was why. People still frequently think of gaming as a sort of “kids thing”. It’s becoming less common now, especially with people my generation growing up and becoming adults, but a lot of the older generation just doesn’t get it.
Now everyone is going to be different. The reasons we each play games is going to vary. So I am going to talk about my personal reasons for gaming and what it has done for me in my life.
One of the biggest reasons I play games is escapism. My life isn’t terrible by any means anymore, but that was not always the case. Growing up I was your typical bullied fat nerdy kid. Gaming gave me a way to become something else. Now a days its more stress relief then escapism, but video games let me forget the world and my issues, and let me do things I couldn’t ever do in reality.
Further, gaming is interactive. I have never been a huge fan of television. I don’t have the attention span for it, and my mind wanders when it’s not engaged in something. Gaming (and reading, actually) make my brain work. There is a huge difference from watching a TV show to either becoming that character (in a game like DND) or controlling that characters actions (in a video game) and how it makes you feel. A book, by the way, is interactive in that my brain has to imagine what is going on, constructing a mental image, which is why I still love reading. Essentially, gaming in any form gives your brain a workout.
Hell, the right kinds of games can also increase your ability to problem solve, your deduction and reasoning skills, teamwork skills, and even logic processing. People always seem amazed at my ability at work to connect the dots, and infer what is going on and how to process information, or my ability to quickly pick up new information, process it, and adapt to it. But games have helped me to learn these skills. In Dungeons and Dragons, for example, the players have to come up with possible solutions to problems in a very “reality” based system. The reality may be of a fantasy world, but there are rules. How do we get over the mountain? We climb it, or we get a flying carpet, ect. We have to think, quickly, and adapt. In a video game, you are frequently under time constraints or in situations where a wrong move would mean “game over”.
A good example is Super Mario Brothers for the NES. That game really only has a few things you need to understand to play. You move from left to right, you can jump on dudes, mushrooms make you bigger so you can get hit once, and there is a flower that lets ya throw fireballs. But as you play, the game gets harder, things become more challenging, you have to start making decisions faster because enemies are coming at you faster. You have to start learning timing, and patterns, and you have to start making your hands move without thinking. These skills can apply to your real life.
Hell one of the reasons I can type so fast and so accurate is because of online games before Voice Chat became common. I had to type quickly in order to issue orders in online shooters like the original Counter Strike because I didn’t have a microphone. I had to type quickly to let people know enemies were coming or to shout warnings in World of Warcraft. I had to learn how to work as a team in those sort of games to take on larger challenges and succeed at them. Same with playing Dungeons and Dragons, which is a huge team oriented game. Also my reaction time and problem solving skills have benefited from my experience with games.
Gaming is also creative. In Tabletop RPGs, you are part of a group telling a collective story for example. In many video games, you are given the freedom to make choices in how the game plays out, whether its simple choices as which door to take, to complex ones as to whether or not its a good idea to let someone out of a jail cell because they MIGHT have been wrongly imprisoned. You have to decide how your character would react in those situations, you get to control the story rather than just sit and watch it like you would with TV. And some games are basically virtual Legos, letting you manipulate and build within the world like Minecraft for example, and maybe other Survival games. Some people even use games like Minecraft to create artwork, and there is even a working computer built within the game Minecraft…which still blows my mind.
In essence, gaming lets me experience things directly rather than passively, and it has helped me learn and grow and develop skills that have aided me in my life. I love the interactivity of it, the creativity of it, and the stories I can both tell and experience with it. I really think people who look down on gaming should really give it a chance, a real honest chance, to maybe understand why people enjoy them. Games currently have advanced so much further than the simple ones of the past.
I love gaming. I always have, and I always will.