At some point in time every single gamer has asked themselves the question “Why Do I Play?” and we all respond with varying reasons of different depths and complexities. Some players play just for the sheer entertainment value, others to feel a sense of achievement, and others still for the sake of completion. Each gamer has an fundamentally different reason for picking up their controller day after day, and those differences I believe are a major part of why the gaming community is so large and so varied. However, I can only speak to my own experiences with video games, and hopefully through this process I can both explain to myself, and to you why it is that I spend my free time writing articles about the games that I love to play.
Playing video games for me stretches as far back as I can remember. One of the earliest memories I have is sitting downstairs in my mom’s apartment and playing excite-bike with my older brother. I can still remember the excitement of watching my 8-bit avatar negotiate the jumps as I raced through the games simple landscape. I can also remember playing the original Mario, and how many times over and over I would see that world 1-1 flash on the screen, hear the Mario theme starting, and I would begin again my quest to save the princess from the clutches of King Koopa. Oh man, I get goose bumps thinking about the castle theme. The feeling of dread as I came closer to the bridge where the beast lay, and the excitement of overcoming him once again, shattered by the realization that yes, my princess was in another castle.
Some of my favourite childhood memories are of video games. I remember the first time I ever beat Ocarina Of Time. I sat back and watched the final cut scenes with a sense of pride that I had accomplished so much. It had been hard work, especially making my way through the water temple, where I often found myself too frustrated to even think. The first time I finished Final Fantasy 8 was a similar experience. I remember being excited that I had finally completed this mammoth 4 disc game, but also sad too. I had spent so much time with these characters, shared in their triumphs and failures, and now it was finished. Games it seems have always managed to evoke deep emotions in me.
I never really abandoned games either. Despite having a fairly active childhood where I played sports and was outside all the time, whenever I had free time I would turn on the NES, or later the SNES that my parents bought. Games allowed me to bond with others. I can remember the first time I met the two boys who would later become my stepbrothers, it was while playing videogames. We bonded over playing together. My best friends in school (which I had very few of when I was young) all were avid fans of video games and we spent our time battling Pokemon, playing Zelda, and creating our own roleplaying games.
Online, in World of Warcraft, I made many friends while questing around Azeroth, and shared so many triumphs together. It’s hard to understand from an outsiders perspective, the feeling of accomplishment you get from raiding together, but imagine gathering 10 of your really close friends, and spending months trying and failing to achieve a common goal. Then, when you finally achieve that goal, the overwhelming feeling of accomplishment knowing that the 10 of you managed to work together as a team and overcome an extremely difficult opponent.
Gaming has also helped me. When I was in highschool and going through a rough break up, I can remember sitting down after the dust had settled and just playing as many Warcraft 3 games as I could. I spent the whole night playing match after match, and doing extremely well. It helped. Winning those games made me feel good despite the situation. It can be a cathartic experience to sit down and accomplish something in a game. The feeling of accomplishment that came with winning made me feel somehow better about myself.
It’s also kind of why gaming can be dangerously addictive at times too. The feeling of instant gratification can be overwhelming, and you can lose sight of things that are important in real life. Distinguishing between accomplishment in gaming, and accomplishment in real life, as well as the work it takes to really become accomplished in your day to day life is an important skill that I think people who play video games need to develop. For instance during the time I played World of Warcraft extensively, the rest of my life suffered. I dropped out of school because I would spend my free time gaming, or out with friends, my mental and personal health suffered due to the fact that I kept terrible sleeping hours, and ate fast food so I could get back to my games. It was a dangerous habit, and I eventually managed to break that cycle, but it had cost me quite a bit. It also taught me a lesson, on the importance of moderation, and self control, which I’ll admit, I still wrestle with when I get particularly into a game.
So why despite all of that do I game?
Because at the end of the day, it’s fun. It exposes you to some incredible stories, beautiful art, and in many cases, games are a reflection of our culture. There is much to learn about yourself and those around you by playing through a video game. It can be a great social experience with friends, allow you to break down barriers between you and strangers, and teach you. Our ancestors used to sit around and tell stories by fire. Today, we have games that allow us to shed our own skin for awhile, and view life through another lens.
Below is one of my favourite moments in video games, and I would often restart a new game and reset, just to enjoy this cutscene over and over again.
Have a game you think I should play? Disagree with something I’ve said? Throw it in the comments or shoot me an email and let me know how you feel at firstname.lastname@example.org