By repeatedly demonstrating different ways of winning.
It’s been two years since I wrote a week of lists, but I thought I would start this last four months of 2016 with revisit to that old meme. So, starting on the first, the eighth edition of the Week of Lists begins, called the “Turning 40ish Edition” with deep and engaging topics such as this one…
Ich bin ein gamer.
I game, therefore I am.
We’ve been defending something lately: in fact, someone asked me this just yesterday. “Why are so many people ‘your age’ playing Pokemon Go?” They asked me.
Uh… because we want to. Because it is nostalgia wrapped with a bow. Because it gets us out of the house. Because. Because. Because.
Because I play a lot of video games actually, but you only see me playing Pokemon Go since it’s played in public. And so what? I’m supposed to roll over and die and let all the kids have all the fun because I’m a… “grown up?”
No. And here’s why…
5. Gotta Be Keeping Up with the Young’uns
Not everyone reading this is a parent, but I am. My daughter loves video games. Plays them. Watches other people play them. Has even designed a couple of her own little games in Scratch. The Parenting Advice Community is divided on that: kids need to be outside and playing with real people. Kids should only have eighteen seconds of screen time per day. Kids will rot their minds by using technology. Oh… and the past called, and rock and roll would be the end of humanity, FM radio is destroying our youth, and those darn kids are being corrupted by billiards. Obviously I disagree. Her life is going to be shaped and defined by how comfortable she is with tech, gaming is the introduction, and I have the opportunity to be the tour guide. Better know my way around.
4. I Need A Break More Than A Lot of People
Do I need even to explain this? Games are mindless and fun. Work & life are draining and stressful. Do the math.
3. Play (Probably) Keeps Your Mind Agile
Your brain is like a muscle: routine exercise keeps it strong and fit. But how do you exercise your brain? By thinking, solving complex puzzles, following engaging narratives, parsing through intricate problems, and forcing your grey matter to perform complex fine-motor skills: umm… gaming, anyone?
2. Games are Better Than Ever
I’m as nostalgic for some PokeMarioZeldaFinalFanaxxon as the next guy my age, but have you played some of the amazing stuff out there: I’m not even talking graphics here. I’ll admit, my mind is blown by the scale of some of the games that have a backbone built on procedurally generated content. We used to get excited about a few new levels, well, because I can’t even tell you how many times I played the first three screens of Donkey Kong as a ten year old. But then look at a game like No Man’s Sky: it’s a bit repetitive I hear, but to fully explore the entire game would take EVERYONE playing together five BILLION years.
Like… holy — KABLOWIE! *Mind Blown… This is the golden age folks, why would I quit just when things are getting awesome?
1. It’s a Generational Thing Not an Age Thing
Which brings me right back to that question: “Why are so many people ‘your age’ playing Pokemon Go?” Because, it’s not that this group of people that we call “old people” don’t play video games… it’s that the people we think of as “old people” never played video games. Not now, and not when they were young either… because there were no video games. Video games are not for kids: they were adopted by kids, thirty years ago, and those kids are now me and my generation. We play games. That’s what we do. Why would we stop just when we can actually afford to do it right.
Both, but the extreme introvert in me knows that board games cost me energy while video games recharge it.
Claire is suddenly into card games, so I taught her to play cribbage. Lots and lots of cribbage.
I’ve been teaching everyone to play my new Kickstarter delivery: Exploding Kittens. Sadly, my win ratio is very low.
Spider solitaire on my phone. Riveting stuff, eh?
a mash-up of crime & fandom
I’m never been much of a fan of professional sports, so I don’t get many do-the-right-thing points for claiming my reason for ignoring the recent Super Bowl had anything to do with the increasing moral greyness of the NFL. Both a string of high profile cases of spousal abuse and various accusations of cheating at various levels were well enough publicized that even a guy who usually ignores the media whenever it alludes to anything involving a ball has heard about them.
If I were a fan, I don’t know that I’d let a few so-called “bad apples” spoil the metaphorical bunch, but I’m not… so I can do little more than stand on the sidelines and jeer at a system I neither participate in nor really deeply understand.
This doesn’t mean the modern incarnation of something like the NFL –with their existential excesses, overpriced tickets, and seeming flouting of laws the rest of us are obligated to follow– can’t serve as a great example of the blind eye we too often turn towards the systems and ideas we adore when they do something very wrong… criminal even.
a mash-up of culture & games
Imagine it: four players gathered around a table strewn with scattered bits of cardboard, wood, and plastic. A pair of dice wait patiently near the hands of one, cards are being eagerly shuffled by another, and the other two argue over the minutia of the rules as they pass the stapled pages between themselves and scrutinize the words therein.
A board game is about to about to occur, and four distinct social characters will emerge from the action. What do these archetypes tell us about social hierarchies outside the gamer realm? Perhaps nothing. Or perhaps a little of everything…
Player One: The Enforcer of Rules
You know this player. He knows all the rules, having virtually memorized the game book. He’s strategic, and bent on winning. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but when other turns are about to unfold he grunts or winces or inhales briskly and offer a helpful “I wouldn’t do that” followed by an explanation of the failed strategy he’s witnessing from his perspective. It doesn’t even need to be a cooperative game: ever match is an opportunity to explore the mechanics of play and the enjoyment of the thing is secondary.
In real life he’s in a position of technical or knowledge superiority, always on the hunt to explain the complexities to coworkers or clients.
Player Two: The Strategist
This guy is also deep in the rules, but he takes a different tack when it comes to his opponents. Instead of bringing them into the loop, he’s a bit of a lone player, methodically tracking the game-play a few steps ahead of the action and setting up clever and manipulative build ups that either crumble and fail in spectacular fashion, or conquer with mind-numbing efficiency. He’s all or nothing, but he’s gambled everything on his own instincts.
In real life, he plays hard at business, selling and up-selling, and going for the kill when he’s pitching a deal.
Player Three: The Sore Loser
You don’t like this player. He’s the guy challenging moves and getting flustered at dice rolls or card draws that are anything less than ideal. Heavy sighs and exasperated huffs are occasionally punctuated by frustrated cursing, but sometimes he stews in quiet dismissal of the randomness of life. On the other had, when fortune turns in his favour he doesn’t hide his glee, smugly smashing through plays and throwing tactics to the wind in favour of luck and minor advantage.
In real life, he’s used to getting his own way, either because he knows stuff that other people don’t know, or because he’s settled into a comfortable low-risk life.
Player Four: The Feign-er of Innocence
This guy catches on, but plays playing dumb to his advantage. You may recognize him from his cheerful and optimistic disposition in the wake of crumbling defeat, or by his catchphrase of “as long as we’re having fun, right guys?” An occasional user of shallow strategy, this player is outwardly indifferent to the outcome, happy if he wins and cheerfully-glum if he doesn’t, acting as though the rules were just a little out of his intellectual grasp or that he’ll “figure it out in a few more rounds.”
In real life, he has a service-oriented mindset, often letting go of his own interests in favour of helping others, or just easing tensions and avoiding confrontation.
They meet. They play. They emulate a little chunk of life in a microcosm of society and the interesting characters it contains.
a mash-up of video games & games
Lurking in the depths and hiding behind the corners of nearly every new game release or console update is the much-bantered question of game-play versus technology. Better tech, the industry that churns out new titles and toys would have us believe, is the cornerstone of better games.
Faster computing processing.
More graphical polygons.
Smarter opponent AI.
Smoother video frame-rates.
Each of these, as the marketing mantras repeat in their advertising, are the crux of a better experience, immersing the player deeper into the artificial reality transposed upon the players senses and enhancing the foundation of escapism promised by our electronic toys.
The opposing argument, of course, is that games are games. Making them prettier or smarter or filled with lens-flaring camera effects, no matter how pretty, does nothing to improve the game itself.
And true, there is a discussion to be had within the realm of understanding what makes for good play: a great story, a challenging premise, a clear objective, or the ability to repeat again and again and again in perpetuity that same experience (with potentially different results.)
Ultimately, as with any art form, the field of game development has seemingly matured to the point where its reach has encompassed millions of diverse and invested audiences, and with like-as-many preferences has made the search for a single answer to the question of “great games” moot. After all, how is it possible to define a great game when we cannot possibly hope to agree upon the definition of “game” let alone “great?”
As such, the answer to the question of technology may be linked to the very problem itself. Any human pursuit seems inexorably linked to two foundational aspects. First, it is linked to a respect of the the history of said pursuit. Second it is tied to the iterative future enhancement of the same.
Will not video games, then, be granted the same effort: a respect of the foundations of great game play, while exploring the potential for things yet unlocked and undiscovered? That discovery may not be twelve percent faster processing, nor may it reside in the effort to make the sweat of a digital character bead down his face more realistically, but the serendipitous treasures we find between those efforts –or a few steps further down the iterative path– maybe the ones worth searching for.
I’m in a mobile gaming rut and I’ve been indulging in a little grinding-type game called Pixel People. Don’t judge me.
My free time is about half way split between time with “Godus” on the PC and time with “Destiny” on the PS3.
A good throwback Saturday morning with some quiet cuddles on the couch, basking in the glow of some Minecrafting with my daughter.