Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Gamers Gateway

For years I've been a bystander when it came to video games. For years I shied away from board games. All of that has changed.

Board games were a frightening place of competitiveness and self-doubt which laid a landscape of rising tempers and misguided beliefs about fairness. I spent years refusing to play because when I did play, I quickly devolved into 'you no play fair' cavewoman. I have this habit in life which seems to bubble forth like a geyser when I play board games. It is this way of dealing with people. I treat them the way I want to be treated and in doing so, fall into the naive idea that I will get that type of treatment back. It rarely happens that way though. I'm not talking about the people I love, I'm talking about strangers. Having expectations of a stranger noticing that you've been exceptionally nice to them and then returning the favor is like smiling at the sun and expecting it to appreciate you and shine for you. It's silly. In any case, when playing board games I would often defer my own chances to win because I hadn't the heart to beat down another player. This is hardly constructive when playing a game, as you can imagine. When the other players subsequently beat me down, I would get my feelings hurt, then I would get mad and then I would decide I'll never play board games again. Add to that the fact that my idea of board games consisted mainly of Monopoly and Pictionary. I had no idea that there were so many fascinating games out there to play. Several years ago I read an article about playing to win and having fun while doing it. I thought I'd try it and see. It started with Settlers of Catan. I was hooked. Suddenly playing was fun, competitive and even cut throat, and best of all I could handle it.

Queue in video games. Where competitiveness is not an issue in video games, frustration is. Anytime I played video games I hated the construct of playing a character who has to perform certain actions in a particular sequence, just right, to achieve a goal. It requires the player, especially those of us who are not avidly honing skills in this, to play a scenario over and over and over. That gets monotonous and frustrating. So I gave up on video games because it seemed pointless. I certainly wasn't enjoying it. I did however enjoy watching other people play, especially if the game had exceptional graphics. Then my children started playing Minecraft. They begged my husband and I to try it. We dragged our feet for many months because it seemed like a 'kids' game. Boy were we wrong. As soon as we entered the world of Minecraft we had a dickens of a time finding our way out. And then my friend, Elyse introduced me to World of Warcraft. I fell down that rabbit hole and still haven't come out and don't plan on re-emerging anytime. It's just too much fun.

Why? Why are these video games more fun than any I previously played? I think they draw me in and hold me because they are free-will games. Minecraft is a giant sandbox in which you can build pretty much anything you want. Dream it, build it. I love that. I love gathering the supplies to build, laying out a design to build, building and then tweaking the details and building more and when a project is done, you can just find a new spot and build something else. World of Warcraft has a bit more direction to it, sending you on quests. However, no quest requires you to approach it by learning a complicated series of movements which need to be repeated multiple times before you can perfect it. You go, you often have to figure out the puzzle of the quest, as in where you need to go, who you are looking for. Sometimes it's hardly worth calling it a puzzle and other times it can take some deduction work. Then you execute the quest and here, you can decide how you want to do it with the exception of a few mechanics in the game. Add into that mix that World of Warcraft actually doesn't require you to do quests at all.  You could wander around in the world fishing and cooking if you want. You could plant yourself in a city and stay there forever. You could do things just about any way you want. You might die if you get yourself in an area where the game characters (NPC's) are too strong for you, but other than that, you get to be the arbiter of your adventure. That's why I love World of Warcraft.
That's me!

The take away from all of this in the end is: Settlers of Catan is the gateway drug to World of Warcraft.

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