Doug Ziegler argues that there’s more to video games than just mindless gaming.
Basketball took me over for the latter half of middle school and all of high school. Here and there I’d play some games, but my attention was focused on practicing my jumper and free throws (and girls of course…even though I had zero idea of how to talk to them).
Then came college. Whispers of a new football game that was insanely fun to play called TecmoBowl on the Nintendo NES was on the lips of every guy in our dorm. After seeing it played and actually playing it, we all decided to have a league. We scheduled classes around it, and rushed back to the dorm to get updates on who was beating who, and what player was racking up the craziest stats. There were near brawls over who would get the Raiders thanks to Bo Jackson’s ranking which made him nearly impossible to tackle. One of the TecmoBowl seasons I can distinctly remember Bo rushing for 14,000 yards. The second best player was Lawrence Taylor who was had the highest rated speed, which also meant who ever had him was guaranteed to get at least 50 sacks in a season if he had any modicum of skill at all. And oh the trash talk that went on in that dorm. It was the stuff of legend, I tell you.
A long hiatus from gaming occurred thanks to growing up, getting married, having kids. I started a new job shortly after the birth of my oldest son, and the guys in my department raved about a game called Rainbow Six on this brand new gaming system called Xbox. This game was as realistic a war game as had ever been created, and even more remarkable was that Xbox had a network jack that you could play against your friends WITHOUT LEAVING YOUR HOUSE! I was, to say the least, rabid to get this system and this game. It did not disappoint. I’d never seen graphics that realistic! Plus, I could ball-bust my friends from the comfort of my couch. I just couldn’t see how gaming couldn’t get any better.
Now I have an Xbox 360, and have finished every Halo game made on its most difficult level. I’ve logged countless hours learning every nuance of every online map, played thousands of matches with friends and strangers, and in the heat of battle have uttered strings of obscenities that have never been put in that order before or since. My friends have actually complimented me on my ability to string together those very sentences. I’ve made real friends on this online gaming community. We’ve shared personal and philosophical discussions even supported each other in times of need. It’s camaraderie amongst guys that I have only found one comparison to, which is in sports. Playing on the same team with guys for years to the point that you can virtually anticipate every move they make. It’s an ebb and flow that comes from tons of time together and realizing each other’s tendencies, strengths, and definitely their weaknesses, which get mocked mercilessly as only close friends can do.
To hear me rant and rave at people online, it would appear that I’m not having any fun whatsoever. Even my wife has said that it sounds more like I’m ready to explode in anger than enjoying myself. But she has also seen my face when I’m lobbing another verbal fusillade, and I’m all smiles. She gets it. I’m a gamer, and its part of who I am. But it’s more than that; it’s a community of men and women that genuinely relish good games and the time it takes to know how your friends play. And then using that knowledge to crush them and let them know you’re destroying them as you’re doing it.
Playing video games is not just for kids. It can be purely for escapism from everyday life. It also is a collective of very different people from every station and walk of life who can come together regardless of who they are and what’s going on in their physical lives for some good old fashioned alien/zombie/nazi killing, or to explore the vast worlds of role playing games and MMOs. It’s utopian at its best. Of course you’ll have people who want to do nothing more than be jerks because it can be pretty anonymous, but on the whole gamers are fun-loving lot. So don’t be so quick to judge those that are self-proclaimed video game junkies. We are your lawyers, your police officers, your waiters, your nurses, your teachers, your children and your parents.
I’ve had a few breaks from gaming in my life for a variety of reasons. But gaming always calls me back, like a lost love that you just can’t be without. I can’t forsee me not gaming, and what I find really interesting is that my generation could be the first one to have a significant amount of 60-70 year olds talking about the next great game is coming out, and how we’ll whip your ass playing it.
Image Credit: Sam Howzit/Flickr