Note: I wrote most of this back in Te Anau during December. With the flat I’m in now I’m definitely playing more games, or at least playing Dark Souls. Seems a change in environment really helped :P.
The last time someone asked me what games I play I felt worried. In fact, this question has made me feel worry over the past several years no matter who it is that asks it. I guess this is because people tend to assume things about you based on the games you play, but there’s also another reason.
While I consider myself a gamer, I was barely playing games for a while. I couldn’t simply name what games I was playing because the times between play sessions felt distant. The actual play sessions themselves felt so short because I’d spend most of the time nitpicking something, like finding/installing mods or getting online multiplayer to actually work. I’m way more likely to watch a let’s play or look up design in games then to actually play them myself. It kinda makes me feel like a fraud in some weird way.
In the past I played games to live out my imagination; to live a fantasy & get lost in a mental world. When I’m playing a single character, I want to feel like I’m in their shoes. In games where I’m playing multiple characters, or an entire faction, I can have more of a personal disconnect for the sake of gameplay (for these I think of myself more as the commander character observing it all). I also like to have a good amount of freedom in how I play without the game hampering me for my preferences.
I remember as a kid I was really into monstrous alien races; the type you would bundle Zerg, Tyranids, & the “Alien” xenomorphs with. I remember playing Starcraft & really get into ‘being’ the Zerg brood infesting a planet – “I am the alien swarm” (fuck I’m a geek). The same can be said for being a Terran mercenary faction or a Protoss pirate fleet. I came up with stories in my head of what I was doing & why for in-game reasons, e.g. I was fighting to secure the decorative ruins in the centre of the map to gain alien secrets. It wasn’t just for Starcraft but for any of the good games I played, a lot of which were RPGs & FPSs.
One big way I made this work was with cheats. What do cheats do – they change the rules. They let you play games in a way you typically wouldn’t play them (at least if you want to play them fairly). I found that it actually extended the life of some games for me (similar to how mods massively extend the life of elder scroll games). This was the way I fulfilled some of the points I mentioned above. I remember using cheats to “start” levels in a different place or to get certain items & abilities so I could roleplay a character (like an invincible, man-eating, monster who can gib enemies in a single punch 😛 ). It was also the way that I, as a kid, learned how to get good at some games.
I haven’t cheated in a game in a long time, unless I’m testing out a mod I’m making. Actually, I haven’t allowed myself to become so internally engrossed in a game in a long time. I really miss that.
Maybe its because I’m working towards making games, learning how they’re made & what makes a game good, & hence become more critical of games in general. Maybe I’ve consumed so much media in my life that I’ve become disenchanted by lesser games. Maybe its due to the flood of games these days & the variety available. Maybe its because I don’t really have the time for it, at least not without it affecting other aspects of my life (like it kind of is right now 😛 ).
Regardless, it seems I’ve become less imaginative & more literal. Maybe it’s worth trying to play that way again & not care too much if a game isn’t exactly the way I want it to be. Or maybe I just need to find a game that has more of an emphasis on letting the player decide how they play rather than explicitly tell them. All I can do is keep trying out games & apply these thoughts to my own projects.