Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of articles where the members of the staff will talk about WHY they play games. This week we started with Kelly. It is Mother’s Week after all! ~Stephen
Gaming is often heralded as a time waster, or as holding entertainment value for children alone. Very frequently, adults who game are cast in a poor light, as lazy or as socially inept loners. Due to these stereotypes, I find myself answering the same question repeatedly: “Why do you game?”.
As a child, my family was big into card games; we got together weekly (or more often) to play games like setback and thirty-one, and I knew how to play blackjack before I was even old enough for school. It was family time; we played on teams and we played by ourselves, we bet quarters and candies, and just mocked each other relentlessly as we played the only way we knew how: competitively.
When I was six or seven, my cousin got an NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) with a few games. “Duck Hunt” and “Mike Tyson’s Punch Out” were the quick favorites of my sister and I. Eventually my cousin got the game that would change it all for us: “Wizards and Warriors”. It was my first taste of a roleplaying game (RPG), and despite my sister handling the controls due to my platforming game ineptitude, I was sold.
I remember borrowing that NES & game from my cousin the week before we left for Disney World. We had made it to the final boss just *moments* before it was time for us to leave for the airport, so we did what any person in a non-saving game would do: we paused it & turned off the TV.
We came back from our trip, only to have our parents turn on the TV to find a horrible flickering polygon-laden screen! Our game progress was lost, and we had to return the system and game to our cousin. Let’s just say, we weren’t allowed another system until N64 came out in 1996.
Board games like Life and Monopoly – and especially Stratego – were very popular in my family. We played whenever we had the time, and it was usually a fun and engaging experience. I mentioned before that we were competitive, and board games were no exception; there was no quarter for children in the war of the game. We learned by losing; we struggled and we planned before we finally got to taste victory. And when we did, it was usually very, very, sweet.
As I got older, I kept playing card games and board games, but I didn’t come back to video games until I had a PC of my own in college. I started playing Diablo and MechWarrior, and got really into a MUD (Multi-User Dimension) called Dragon Realms. RPGs were my favorite of all types, and they became the gateway to tabletop gaming. What was interesting about tabletop was that it wasn’t competitive; in fact, we worked together for common goals, and that made it feel new and innovative.
Tabletops were a form of expression for me. I would write detailed character histories and even change my inflection when I would play my character for Dungeons & Dragons. Far from the stereotypical basement and Mountain Dew, we played in the living room and ate Taco Bell; also, there were girls there.
I found out about Live Action Roleplaying (LARP) and headed to a local game with friends. The idea seemed amazing: dressing up in costumes while hitting people with swords made of plumbing supplies? I played my first game, and despite being about the worst you could be at it, I fell in love. That was 13 years ago, and I still play now, whenever I have a chance.
In that time, I also found a love of collectible card games (CCGs), which helped fuel my competitive nature. Magic the Gathering, Gundam Wing, Magi Nation, and even Sailor Moon cards filled binders and binders with card stock, and let me put my strategic skills to work through deck-building and play with worthy opponents. I also got into World of Warcraft, which I considered the inevitable advanced progeny of Dragon Realms.
Over time, my gaming tastes have changed. I love the creative outlet that is tabletop and LARP, and they are both things I love to share with my daughter. I also love the teamwork, puzzles, and strategy involved in a good cooperative board game, as well as the very different and shifty strategies of competitive games. I still follow the Diablo franchise, but I don’t play Warcraft any longer. I love games on a console that I can play with my daughter, but at the young age of four, we find much more fun to be had in board games.
So, why do I game? I game because I love to compete, because I love to cooperate, because I love strategy, because of how it helps me think, and because… it’s fun.