Sunday Thoughts: 05/07/09

For me playing a game has many attractions. I can be competitive and tactical in a lot of the games I play, and there are decisions to be made that sometimes require careful thought and an element of problem solving. Playing with others online to meet new people and interact with different characters. Increasing my social skills and general knowledge as every man is pretty much shaped by everyone he has ever met in his life. I believe there are far deeper sub-conscious reasons for why I enjoy gaming than I will ever understand and I acknowledge that I may seek to escape real world pressures via a trip to Helghan.

Many years ago gaming was simply a hobby, as I jumped up to smash that block and net myself a gold coin it was just simply a bit of fun to pass time. I still went out and climbed trees, made dens and threw myself down hills with little respect for danger. My young bones breaking and face needing corrective surgery is testament to my adventurous youth. Today sees games that provide a virtual alternative to the adventure I once sought as a youth, and as the games get more sophisticated and the real world becomes more dangerous I believe that games can offer us more than light entertainment.

Many seniors will consider anyone younger who is playing a video game as being lazy and counter-productive but these seniors may fail to see the pressures to be in fashion that we are constantly exposed to in today’s society and the dangers we face stepping outside the front door. We are told that we are to wear these shoes, drink this drink and shave with Gillette Fusion because Thierry Henry does. We are also told that two students were killed outside a night club last night and that there was a bomb alert at Paddington station. So we have pressure from the media, reminding us what we are to do and buy, and what we are to fear when stepping outside. It is no wonder we turn to video games and perhaps films too to avoid such a harsh reality.

You play a game to escape all the pressure and nagging that the real world is full of but even now you are pressured into choosing a PS3 or Xbox 360 as whichever you pick will just attract abuse from those at school/college with the opposite console. Hopefully most people will ignore this and just blow it off as the childish fanboyism it is but there are still many that will feel the pressure. Companies are starting to get to you via in game advertising and seem relentless in their quest to influence your life. This intrusion is most unwelcome and I hope that it never becomes as persistent as real-world marketing. But it is a sure sign that until recently games have been a safe haven from all of those pressures.

I love flying off to Helghan knowing that I won’t receive a call from BT on my mobile asking for a quick customer service survey before I trip over C4, miffed but knowing I also have plenty of lives in this virtual escape. Escaping to the Wild West for an hour or two to avoid another reminder that a legendary pop icon is dead and that five British soldiers are now coming home in body bags. No disrespect intended, but I don’t want all that negative information shoved into my face each day, and gaming allows me to escape that. As harsh as it may sound, I even play games to escape the pressure of family life and work. I will always put my family first, but sometimes it is nice to assume the role of somebody not tied down and with the freedom to tear up Liberty City.

So do you play games to escape? If so, then escape from what? Do you think there will be a day when you won’t be able to progress to the next level in an RPG without your character first having to shave with a Gillette Fusion razor? Do you too fear that the pressures from real world marketing will eventually be every bit “in your face” as they are outside of your wonderful shiny PS3?

If ever the time comes where I get a “we interrupt your game to bring you this latest breaking news” I will move to a log cabin in the middle of nowhere, grow a beard and go shooting deer with my dog.