When I was 9 years old, I was given the piece of plastic and wires that would largely define the entertainment that I would be growing up with. Nintendo’s family computer is primitive compared to the modern generation of consoles that feature graphics that even CG movies would be proud of. But 16 years ago, to my young and already deteriorating eyes, it was an invention to rival the wheel.
Looking back, I realized that games then were very much different from games now. they still give the basic premise of all video games, but the worlds were less immersive, the colors limited, and the “people” looked more like sticks with guns than anything actually resembling a homo sapiens. And they were harder too.
Contra was a manly man’s game. it consisted of various levels of kicking ass, both terrestrial and extra, by two commandos. In fact, in Contra the story didn’t matter (although it did have a story), what mattered was that you were there, guns blazing, ass-kicking motherfucker trying to reach the big bad alien at the heart of it all… literally. Contra was SO manly, that it didn’t have saves. You need to sleep, go to school? Tough luck. You have to play right from the beginning. Without cheats, you only had a total of three lives. A truly hardcore game if I ever saw one.
I’ve always seen myself as a gamer. My childhood was spent in front of the television, playing console games ranging from Duckhunt, to Spartan X, to Mario. I played Final Fantasy, was immersed in a myriad of RPG’s. I spent years playing Ragnarok Online, dreamed of better pc’s, not for editing, or the speed, but simply for its capacity to run better games. Graphics whore, lore nut, I probably spent a few actual years of my life playing games.
What is it about games that generate so much addiction? At the end of the day, it seemed, I was just another junkie, getting my high off these games. Online games in particular, were highly appealing to me. Perhaps it was because the real world, in contrast, seemed so dull and boring. Sometimes I felt it was what I was meant to do, play my life out as some Undead Rogue.
For many people, games serve as an escape from reality. It’s a way of coping with stress, and enjoying themselves amidst some fun competition. Other people see it as a form of social interaction. I once wrote a paper on how we can be the persona we choose to be in online games. Maybe some people like it that way. Games also serve as a way of stoking one’s ego. How many times has that high-leveled paladin turn out to be some guy who works in a fastfood chain selling burgers? You’ll be some lowly guy in real life, but you can be a king in a game. Who can say no to that?
In my opinion, gaming is a much deeper subject than many people realize. It’s something so full of potential that people see only the external appearances of games, and, unless they’re gamers themselves, often neglect to see the meaning in a few bunch of pixels.
Then again, maybe that’s all there is to it.