5 Reasons Why I Play Games

1) Passivity makes me fidgety. Even in a film, TV show, gig or novel I’m hugely enjoying, my mind will at some point drift to the clock, wondering how soon until it ends, how soon until I can stand up or talk or check something or eat something or go somewhere. Awful, I know. Games, broadly, need me to be doing something most of the time, and that is the greatest weapon I have against a propensity to boredom that I am not at all proud of. This is also why I start to go spare in something like StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void, as it spends so much of its duration pummelling me with particularly low-grade passive storytelling, and my frustration that I have to watch this nonsense instead of do things for myself goes through the roof.

2) Games have been a calming retreat for me since almost the earliest years of my life. I’m never entirely sure where I fall on the introvert/extrovert spectrum. I’ll often yearn for company, but just as often feel it’s the last thing I want. I don’t want to be alone, but I do want to be on my own. Not sure I’ll ever figure that one out, although the slow entropy of friendships that affects many of us in our 30s and 40s is pretty much making the decision for me. Games always scratched the itch though: alone but in company of a sort, part-conjured by the screen and part by my imagination. I get to be somewhere where I’m in control, where I can choose the activity and who I spend time with. In theory, anyway.

3) The possibilities of a digital space never cease to amaze. Granted, so many games are so locked into genre that possibilities are wiped away entirely, but I play something which offers a novel idea or a playful means of interaction often enough that I remain entirely convinced this medium will never stop showing me new things. Particularly, I can close my eyes and conjure up game spaces – Proteus’ pastel islands, Dishonored’s forlon city, STALKER’s lightning-flecked wilderness, Dear Esther’s Hebridean purgatory, X-COM’s menacing corn fields – in a way that I never could a scene from a film. In a way that I can about real places I have visited and had pleasant or heartbreaking experiences in.

4) And here’s a less impressive truth: I also play games because I have some compulsive tendencies. I’m not going to go around putting a label on anything I haven’t sought to have diagnosed, but let’s just say I’m the kind of man who spent a large chunk of last weekend meticulously renaming all the hundreds of video files that I will never, ever watch again in order that the correct names and thumbnails would show up in my media server application. This mentality also had a hold of me during Fallout 4, in which I suspect I’ve spent far more time collecting all the parts for minor armour upgrades than I have exploring or fighting.

Because that’s the thing: give me a digital place in which things can be maximised, collected or simply tidied up and I can’t resist. I’ll hoard ammo in any first-person shooter, I’ll be laden with potions and herbs I’ll never use in RPGs, I’ll try to scrub an Assassin’s Creed map clear of every icon long after the point I’d prayed for release. I’ll keep going, whether or not I’m enjoying it, because I’m unsettled if something is left unobtained or inefficient. Had I a surfeit of disposable income, I fear I’d have fallen prey to audophilia for similar reasons: restlessly pursuing the best and failing to enjoy what I already have because of it. (This is also why something like Proteus, Gone Home or Dear Esther tends to have a big effect on me: games that shovel all compulsive aspects out of the way leave me free to enjoy their worlds, because that hungry lizard part of my brain stays asleep.)

5) I also play games because real life is increasingly full of extremely tedious chores, and if I’m wrapped up in some colourful pretend-space on my screen for a short time I mercifully stop seeing all the things that need mending, appointments which need arranging and bills that need paying. This, most of all, is why I suspect I shall never grow out of games.

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66 Comments

  1. Padintong says:

    Hello!

    I share with you the last four reasons. Not so much the first one, at least if I’m really enjoying it.
    As soon as you started talking about compulsion, Assassin’s Creed came to mind. I’m sure I’ve spent more time collecting shit in other games, but never felt so bad with myself after doing so in AC2, the game I hate the most and the reason I’ll never play another one in the series. And still I did it.
    And regarding reason number five and your final sentence, I suspect the same. I’ve been into games my whole life but, at 38, it was not long ago when I realized that by myself. All these years gaming has been present and has been important in my life but not so much in my life with others. Sure, I’ve played with some people and some friends know the passion I have for some games or topics related to them and its industry but, for the most part, it has been a “secret” hobby. It’s now, when I’m pretty sure I’ll live in these strange worlds one way or another, that I’m more keen to talk about it, that I think it’s more important to me they know about it.

    • neoncat says:

      I’ve been slowly moving away from compulsive / completionist gaming over the last few years. When I hit a point in a game where I’m frustrated, I set it down and walk away.

      Sometimes that means I uninstall the game. Other times, I’ll go watch the ending on YouTube if I was curious about the story. If I had been enjoying the game a bunch, I might go look up instructions for the bit I’m stuck on.

      Overall, this has made for a tremendously more enjoyable interaction with games, and I’ve even made measurable progress through my Steam backlog. Sure, I’m casting out tons of games after just a couple of hours, but I’ve been able to spend time with a handful of games that I wouldn’t have encountered if I had tried to complete all the ones I cast away.

      Of course there are some games which have an addictively high enjoyability which makes it harder to recognize the frustration – PvP arenas like World of Tanks, Card Hunter, or Duelyst are particularly bad at this. The highs are sooooo high, and lows are sooooo low. Usually, it’s around the time when I’m ragequiting matches and being a general troll that I realize I need to uninstall, zero-route server IPs, and walk away. It’s hard, but it makes life so much better when I’m not raging over the caprice of a random number generator.

      Ultimately, I adore games because of the weird and beautiful relationship that grows as you play a game. Kicking the compulsive habit lets me focus on expanding that feeling as far as it can go, rather than getting caught up in a repetitive, dulling cycle.

      (e.g., best 1 minute of your life, if you’re a Cowboy Bebop fan – link to neilsonks.com)

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    yhancik says:

    Yes, STALKER is also the reason why I play games :3

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    Bluerps says:

    I tend to get compulsive in games too, though it’s less about maxing things, and more about not missing anything. I can’t leave an area in a game before literally checking every nook and cranny, to see if there’s a secret of some sort. I hug walls, I press “use” a lot, and if the game has a hub area, I develop a route that takes me through every room of it, which I check after every mission.

    It’s why I hate that so few games tell you at the end of a level what you missed. Dishonored is the only game I know of that does that somewhat well, I think. Some games (like Mass Effect 2 and 3) give a list with found stuff at the end of each mission, which can be easily compared to information on a wiki, which also helps.

    It’s also why I sometimes hate when games reward exploration – which sounds idiotic, I know. But one part of me wants to concentrate on reaching whatever the current goal is, like sneaking past a series of enemies to a specific door, but another part interrupts with “Sure, but first you have to sneak into that room, that other room, and down those stairs, and check if there is anything remarkable there.”

    Though for some reason, Bethesda’s open world RPGs don’t trigger this so much. Maybe it’s because their worlds are so big that my brain gets used to the thought that I will miss a lot right from the start.

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    magnificent octopus says:

    The first reason is a big one for me. I almost cannot sit still to watch a movie or tv show. (This is also why I started knitting, actually, so I could do something while watching tv). But games can hold my interest for hours. In fact, I often play sims or turn based games while watching tv.

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      With you username i bet you are a knitting god!

    • tehfish says:

      Number one is the main one for me as well. Though instead of knitting i’ll be on my mobile phone instead (usually with a ebook, oddly thats one ‘passive’ media that doesn’t bother me in the slightest)

      I don’t really get how some people can spend countless hours passively watching a TV, i’d go mad :)

    • mgardner says:

      I am right there with you. I tried knitting during TV / movies, but have latched on to counted cross stitch (which for me is easier to multitask). I am currently working on a Gandalf made up of more of than 325k little ‘X’s.

  5. Phrumptious Bandersnatch says:

    As usual Mr. Meer, your more introspective writing speaks to me on a personal level.
    With number 4, I often have to really put in effort to stop myself from being like this. In Fallout 4 recently, I’ve had to tell myself it’s okay to stop searching every off-the-track place I find (or searching for new ones) and actually play a mission or two, otherwise I’m going to get bored with the game way before I need to be…

  6. Lakshmi says:

    I think these are all pretty true for me. I’ve weened myself off being too compulsive, though. Too many games scatter crappy, meaningless icons around huge maps as if they add some worth to the world. I know it works for some people, but I have to ignore it now because I’d still be hunting for crappy mosaic pieces in the Hinterlands for DA:I and hating everything.

    Number 1 though – that passivity – kills me. I find myself having go to games to play while I’m watching TV, just because I can’t sit still. Turn based or easily to pause games are perfect.

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    Thirith says:

    I agree with much of this, but the bit about passivity is something that makes me pissed off about so many of these conversations. Reading a good novel or seeing a good film is something I experience as vastly more active than the majority of games. I’m engaged intellectually and emotionally, I think about stylistic elements, character motivations, I interpret, I consider themes etc. etc. None of this is passive. Certainly my brain and/or heart aren’t always revved up to full power when I watch movies or read books, but still, I wish this notion would go away that games are active and other media are passive. It’s a very limiting, reductive notion of what activity and passivity are.

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      That is very much true, but for me it only works with absolute masterpieces, otherwise i go the Alec Meer way.

      I think i know what he meant because i can pretty much identify in all the points he espressed there; it’s not about dismissing other media, it’s really just about a mental reaction to anything that’s not as direct as straight interaction.

      Now, i might be bored of the sea because it’s in my backyard, but when i’m at the beach it’s impossible for me to just act like anyone else, even if a bunch of people absolutely enjoy themselves. If there are waves i instantly reach for the surfboard, if it’s flat i pick the SUP or a Kayak. I simply cannot stay put.

      The most amusing part is that many people consider playing games an idle activity, so it’s always hard for people like us to talk about such things. Thankfully RPS is a different place.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      I have similar impatience with mediocre TV and films, but it never ever happens to me with novels. Maybe because I’m setting the pace with my reading speed?

      • tehfish says:

        That could have something to do with it thinking on it.

        Reading a book has never been a problem for me, but i have noticed i read far faster than most people…

  8. Turkey says:

    I’ve had two short periods with obsessively collecting everything in a game, and both made me feel like a pile of human garbage afterwards. It’s one of the reasons I actively stay away from open-world games.

  9. GWOP says:

    I’m quite fidgety myself, but I love the slow crawl of movies like Kubrick’s2001, Tarkovsky’s Stalker, Oshii’s Patlabor, Ghost in the Shell and Innocence, and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner… because they spend so many lingering shots purely to create a sense of place, something that I very much value in the virtual worlds of video games.

  10. raiders says:

    My 5:
    1) Because I paid for’em!
    2) They’re fun and relaxing.
    3) I get the experience of shooting people without shooting people.
    4) Chances of driving a real F1…competitively…is highly unlikely.
    5) I’d like to think I’m getting a small samplin’ of what a real war general must feel like.

  11. Serenegoose says:

    I feel like this could’ve been entirely written about me. For what it’s worth, I think the introvert/extrovert spectrum is nonsense, capable of painting in the broadest possible strokes at best. You need what you need on any given day – deny a self described introvert a chat with their friends for a month and they’ll feel the effects the same as an extrovert.

    I’ve always been a clockwatcher when it comes to books and films as well – and I read a lot more than I play, these days, and whilst I’ll sometimes read a book from start to finish and scarcely even stop to refill my tea, even the most exciting film often sees me wondering when the end is once it slides past about 80 mins. I think it’s because we do tend to do these activities with focus? When I play games nowadays, for example, with how ubiquitous steams overlay has become, or just even alt-tabbing, I find myself dipping in and out to talk to friends or watch a video or just do something else before resuming – but these pacing breaks don’t get registered in the way say, walking out of the cinema or putting the book down might. At any rate, thanks for typing this all up. It was good to read.

  12. BluePencil says:

    I liked this post. Would be interested to see similar from other RPS writers.

  13. SpinyNorman says:

    Alec,

    You are me and I claim my file pounds.

    Brian

  14. SpinyNorman says:

    Alec,

    You are me and I claim my five pounds.

    Brian

  15. DevilishEggs says:

    I generally need some kind of high-brain-use hobby. Gaming has been an easy solution. I suppose I might be one mean Chess player by now without a PC. Or have a monstrous train set. I’ve gravitated toward intricate mmos (eve and wurm) in recent years interspersed with good adventure games and rpgs. Gaming is less a part of what makes me happy these days. It’s more like the aforementioned train I wander down to after dinner.

    Introversion is part of my life. I think the spectrum is useful, versus extroversion, with the added wrinkle that any social style comes with drawbacks. Introverts may be very good and 1 on 1. And try to engage a “life of the party” person sometime and see how stilted and inexpressive they can be. They need an audience.

    I don’t have object-collection compulsions so much, but I GET REAL SERIOUS about configuring tweaking and modding the UI and resizing fonts if at all possible.

  16. darkath says:

    In regards to 1) lately i found myself compusively moving the mouse around the screen when i’m watching a moving, or holding a controller as if it would do something.
    Effectively passivity and just watching something unfold on the screen is not as much entertaining for me when games allow for such a variety of things to do.

  17. mattevansc3 says:

    If you looking for answers (and it’s fine if you aren’t) you may want to speak to your GP about possibly having ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder), maybe Asperger Syndrome.

    I have it and was only diagnosed with ASD in April (back when I was a child my GP believed autism was only for people with learning difficulties). What you said in points 2 and 4 are near identical to my life experience.

    The thing with higher functioning ASD (no or few learning difficulties) is that you lack the full skill for social development which not only makes socialising difficult but confusing and scary. That gives you people like me that need to socially interact but don’t want to do it.

    It’s very common with people with ASD to obsess over one thing before moving onto another. That thing or hobby normally involves stat keeping, cataloguing, observing, repetition and routines whilst having little social interaction. Within ASD circles it’s joked that all train spotters have ASD because it ticks all the boxes. Computer games also tick all the boxes, especially certain games and genres. Bethesda games like Skyrim and Fallout 4 have these immense fake worlds that look like real world but occupied by clearly fake people that are much easier to understand than real people. There’s a lot of repetitive tasks, collecting items, min-maxing, eyc. It’s an ASD box ticker just like 4X games and Roguelikes.

    Of course there’s more to it than just that but when I first thought I may have it this website really helped;
    http://Www.autism.org

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      “back when I was a child my GP believed autism was only for people with learning difficulties”

      I believe it was a common belief back then, and i’d wager that things aren’t much improved nowadays. Sure, maybe the experts know better by now, but a good part of the common populace is probably still a little confused about the matter.

      Sad thing is that this makes everything unnecessarily harder for everyone.

      • mattevansc3 says:

        I literally went into my GP with a letter detailing why I felt I had Asperger Syndrome. He had no clue about it so just referred me straight to the local mental health unit. It took me a year to jumps through the hoops and get diagnosed with ASD (there’s three major criteria for Asperger Syndrome and I only met two).

        The GP my employer’s OH sent me too on the other hand spent the first 45 minutes “explaining” Asperger Syndrome too me, how everybody has autism to a degree and how most people self-diagnose themselves. It was only after prompting him at the 45min mark did he actually bother to ask what I’d done about it. At this stage of my assessment I had already been pre-diagnosed by a mental health nurse and was waiting on a date for my final assessment.

        Even after getting my diagnosis for ASD my employer and their private OH provider had absolutely no clue what to do as they’ve never employed someone with autism before.

  18. Philopoemen says:

    I play games for catharsis – as I suspect many others do. My real job provides me with enough excitement that I don’t need the escapism to scratch that itch, but the sense of control over one’s life that playing a game well gives you is relaxing for me.

  19. Monggerel says:

    I play games because inertia makes me. For a while more at least. I’ll probably move on to more fruitful behaviors sooner rather than later – I already can’t stand to play without at least listening to a podcast or an audiobook in the background, and even then I get bored of games quickly.

    Except for STALKER, which lives far more vividly in my memory than it ever did on a monitor.

  20. Melody says:

    This comment will inevitably antagonize some people, but it is written with the best of intentions, and I don’t mean to belittle anyone.

    Not that I’m revealing any big secret, but this post and the comments are full of confessions about unhealthy attitudes and habits that honestly make me worry about others, and scare me for myself. And most of you, obviously starting from Alec, recognize these patterns, and even, to an extent, that they are in fact unhealthy, but it’s like you’re either ok with them or you’ve just given up hoping to heal/outgrow them. And that’s the saddest part.

    I’ll take Alec’s post. At point 2 he basically says that he uses games to compensate for not being very social. Doesn’t take a degree in psychology to see that that’s an unhealthy pattern. Escapism can be useful as an extremely temporary form of recovery, but it’s always a bad sign in the long term.

    This widespread fidgeting habit, this need to always have something to do, to the point that you can’t read a book or just stand still for 2 minutes, these small weird OCDs and the inability to focus on anything, these are also extremely unhealthy things, not to mention limiting for your life.

    All these things are like small ticks that you’ve developed because, mentally and emotionally, you’re not doing fine. I’ll say it again. This is not healthy. It’s not meant to belittle you, I have mental health problems myself, but it’s meant to push you to recognize these things for what they are and try to change them, or, better, get help to change them.

    Games are a wonderful thing. So wonderful that we think they can heal us, we think they can help us deal with almost everything. But they can’t. They just cover up the symptoms while the underlying disease keeps spreading.

    (There are no one-size fits all solutions. This helped me, to the point that i can look in the mirror and say that I’m ok, while 6 months ago I was a suicidal train-wreck. I share it here because maybe it can help you too. link to en.wikipedia.org )

    • Monggerel says:

      I don’t find Alec’s article or the comments nearly as worrying as you make them sound, and 6 months ago I was also similarly a suicidal trainwreck.

    • mattevansc3 says:

      Not necessarily. What Alec is doing in point two can actually be very healthy and doesn’t automatically suggest a form of compensation.

      Whilst reading this article we are only viewing Alec’s “symptoms”, we are not seeing his causes. The outside world puts a lot of pressure on us both emotionally and mentally. We are all complex machines and don’t fit into society’s one size fits all mould and this will always cause issues.

      Alec’s point two problem could be that he’s depressed, it could be that he’s got a condition such as ASD, it could be that Alec is so fed up with talking to PR robots that he wants to talk to people but his job has worn him down to the point he doesn’t want to talk to people or that of his daughter is anything like mine she hasn’t learned how to shut up yet. For the last three examples Alec’s gaming could just be some much needed down time to help him rebalance himself.

      Its very easy and normal to find similarities between people and ourselves and assume they are just like us. Its also easy to judge their actions by our standards and discuss it negatively, such as calling it “unhealthy”. We should always be careful about going that one step too far.

    • Scelous says:

      I understand where you’re coming from, and I agree with part of your post. I disagree with other parts, though.

      Personally, I’ve been suicidal in the past and have been on two anti-depressants for years. Doctors say I should stay on the anti-depressants for the rest of my life.

      You mention escapism as a bad thing. For me, I find being alive — the core of existing — to be incredibly tedious and unrewarding, and I’m socially adept. I’m not shy and I can speak well. I find other people to be boring, however. I work hard at my job, as all my employers can attest to, but I’m always bored by my job. I’ve tried various hobbies throughout my life (and I’m willing to try more), and I have found all hobbies to eventually become tedious and uninvolving. Only video games have stood the test of time for me, and so I use them in order to escape from the mind-crushing boredom of life, not to escape from anxiety or fear.

      The thing is, attitudes and habits have been deemed “unhealthy” before, and a lot of it can depend on the status quo of the culture. Homosexuality has been deemed unhealthy in the past (and still is by some). Suicide is deemed unhealthy, yet could have been considered a noble action in feudal Japan. And I am surrounded by plenty of people who don’t game at all, who live “healthy” lives (family, religion, career and financial success, or whatever other marker you want to gauge a “healthy” life on). I see all the drama in their lives, the lies they tell themselves, and the pointless minutiae they focus on (do you want it in teal or veridian?), and I don’t envy them. In many ways, it seems like hell to me.

      My point with all that is I don’t think all habits and attitudes can be reduced to healthy/unhealthy. Different things work for different people. Plus, the status quo has to be factored in as well.

      The inability to focus on most things has been a problem, however. That I definitely agree with.

      • Drakedude says:

        Sounds like a rolling stone gathers no moss. Try travelling

        • Scelous says:

          I did, both domestically and internationally. Ultimately, one building felt the same as another. One tree looked the same as another. I was pretty underwhelmed.

          • TheChaya says:

            I made an account because your post intrigued me. Have you considered writing? Since life doesn’t offer what your mind craves, why not create, at least in some form, that which you lack?

          • Scelous says:

            @TheChaya

            I appreciate you making an account on my behalf.

            I have considered writing in the past. I’ve always stopped, however, because it feels pointless to me. But your suggestion did make me start thinking about doing so again.

          • twaitsfan says:

            I do a lot of writing myself, even wrote a book. I know that “what’s the point of this?” feeling in writing and I’ve found the best way to combat that is to join a writing group. If you find a good one, it’s a wonderful experience.

      • twaitsfan says:

        @Scelous, I’d love to sit down and have a pint with you.

        I think that the idea that life ‘should’ be satisfying is a modern phenomenon. Looking at 2 of the major religions I know well, Christianity and Buddhism, both maintain that life is a struggle, so it seems that in the past this was not the common stance. Also, I don’t think anyone is truly content because we didn’t evolve to be content. But I kindof digress.

        The fact is, that boredom is an odd effect/first world problem that most of us are strapped with now that we’ve taken care of that starvation & freeze to death & being eaten or killed thing. People often use drugs because they’re bored. There may be a small percentage that are truly at peace out there, but I’m not convinced that they’re not the biological aberration.

        Obligatory: contentment is a spectrum, people with disorders should seek help …

      • iardis says:

        Your point about life being tedious and unrewarding resonated quite strongly with me.

        What gave me hope that this might change at some point is dancing. I started out social dancing a few month back and that improved my enjoyment of life by orders of magnitude. Dancing incorporates quite a few things I love gaming for but has a stronger social component and gives you the opportunity to get out into the world. So if you have not tried dancing I can recommend it with my whole heart.

        What would interest me is what you are looking for in other people?

        One of my biggest challenges has always been that I really really love discussing with people. I like to learn what and why they think what they do and I love to test my opinions against theirs and what they experienced in their lives. The problem is that most people seem to be turned off quite strongly by this (or my way of doing this maybe?). Thus I am oftentimes quite frustrated with people – which is the reason that your “people are dull” sentiment resonated so strongly with me. At the same time I am asking myself whether this isn’t simply an excuse for the likely fact that I am, for one reason or other, not as adept at connecting to people as I would like to be. Always easier to tell myself that ppl are dull than to accept that I am bad at connecting, huh?

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      Grizzly says:

      I recommend to look up Jane Mcgonnigal and TED Talks. It’s on youtube. Or, alternatively, her book SuperBetter, which is probably the only psychological self-help book I did not grit my teeth at 20 pages in (and people never give me anything else these days :p ).

      The short version is that games *can* be used for things like post-traumitic growth and preventing re-mission of cancer in children. They have, even. But for as many study there has been that says that games are good for you there are studies which say that games are awfull. The key difference is mainly how much these games are played, with the cutoff point at roughly 21 hours a week.

      The issue lies in the mindset people have when they fire up a game: The more you play games, the more likely you are playing games with the purpose of not doing anything else, the usual “escapism” mindset. However, if you play games less you have a tendency to play them with purpose. That really can be any purpose, be it from feeling more relaxed afterwards to improving long-span-concentration skills. Or atleast, that’s the theory.

      I’m trying it right now: I’ve installed the anti-RSI program Workrave, but in a daily limit of 3 hours, a break limit of 45-60 minutes, and only turn it on when I start playing a game. I noticed that it immeaditely changed the way I approach games. Instead of mindlessly fumbling around trying to do something I look at goals I can complete within a certain timeframe (usually less then an hour) and after I completed that goal or my break limit comes up I simply turn the game off and go do something else.

      It works! And I realized quickly after I started doing that that I had done it before to great effect to help me trough my exams (Tribes ascend and Battlefield 3 are great for mental breaks due to the short rounds), and wondered why I had since forgotten it.

      • sfoumatou says:

        The 3 hour daily limit sounds very smart and I want to try it.

        The fact that I’m thinking “but what will I do the rest of the time?” is probably the clearest sign that I really need this. *sigh*

        • sfoumatou says:

          On a positive note, even just for gaming itself this seems like a good idea. Having limited time would mean that I might be drawn to more unique and interesting experiences (short, exciting games, or long games with a strong plot) instead of the mind-numbing grind horrors that I spend so much time on.

    • nottorp says:

      So why is being social “normal”? Is it because loners tend to develop independent thinking that might disagree with the current status quo, while if you’re never alone you’ll drift towards the lowest common denominator?

      Read Brave New World, people. It’s scarily accurate in describing the current situation in the western world, despite being written in 1931.

      • Drakedude says:

        You’re a social animal, thus u r here.

      • iardis says:

        Doesn’t connecting with other people make you happy? It does with me. Really all there is to it.

    • simontifik says:

      Melody, couldn’t agree with you more.

      I used to play games for all the same reasons. In recent years I’ve been putting in a lot more effort to deal with the underlying issues and lead a more healthy balanced life. As a result I game far less than I used to. Learning to live in the moment, let go of those obsessive tendencies and enjoy the company of others means I’m spending less time at the PC. Don’t get me wrong I still love a good game but it can be an unhealthy past time.

  21. OmNomNom says:

    This is literally me to a T. Can’t stand endless fluff storytelling that gets in the way of an actual game (MGSV anyone?)

  22. ladyatlas777 says:

    I just wanted to say I <3 you author because you mentioned Stalker and Dear Ester. Many <3 from a girl on the internet.

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    quasiotter says:

    I’m not sure if I wanted to learn so much about myself in this way.

  24. Spacewalk says:

    They keep me off the street.

  25. Fenix says:

    Adam Smith please write this same piece with your reasons. You too, John Walker.

  26. ROMhack2 says:

    Interesting. I think I only typically play games to see what people are doing with them these days. It’s a flourishing medium and there’s a lot of personal expression in them, so it’s easy to appreciate them whether they’re just about fun or are something more substantial.

    My main interest is film but here (in the UK) the independent film scene has tons of problems. Multiplexes have eaten up a lot of the the industry meaning movies never get shown to the public, and cuts to the arts have seen the death of funding meaning that we hardly see many of them made. If they do then it’s usually some unoriginal comedy, urban-drama or period piece because that’s where the profit is. Or, perhaps, just a film I have no idea exists because I get no exposure to it.

    On the other hand, games are in a much healthier position. These days they have a much larger scope and their ability to be released worldwide AND get noticed is amazing. I don’t think the medium is quite there yet, but there’s just such an energy about it and a lot of projects that would ordinarily be compared to any new wave of film-making.

    Oh, and virtual space is interesting. Just from a sci-fi perspective.

    I must admit, I don’t care for the compulsive-nature of games quite as much. I generally avoid RPGs, or any game which is an exercise in repetition. Never used to, but I don’t have the time anymore.

  27. stoner says:

    Almost word for word, this is me. I’m going to print it and hand it to my wife.

    Oh, and the bad news for you. It never goes away. I’m nearly 64, and I’m hooked on games. Forty-plus years in the IT industry will also do that to you.

  28. Spakkenkhrist says:

    Let’s all take a moment to think about how wonderful STALKER is.

  29. Psycold says:

    “let’s just say I’m the kind of man who spent a large chunk of last weekend meticulously renaming all the hundreds of video files that I will never, ever watch again in order that the correct names and thumbnails would show up in my media server application”

    Oh god. I literally was doing the exact same pointless task on Christmas night.

  30. Leafcutter says:

    I felt that Alec made the point that middle-age (usually) comes with increasing responsabilities which in turn gives us less downtime.

    One thing getting older (late 40’s) does is make you value your time much more.

    One’s friends & family siblings (usually) follow the same pattern at the same time.

    Wife, children, ageing parents, a couple of good mates, the odd relatity TV show season I’m drawn into take presendence.

    So when I’m not working, travelling to/from work, generally looking after myself and those things above, I spend my time playing games.

    Because it’s my favorite way to spend my spare time. Don’t see anything unhealthy in that.

    -LC-

  31. rumtotinggamer says:

    Blimey I know this time of year gives people existential thoughts but all this is quite an outpouring for a gaming site!.
    Anyway yeah, I know what I like and its not alot, especially as I age, this seems to mean nowadays me playing less and hardly touching new stuff, but I’m thankful for playing primarily PC games as looking back it kept me out of drugs, alcoholism, gambling, petty crime, unwanted caused pregnancies, or worse and got me used to using a computer which we take for granted.

    And 3 cheers for STALKER trilogy, the only game as strange as it sounds being in the UK thats set in a bleak, wet, violent & unforgiving setting i’ve ever wanted to actually be in for real, and only one people unknowing of what it is and misinterpreting the title give you dodgy looks for, Lost Alpha can’t come soon enough.

  32. Strangely Brown says:

    I’m Strangely Brown, and I approve of this message in its entirety.

    Never has 1 and 2 been so painfully clear to me as this Christmas, celebrating it with my parents and one of two brothers as I always do. Waking up on Christmas day, having breakfast, then… waiting for lunch? My choices pretty much being reading a book or engage in idle chitchat for a few hours. Too fidgety for the first and too introverted for the latter, all I wanted was to escape into a good game. I was not having a good time, I tell you.
    Gave me something to think about, what my life is like. And you know what? I’m okay with it.

  33. cpt_freakout says:

    So many intimate answers… thank you all.

    For me, playing games has two levels: the first one is sheer enjoyment of fantasy, the thought of a world different to our own (but not detached from it – an alternative). This has various ramifications, the most obvious of which are a kind of relief/escapism and a feeling that I can actually do.

    The second level is more intimate, and it’s simply about the joy of being with myself. To me, gaming is deeply related to self-knowledge (why do I like this stuff? why do I play like this?) and a kind of experimental approach to the pleasure of solitude. I also have this with books and music, but games provide something else in highlighting the contexts of decisions. It’s weird how these decisions allow me to know things about myself, in oblique ways, and it’s, well, uniquely enjoyable.

    I love how this kind of self-reflection transforms when I play with others. The best experience I had was with Left 4 Dead 2. For about a year, I had a continuous team with one of my best high school friends, his brother, and a guy we met over the internet; I got to know them more/very closely, even though we didn’t talk much about ourselves, and I felt they got to know me in a truthful manner, removed as we were from the standard norms of social interaction. I feel we deeply enjoyed each other’s company, and we developed a kind of intimate friendship I now realize was the experience of sharing our playful selves. This is the core of ‘multiplayer’ to me, a unique sort of becoming, together. And when the assholes and trolls come around, I know the inevitable fight is part of it, cartoonishly pushing each other around like idiots, a humorous conflict that can be pleasurable if handled in a playful way.

    Anyway, thanks.

  34. criskywalker says:

    There are many things that make me play videogames. Escapism is one of them. I have much more chances to go to space, visit medieval places and drive an F-1 car in videogames than in real life.

    There’s also something great about being able to shape what you’re seeing on the screen through interaction. Since its early day something about that fascinated me.

    I also love the possibilities to have multiple paths in videogames unlike films which usually are always the same.

    Another thing which I really been enjoying about games lately is virtual tourism. Being able to visit different places in games. I also love graphics and the different ways artistic convey styles in games and all the little details they include.

    Besides all that, the chance to keep mind and reflexes sharp through game is a benefit that many undervalue. I’ve been able to learn and practice English, mostly through videogames, and it’s so been much more enjoyable doing so through playing Monkey Island games rather than reading boring books.

    I hope videogames continue evolving. Sometimes all the focus on violence and juvenile stuff puts me off, but for every underwhelming game there are so many unique fantastic experiences to be had. I hope I never get bored of games.