Four years ago, I was a very different person. I was young (really young, actually, I’m still only 21, but then I was 17 – it’s basic maths, so I don’t know why I’m taking such a tangent in the first paragraph) and hadn’t had a whole lot of experience in the world, just starting here at TSA and almost simultaneously at University, playing loads of games and having very few worries.
But over those years, and even more so in the last nine months, where I’ve been busy at work on my dissertation and trying to earn a first class degree (you can wish me luck in the comments) I’ve changed as a person, and that in turn has changed the games that I play and the way I’ve played them.
To be truthful, my dissertation (and making Kubik, which you can see a gameplay video of below) has starved me of both social interaction and time playing games, to the point where I want to do those things together, rather than one or the other. I don’t want to sit in my room playing inFamous Second Son or Assassin’s Creed IV all day, I want to see my friends. But I, and they, want to play games. So we do it together.
Four years ago, you might have classed me as an introvert. I wasn’t – I’ve always loved spending time with people, and it doesn’t wear me out like it’s said to if I were introverted – but from the outside looking in, at someone who sat in his room and clocked hundreds of hours on Skyrim, that’s what I was.
These days, I can’t be alone for very long. I’ve just left my flat, and in turn my flatmate, who I’ve lived with during term-time for the duration of my University adventure, and I’m missing having someone around to chat to, watch TV shows with and play some local co-operative or multiplayer games with.
I think that’s what people would call an extrovert. I thrive when I’m around people, and get a bit bored when I’m not, even if I could just sink my time into a video game. The prospect of an entire free day where I could just sit and play through a game’s story used to really excite me, but now I feel as though I could be spending my time in a better way, and it feels like a chore.
That concept truly died when I purchased Max Payne 3, which still sits in its wrapper untouched, years later. Or maybe when I played – and loved – the first hour of Tomb Raider, but haven’t gone back to it since.
And that’s where Mario Kart 8 comes in. I’ve written thousands of words about it before, so I won’t go into details – it’s not about that – but I’ve also played forty five hours of it this month. That’s almost two days, in a total of twenty, and at least 3/4 (but probably more) of that has been in local multiplayer.
It’s not just games, either; the way I’ve watched TV shows has evolved over the past years. I’ve watched almost every show with my flatmate, rather than sitting in my room alone marathoning a show. We could discuss and digest it together afterwards, and this too became a social thing, particularly in September where almost every social event I attended soon dissolved into a discussion of the final few episodes of Breaking Bad.
So, what am I to do? I’ve found a solution in previous summer months, where I’ve spent a weekend playing through a single player game – such as one of the Zelda titles – with friends, swapping the controller every now and then. It’s the single player experience, but retains that social element – those are the things I need. But I can’t do that for all of them.
I was on the train coming back from a night out last weekend, and soon got into a discussion with a couple who asked me what I had studied at Uni. “Computer Games Development” I replied, to which the woman of the duo replied “Oh, so do you ever go out?”, referencing the games aspect rather than the fact that University can be a very busy thing.
I was on the train… coming back from a night out. By all means, I wasn’t inside. I was in public, on a train. I wasn’t playing games – and even then I certainly go outside more than I play games. And that’s what made me think about all of this, and how I used to be – how her son is now, she explained, almost in a worried tone – and how I’ve changed.
And then it hit me: I’ve not just stopped playing single player games, but instead channeled them into two different things. Either as a social element, where I’d sit with friends and play Smash Bros. for hours on end, or as part of work, where I either pour my time into creating a single player video game myself, or play through a single player game to write a review on TSA. I’ve lost the bit in between, the bit where I just play and enjoy them myself.
I’ve rid myself of the part that confuses outsiders with video games – the part where you stay inside and play them alone. And while I know that it doesn’t make me a better person, or that it’s entirely a better way to enjoy my life, even if outsiders may think so, I do really miss sitting inside and playing them. But I just can’t do it when the world outside has so much to offer, and social interaction satisfies me much more than any game ever could.