Gaming: A lifestyle

There is a time and place for everything, including games and gaming.

In the begining… [The upsides of  gaming]

As a kid I spent endless hours playing things like Mario, Sonic, and even as far back as the Atari. I remember playing games that today might be classified as “violent” or “mature” before I was 15. I played Ultima Online, and Unreal Tournament when they came out… and when my parents wouldn’t pay for my gaming (or games) I started to play text-based games built, run, and managed by the players themselves. The older I got the  more games I played and the more time I spent playing games. I remember back in the days of a one-computer household having to beg for “just one more hour” or “do i really need to come to dinner? I’m in the middle of this big thing over here, and no it won’t wait.” Well those days are over and I’ve been a “adult” out in the “real world” for some time now.

When I see all the articles about “gaming and our children” and how “bad” it is, I tend to disagree. My own gaming experiance led me to learning computer code, to build MUD games. It led me to learning HTML to set  up websites and such based on games. It led me to games which required me to really honestly think, and write cooperatively with and against other players until it was very much like a book. That unfortunately is a genra and style of gaming that while not dead is certainly more of a niche these days.

Todays games in my opinion are no less bad for kids, in fact a great deal of them might actually be good. What will my future children think with an avid gamer parent? I really can’t say, for all I know they might hate games. I also can’t have any way of knowing what the future of gaming over say… 15 or 20 years holds. So I don’t really need to think about that right now, but there is no denying that games I play have merit. There is a niche for just about everything, and a time and place for them all.

Time-Managment games: I tend to call these brainless games but they really aren’t. Take Dinner Dash for example, you need to have fast reaction times and the ability to quickly understand the order, cook it, deliver, clean up. You get bonuses for seating people of the same color. Really, with the exception of the colors these are skills you really can use in a fast-food or similar environment. Having worked there myself I know speed, accuracy, and being able to complete simple tasks are a must. Yet somehow these are skills a lot of people seem to lack.

Strategy Games, and Puzzles: They make you think, need I say more?

Modern RPGs: Often offer moral choices to players, is it really such a bad thing learning the consequences of your actions?

FPS games: Think fast, move, where will that next opponent be. Are you working with a team? Can you keep your team-mates alive, better yet can YOU stay alive? Can you think fast and figure out where to hide, and think ahead far enough to get into a strategical location to take out someone else? These games aren’t just violence these days, they’re hard. They also make you dread working with an unfamiliar group of people since team-strategy is often what’s needed to do well.

Tycoon Games: Yeah they are silly, but maybe you don’t realize just how hard it is to run that pizza shop, or sushi shop. Balancing supply vs. demand. They are easier than say Sim City, but some of them can be downright hard. Can you manage a zoo, or amusement park? Can you run a business in the real world? Oh wait, these are the basic skills and principles that game I was playing last week……. No, most players probably don’t even realize that they are learning how to keep their household expenses balanced via a game.

The online factor… [being one in a thousand]

You can’t tell me MMORPG’s will rot your brain. Any good or even decent player will tell you there is a lot of math involved with figuring out what spell chain is most efficient. What business and marketing principles apply in the auction houses and how to make money. Player interaction, how to communicate efficiently and strategize with your team-mates on how to best kill a boss. How to type, and be intelligent. How can I most efficiently gather this stuff so I can craft this, and then make a large profit…

While I advocate all of those things I am well aware that there is a growing number of players who just don’t care. They will spam buttons to kill stuff, never be a leader of any sort, and type with idiot-speak “u r stupid” and in-general act stupid and spam trade-channels with how much leet stuff they have, while being a brat in general chats. Maybe this downfall has something to do with the communities they get into. They want to be “elite” now, right this minute, not a year from now, or six months from now. So they pick guilds which promise just that. Rather than smaller more mature guilds which have heads on their shoulders and brains in their heads. Then comes the inverse reality of those same mature players (myself included) being just so utterly sick of newbies who don’t even TRY that we begin to systematically exclude them, or avoid them. Rather than mentor them into being a good player (which is what I went through when I was the young kid on the block gaming…).

For the sake of argument let me clarify. I’m defining immature players as people who don’t care to know how the game works, and don’t care about the community, and just want the best loot in the game, and more money. In other words “I win!”… Mature as the people who work towards a goal, understand game mechanics, and do everything they can the best way they can. Thats not to say they are all roses and quiet people, I can say from experience Vent can get rowdy and topics of conversation might make some parents turn beet red in the face. So thats another reason why some “mature” player groups might not want to have “young” non-immature players among them.

Being that my early days in gaming were mentored when I was still a kid (earnest, and overeager perhaps, but respectful to my elders) thats the same approach I take when dealing with someone new to games until they prove to me they really don’t care. I’ll mentor my heart out, but having it thrown back at you is not fun.

Bragging rights, the market. […gaming is cutting edge, or at least the marketing is.]

Just because I am playing Aion, a new online MMORPG doesn’t mean I don’t do things like go to work, cook, or clean. Granted there is some truth to the phrase “Are you an Aion widow?” especially in the early-release days of a game. I know I’m guilty of neglecting Howard when a new game I really want finally comes out. He’s just as guilty. In fact that guilty-aspect is why I am writing this blog today because we’re both guilty of something else.

In the past two years we’ve purchased a Nintendo Wii, and subsequent games. A PS3, with subsequent games and plasma TV (justified by the included blue-ray player). A boat load of DLC content for PS3 Rock Band. Multiple computer hardware upgrades. 2 copies of various single-player PC games like Fallout3, and Spore. Even more multiplayer games like Unreal Tournament 3, and Left 4 Dead. Then even MORE MMORPGS with their subsequent monthly fees. Pirates of the Burning Sea x2, WoW x2, Age of Conan x2, EVE x2, Warhammer x2… At this very moment we have money going to Blizzard, CCP, and NCSoft for my new game AION.

Because of our love for video games we also justified spending money to  get out to Seattle to attend PAX a playground for gamers and people in the industry. At PAX my wonderful boyfriend Howard attended the Harmonix panel, and a Mod Developer panel. I remember when he came out of Harmonix he said “I just signed up for something, that might require me to get an XBOX 360 and Rock Band.” My first thought even while he rambled off all the reason WHY he really wanted to participate was “Ooooo I finally have an excuse to get an XBOX.” Which I’d been wanting for a long time because I actually like playing Fable. That however is not generally enough of a reason to justify buying yet another console. This was.

So today, when his acceptance appeared in his email we wandered off to best buy. I am now drowning in consoles, and realizing just how much money we spend on our entertainment. I think if I could trade artwork, or get free games for being a beta tester, or somehow get a job where I was only paid in new games and hardware I’d take it. I am dreading the next survey I have to fill out.

Q1: How much do you spend on games, hardware, and consoles yearly. A1: Well over 2k.

Q2: How many devices do you have for gaming right now? A2:  A PS3, XBox360 Elite, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS, and 2 gaming computers.

Q3: How many gaming related periferals do you have? A3: Errr….

The answer to that question is over the past two years we’ve bought (not necessarily with JUST gaming as a justification): A sidewinder mouse, A Fatality Keyboard, A D9 mouse (all of which are expensive), 2 gaming headsets (and subsequent replacments), multiple extras for Rock Band and Guitar Hero…

It’s really no surprise when at PAX I drooled over the latest and greatest gaming headsets, chairs, glassess (by gunner and yes I got some because yellow tinted glasses are awesome), specialty bags, controllers, mice, keyboards. You name it, it was there and it was expensive. Or at least the “Good stuff” I look at (and howard) was.

Which brings me to a conversation I had recently. Gamers, especially avid gamers are willing to (when they have it) spend money on the “Latest and Greatest” to make their experience better. As a Graphics Artist myself, trained in advertising arts (even though I don’t -do- advertising per say) I couldn’t help but notice and analyze the advertisements at PAX. Some appealed to me more than others. For example, a card I was handed was printed on this awesome paper, it was well designed, and laid out. Now I wouldn’t want to hand that card to say, my boss at work, or a business associate. But I would want to hand it to a gamer. Because it clearly conveyed the message “We are cutting edge.”

Gamers, in game and out of game are a competitive group. On one hand having the latest and greatest is good because the companies selling the hardware and accessories don’t mess around when your reaching deep in your pockets. You can expect most of the high end stuff to last, it’s an investment. It’s also bragging rights. Accessories someone owns tells you a lot about what sort of person or gamer they are. For example, someone might really really like a certain game so they modify or buy a keyboard with that game. Howard and I don’t have anything specifically game related, but you can certainly tell we’re gamers. From the myriad of consoles, to the game boxes.

In the end… I don’t regret being a gamer, I’m sold for life. Now if only I could find the money to buy the next three dozen games and accessories I want… Maybe I should put some of those game-learned-and-enforced money making skills into real-world practice. Or get a job in the industry.

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