This article continues from Gaming Motives (Part 1). To read what initially inspired this train of thought, please head to What Rhino Said for the post “Do you remember why you started playing video games?”
Having a gaming partner didn’t fundamentally change the way I played games – I remained a die-hard solo player. But I had once again found someone with whom I could play some games (mostly fighting and racing games). Much like my brother and I connected over games, so too did games serve as links between my husband and I. While our core values overlapped some, we both maintained (and continue to maintain) some sizable personality differences. But when it came to gaming, we found common ground, even if we didn’t find common games all the time. For us, gaming was bonding, and it remains a vital agent in our relationship to this day. And out of that grew an entirely new motive for me, thanks mostly to his particularly strong real-life social network: gaming as entertainment.
This should seem like one in the same, shouldn’t it? It’s pretty acceptable nowadays to consider games on equal footing with books, TV, and movies, right? But growing up, I didn’t see games this way. Our Atari console was more akin to our Castle Greyskull playset than it was our television antenna. It was a tool that could be used to play. As we evolved into a Nintendo household, and as I grew into my solitary gamer niche, I never really considered games in the same space as other amusements. Because sitting down to watch a movie was more social than not, especially once we got a VCR. The very act of “going to the video store” involved almost the whole family. We’d pile in the car to go to the video store where we’d select a handful of VHS tapes. Then we’d pile back in the car, head home with takeout pizza, and stake our claim in front of the TV for the night. And never once during all that did I think that I should be playing games instead. Games were for when I required a little time away from family stuff. For when I needed to play.
The idea of using games as sheer entertainment akin to television and movies popped up in the late 1990s and very early 2000s when I started joining my husband at his friends’ houses where gaming was usually the key component in any get-together. This was when I started on the collateral path of becoming a game spectator. I had always been a participant, so to sit back and take in the spectacle of active gaming as if I was watching a movie (no YouTube, let alone a viable Internet connection, mind you), was incredibly fresh and exciting. Through these get-togethers, I was exposed to dozens of different games that I probably never would have explored on my own. Using games as entertainment also became the primary “thing” in our own house. Any time we had friends over, the game systems were always on, ready for both the players and watchers. Games had cemented themselves as a perfectly viable leisure pursuits.
In 2002, I entered grad school, and gaming took a significant tumble. A move to another part of the country damaged our once-perfected gaming social network, yet we eventually found another, smaller community of players. On the occasions that we came together to play, gaming was solely used as entertainment – a fluffy way to pass an hour or two before going out elsewhere. And in the few moments that I had to myself, requiring stress relief became the major factor over choosing games instead something else. Games like Kingdom Hearts and Super Mario Sunshine afforded me some very necessary time away from my school work. They helped me clear my head and stop worrying about how many more pages of my thesis were left to write. And when school was done and it was time to work for money, games were thankfully there at the end of the long days to help wash away the stress.
In the past ten years, two actions further and permanently altered my gaming motives. The first was playing Mass Effect, the second was (and is) blogging.
Between finishing grad school and picking up Mass Effect, my gaming waxed and waned. Gaming remained my top form of entertainment, but I had fallen back to using it to escape. And I stuck very close to my Nintendo roots, straying only occasionally to the PlayStation for Castlevania and Final Fantasy VII. I took up Mass Effect on my own accord, and it swung me so far outside my comfort zone that I really haven’t looked back since. Mass Effect provided me with every motive to play that I had come to discover, from fun and freedom, to escape and stress relief and entertainment. But more than anything, Mass Effect came to define challenge as a motive to play. I found, and welcomed, challenge in so many forms though that game – in its customizable and open world; in its gameplay mechanics and “moral” systems; in its willingness to give choice back to the player. I simply challenged myself to try something new, and it subsequently opened up the floodgates of gaming. Those gates remain wide open to this day. No longer do I feel bound by a “loyalty” to this console or that developer. No longer do I wonder if a game “isn’t for me” due to any self-imposed stigma or outside influences. And understanding the challenge of games has also helped me become comfortable with my own limits. If a game looks interesting, I’ll seek it out. If it doesn’t, I won’t. I don’t and will never have time to play all the games, and that’s okay.
So what of that second point, gaming and blogging? Well, it’s become a matter of community. My initial goal with blogging was a mundane one: create a virtual place to store my gaming memories. Sharing them with the audience of the Internet was somewhat secondary, because I honestly had no idea if anyone would be interested in reading about a random person’s gaming past. It turned out that at least a few people were, and things snowballed. My own blog grew in scope, and I was eventually lucky enough to be able to sign on with other bloggers of similar ilk to output more content to the masses. One of those collaborations led to this very site, which has, with lots of dedication and support, continued on its upward path. I continue to game now partly because it helps me stay in touch with and makes me want to be a part of the online gaming community (even if I don’t game online or play the latest games). It allows me to participate in something that bigger than just me, and it has instilled, for the first time ever in my life, the notion that gaming and writing about games could possibly be more than just a free hobby. Would it be nice to be paid to do this? Yes. Yes, it would. But until then, you, the readers, the commenters, the likers, and the supporters, all make it worth it for me to game, to write about games, and make videos about games. And that’s pretty awesome.
I thought about ending this post with some sort of pithy epilogue, but I think I’ve run out of words. I have no desire to get out ye olde crystal ball for a look into the future, because I’m enjoying the here and now with why I game. My thanks goes out once again to Rhino and his post that started all this. It serves as a good reminder to any game blogger that whenever you can’t find the words, take some time to read. There’s plenty of inspiration just waiting to be attained though the writings of others.