Sunday, 18 May 2014

I Game, Therefore I am

This was first published on Forces Of Geek on Thursday 8th May 2014. I believe that video games define who I am and have shaped the person I am today, which is why I wrote this piece. I hope you find it interesting...even if it does sound a tad self interested. But hey, like I say several paragraphs down, I'm selfish, okay?


Whenever I meet new people and tedious small talk about the weather and what I do for a living moves onto "So, what do you do in your spare time?"that's my cue to begin an intense, lengthy discussion about video games, whether the recipient cares or not. Perhaps I'm a tad self interested but when someone asks me a question, I like to do them the honour of answering...in detail and at length.

I'm passionate about gaming and I'd be lying to myself and to everyone I meet if I said that it didn't play a part in defining who I am.

It's not just a hobby to me; I love playing games, writing about games and I even co-created a web series about gamers. Call me melodramatic but I can't imagine my life without video games. I believe my core traits as a person have been influenced by my gaming experiences. Of course, I can't attribute everything about myself to games, every psychologist will tell you that you are more than your external experiences, a complicated bundle of neuroses and that you exhibit many of your parents qualities...blah blah blah.

Remember a paragraph or two ago I mentioned self interest? Well, I have compiled a list of my best and worst traits with the intent of exploring how my gaming experiences have influenced them. 

Persistent
If anything epitomises the word perseverance, it's the Water Temple from Ocarina Of Time, I spent many hours of my life in that temple. However, it taught me well because if I set my mind to something, whether it's running a marathon or completing an obscure achievement on a Halo game only worth 15G, I don't give up. I might get frustrated or angry but I will finish what I started, damn it! 'Game Over' is never actually game over, I will always press 'retry' or 'try again' because video games have programmed me to do so, the same goes for anything life throws at me.

Competitive
I hate losing. In fact, this is probably one of my worst traits and I'm ashamed to say it is heightened by video games but that's what happens when you spend your evenings button bashing with the boys next door (and no, that is not a euphemism - I was 9!). Whether it was Street Fighter or WWF Smackdown! (I guess I better inform the kids that the WWE started out as the WWF and that I wasn't playing a game about fighting pandas!) because I was playing against boys, I needed to win. This instinctive competitive streak continued and even to this day I am that friend who sulks when she loses or tries to blame something other than herself for her crippling defeat. Which leads me on to my next "trait"...



Short Tempered
Again, along with my competitive nature, this not one of my most attractive qualities. Though I am known to Hulk out on occasion I don't use my rage for good. It all started with Ecco The Dolphin, to an outsider Ecco is a pleasant underwater caper where you play as a dolphin, couldn't be calmer, right? Wrong. It's a nightmarish dystopia with impossible levels and to this day is the only game I ever gave up on because it inspired fits of rage. My parents gave it away because I became an insufferable brat when playing it, you see, when you couple a quick to anger personality with persistence the results are devastatingly bad and in some cases (sorry, mum) lead to family heirlooms being broken.

Patient
Patience is not possessed by all gamers, given that the industry often acts like an impetuous child on a long car journey repeatedly asking "are we there yet?". This trait is one I cultivated over many years of having to wait for new releases. That, or waiting for loading screens (imagine how many minutes we have sat in front of loading screens in our lives and it becomes a zen-like activity). 


Focused
I know, I know - it seems contradictory to be both quick tempered and maintain focus under pressure but I had anger management in my teenage years and learnt the art of keeping focused and level-headed, aided by games like Tetris and Columns that taught me to channel my rage into efficient bursts of calm, how else could I cope under the pressure of music increasing in tempo and sped up falling shapes?

Of course, these weren't the only games which harnessed my ability to staying focused under pressure.

Guitar Hero on expert mode is another example however, many FPS games involve sniper rifles where precision under duress is absolutely necessary, these games nurture my reflexes and keep me alert.

The day I stopped panicking when I heard the Tank theme in Left 4 Dead 2 was the day I realised that I had mastered the art of focus.

Pedantic
If it wasn't for RPGs, I might have coasted through life paying little attention to the people and things
around me. Even to this day, I can walk into a room and survey it instantly to work out possible escape routes while simultaneously assessing how many spiders are in the room (I have an almost crippling fear of them, so I like to know where they are and how far away from me they are at any given time). This is largely due to an inherited OCD nature of seeing a top-down pixellated room containing a fixed item of furniture and at least two or three jars that NEEDED to be destroyed in case of extra shiny secret items. Point in case, if anyone is watching me play a game, they often decry my attentive need to complete all the side-missions before exploring the story element.

Selfish
A trait that comes from years of playing side quests and helping out NPCs should be an element of kindness but if I'm honest, I am in fact, quite selfish. Every person I've ever 'helped' in a game to retrieve an artifact or save a dog or fetch a sword is almost always met with "Ergh, you could do this yourself".

Unfortunately, this has leached into my real life as I often come away from social situations feeling secretly disappointed that I haven't been given something in return.

I suppose I get some sort of unrecorded real life XP though.. so I'll take comfort in that.

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