Saturday, April 23, 2011

3 Reasons I Like Playing Games

[Preblog: The moment I asked the magical question, "Why?" a flood of ideas clogged my thoughts and couldn't decide which one to start with. The biggest bubble that floated fastest was another question, "Why not?" Ugh, it annoys me when people do that. Answer a question with another answer. BUT, there is something to this technique that can be very useful. Just remember to use it only on special and very specific situations.]

1. It's Freakin' Fun!
Everyone loves to play games. If they say they don't, it only means they're sad creatures. Cheer them up and then invite them to play. But, don't force them. It's not fun to play with sad people. Although, if you're up for the challenge you might get them to play with a bit of blackmail and coercion. Then, maybe you'll cheer them up in the process.

It's fun to win. But, I find that it's more fun trying to win. The process of doing your best to get that score or cheering on your teammates gets to me more than the climax of getting the score. Of course, a lot of my friends just play to win, but that's exactly where frustration begins. So, I just play to play. Win or lose, I had my fun! I think this comes from my childhood days when the bigger kids won't let me play along. So, getting to play is already a major win in my books.

It's fun to play with friends and strangers. You will see how different personalities unfold and loosen up when they are just playing. You can even observe your own inhibitions just fly away as you try to guess that word in charades or try not to be at the top of the pile in 1-2-3-pass. Laughter is possibly the best addiction.

Talking about addiction, it is fun to escape from the real world. Games have set rules, and players seemingly have greater control of the outcome. But, I personally think and feel that it is only the perception of control that matters. In real life, there is no direct and immediate feedback mechanism that games have. We do not see our health points go down every time we overeat. We do not see our XP increase every time we read a book. We don't get a rare item once we defeat the Boss of Procrastination. I think maybe it's time that we do.

2. It's Safe.
I find games comforting because it's an alternative venue to validate my abilities. I can show off. I can prove to myself or my friends I am good at something. And, it's okay to brag about your gaming skills because they're not real skills. But, I feel proud and confident about them.

Games make my life easier. Decisions in playing games are not as complex or as difficult as in real life. The limits have been set and the choices have been laid out for me. My main job is to show up and play.

Real life is dangerous. The pain of suffering and the humiliation of failure is all too real. But, games expect you to fail or die at some point and that is perfectly okay. They have made it easy for you to start again with little or no penalty. Our real life identities are too personal to us for us to take "those" kinds of risks that we can only do if we could in fact save our current status, then load and restart if we didn't like the outcome. In games, if we do it enough number of times, we'll get to the next level. Still, I'm saying now that maybe it's time to do it in real life. If we take the life- and ego-threatening dangers out and mitigate all the perceived and actual risks, we can do it in real life.

3. I Get Better & Better
I like challenging myself as much as I enjoy taking personality quizzes. There is some existential desire to become aware of my innate characteristics, abilities and limitations. There is also a greater desire to become better than my current self. Playing games allow me to fulfill both these desires.

You will notice that the casual games designers have me figured out. All casual games will have different levels of difficulty. The best casual games allow practice in tutorials or trainer modes. All engaging casual games require a learning curve that pits me not just against the game but against myself. The most engaging ones will pit me against all the other players segregated in various categories. It is a challenge to find a recent casual game that do not track your game achievements to give its players additional source of rewards and that happy dopamine kick.

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