Play With Me

Are you a “gamer”? By that, I mean someone who plays games in their spare time – video, tabletop, cards, mobile – whatever strikes your fancy.

Games have always been sort of a gentle “hum” in my life, though I didn’t realize it until I started writing this post. There were the occasional arcade games while I was growing up (Frogger was my personal favorite, with PacMan a close second), and some simple computer games (Space Invaders on a 5 1/4 inch floppy for the Osborne “portable” computer, anyone?), but other than that, I pretty much stayed away from anything that seemed like a potential time-sink (we never had a game console – they were too expensive). I played the first Civilization iteration on my dad’s PC for nearly an entire weekend one time in high school or college (long ago enough now that I forget which), and promptly decided I didn’t need to be one of those people who lost entire weekends to unproductive things such as that, even though we had a copy of the very early Sims game for PC on hand and I really was interested in trying it out.

When I started my Facebook account, I played FarmTown a lot, and a few other Facebook based games. They were fun for zoning out in the evenings, but eventually I got bored with them and my husband has now taken over my FarmTown acreage.

Gaming ebbs and flows with me, and after a good several months (maybe even a year) off from most games, I just spent the majority of this past weekend playing Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp on my cell. I have a bit of an addiction-prone personality when it comes to such things, obviously. I thought maybe I’d outgrown that little issue, but apparently not. The hubby and I also spent 2.5 hours playing Uncharted this weekend as well (the first one – Drake’s Fortune). Though one might argue that’s no more a waste of time than staring passively at the TV for the same amount of time (which is what we would have done instead). At least we were actively solving puzzles and shooting our way out of ridiculously annoying gunfights, which requires quite a bit more mental and physical participation.

As an adult, I know my own mental flow better now, and I know the “play every free moment” addiction for Animal Crossing will level off fairly quickly into a far less “needy” routine of checking in a couple times a day (not much choice with work hours off-limits anyways). Uncharted requires a fair amount of mental energy and it’s honestly somewhat physically draining for me as well, so I’m usually needing a break at the 1 – 1.5 hour mark. And I don’t feel the need to play that every day either – one, maybe two sessions a week, and I’m good. It’s fun, it’s stimulating, but it’s not something I feel like I can’t let go of.

Which is good, because the whole reason we got this hand-me-down PlayStation 3 (and a stack of games as well) from my brother-in-law is because I was interested in playing the new Spider-Man game on the PS4, but I didn’t want to spend any money on a console or game unless I knew we might actually use it. Now I know we will, and eventually we’ll shell out the big bucks, but for now, we have that stack of games to get through and I’m in no hurry to drop that kind of cash just yet. Game consoles are spendy! Maybe we’ll see if someone wants to get us one for Christmas…

I downloaded Pokemon: Go a few weeks ago, and I play occasionally because one of my co-workers plays and needed a friend for something or other, but that one isn’t as much of a draw for me because it requires…well…”go-ing”. When I’m out and about, I generally don’t want to be paying attention to my cell (it’s generally in my bag or back pocket, and I don’t generally use it as a phone). So I have to make a special effort to get it out, and then I feel vulnerable and self-conscious standing out there on the sidewalk, swiping to catch pokemon or hit up pokestops for materials, etc.

It’s a battery hog too, and before I started playing, I could go all day on a single charge for my cell with no problem. Now, I need at least one top-off. *sigh* And I may need more than my 4g per month of data, if I do keep playing (before that was *more* than enough).

As for other games, I used to play Smurfs Village all the time until notifications stopped working on my phone. Apparently it’s a known issue, but they haven’t figured out how to fix it yet, and without notifications, there’s no point in planting crops (seriously – I’m not going to put the brainpower into remembering when virtual crops need to be harvested…it’s just a game). So that’s on hold. And a puzzle game I really like is Gardenscapes, but I hit a level I couldn’t get past several months ago, and I’m still stuck there. One of these days I’ll go back to it and see if I can figure that level out. Once the Animal Crossing “newness” has worn off a bit.

I was thinking about all of this the other day while reading an article about a game company I’m thinking about buying stock in and how much money they make with just four of their games and the burgeoning field of “esports”. We (humans, collectively speaking) spend a *lot* of time and money on games and game-related hardware every year. It’s kind of crazy. And naturally, it made me wonder…

Why?

Why do I (or why does anyone) feel drawn to playing games? What is it that they give me? Is it the dopamine hit every time I meet a goal or reach a new level (probably)? The stimulation of making me think? The ability to “zone out” of my own life for awhile and run a campsite where the predominant inhabitants are animals, or create an entire society of little blue gnome-like creatures?

I don’t have the answers to those questions yet, but much like my comic-book reading adventure (which turned into another hobby of sorts that I still enjoy today), this recent spate of gaming is actually research for a book (contemporary romance) I want to write sometime next year. By the time I’m ready to write, I should know why *I* enjoy playing, and what I get out of it, and maybe some insights into why others do too. I find immersion is often the most fun way to learn about…well, anything.

Except murder. And death.

So…anyone else a gamer? What’s your favorite game/game type? Do you know why you play, and/or what you get out of games? Inquiring, writerly minds want to know…


Resolution Check-In
Sleep 6 hrs: Backsliding horribly. *sigh*
Goals check-up: Well, no.

Writer’s Notes