Why Do We Play?

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A few weeks ago, I asked the Theology Gaming Community:

The TG Community answered:

  • Entertainment
  • Bridge gaps of distance
  • Stories
  • To slow down and enjoy friends
  • To learn new systems/rules
  • To be invited into a piece of art, by the artist, as a collaborator
  • To forget about problems
  • Video games are fun
  • Enjoyment
  • Escapism
  • Fantasy of having increased power/capability
  • Gaming brings people together

Sam went on to say:

Mainly it’s my time to ‘turn off’ from any sort of stresses in real life and just sit back and enjoy something. But there are other huge things I’d miss if I wasn’t gaming. Mainly the excellent communities you become a part of, and I have found, since starting college, it’s a great way to keep in touch with friends who went elsewhere.

Joe emailed me his reply:

Apollo 13 is one of my favorite movies. It’s a classic tale of man versus adversity. Human ingenuity wins out over a catastrophe that almost certainly should have spelled certain death for the three brave crewmen. It’s a great story to watch, but as a viewer I can only be a passive observer of this story. Kerbal Space Program, however, allows me to be the solution as well as the cause of all my Kerbonaut’s problems. What should be a routine trip around the moon turns into an epic series of rescue mission because of my inability to effectively design spacecraft. Running out of fuel, botched engine burns, missing solar panels, and the inability to dock two spacecraft turn Kerbal Space Program into an interactive rescue simulation. The best part of all this? My experience will never be exactly the same as anyone else’s. 
That’s the appeal of gaming to me: personalized entertainment. While most games will offer a similar overall experience to its players, little details and interactions are unique to each person. Nobody has the same struggles as I do in Kerbal Space Program. My approach to clearing Liberty Island in Deus Ex will be different than anyone else I know. Dark Souls fosters camaraderie with fellow players who follow the same story beats, even though not everyone will struggle with the same sections. Though I play the same game as thousands and millions of other people, my own experiences with that game are unique to me. This is what sets gaming apart from every other form of media. It’s fun, it’s dynamic, and it’s accessible. Why wouldn’t I play games?  

For me, gaming is about:

Relationships  The conversations that happen while trying to outscore my wife in King Domino.

Nostalgia – Playing Chess with my son reminds me of all the times I played Chess with my Grandpa. I miss him and those times we had together playing Chess, flying remote control airplanes, and telling stories.

Imagination – As with good books, video games allow me to visit other worlds and step into the shoes of someone else.

Discovery – Digital worlds come with their own individual sets of rules. I love seeing what a game world will allow me to do/not do.

Connection – Nothing like discussing games with fellow enthusiasts, taps into my nerdier side.

Sampling All The Flavors – I love constantly trying new games which allows me to experience the different gaming mechanics they each bring to the screen.

Why do you play?

Joe and the God who helps

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Joe, over at Theology Gaming, writes about Dark Souls and community. You can read more here.

There’s a life lesson in here somewhere. How many times in my own life have I set out with unwavering determination to accomplish a thing, armed only with my own knowledge and experience? More frequently than not those experiences serve to remind me that I don’t know as much as I thought I did. It’s certainly not that I think I know it all; I just think I know enough.

FROM ACROSS THE NET – “Dark Souls Journal #02 – Losing Battles but Controlling Myself”

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Joe, over at the Raving Luhn, is chronicling his adventures through Dark Souls. I like when consequences have permanence to them in a game.

That poor shopkeeper thought the best thing he could to do a well-armed traveler that bursts through the door is start talking. I had to respond somehow. I pressed a button that I thought was supposed to initiate interaction, but I pressed the wrong one and whipped a throwing knife at his face. He doesn’t want to sell me things anymore. In one enraged motion, he came crashing through his table and lunged towards me. I’m forced to defend myself against who I assume is the only one able to sell me supplies in this location. This shop is now closed permanently. No friends do I have in Undead Burg. All because I pressed the wrong button.

Read more here

 

Thoughts on The Witness

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Myst Island: Round 2

Jonathan Blow’s The Witness has me intrigued. A Myst game for the modern era.

I tend to forget how hard Myst was. Sure, the game was beautiful in it’s time. But Myst required coordination with other players. Writing down clues, puzzles,and code. The ultimate water cooler game.

Polygon — 8/10

“But The Witness throws endless puzzles at the player while almost never recognizing their accomplishments, which creates something of an antagonistic relationship between player and creator. I fear that will send players running to walkthroughs faster than they would have in a more rewarding environment.” — Justin McElroy [Review]

USgamer — 2/5

“And that’s the overlying problem: The Witness doesn’t care if you’re having fun—for the most part, it relishes in how clever it can be. There’s some joy to discovery, sure, but once that’s over with, you’re just scraping against the few things in your way. I appreciate Blow’s lack of presence in his world, but it’s a blessing as much as a curse. Of course, I understand what he’s doing: The Witness is very much a modern-day update of Myst, and meant to be played as if we were back in 1993. Ultimately, it feels like something designed to be chipped away at over weeks or months—not an experience to cruise through over a handful of afternoons.” — Bob Mackey [Review]

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I have read several reviews that liken The Witness to Dark Souls or even the more recent Bloodborne. Games that demand skill, patience, and an almost sharing of secrets. My more recent foray into Bloodborne had me consulting with friends for both strategy and encouragement.

The modern era has us all on our individual technological islands. What if certain types of games force us off of them? Forcing us to bridge the virtual gap, to talk in person, to somehow experience humanity again. Yes, that sounds dramatic. But you understand where I am going. Gaming has become a much more isolated experience, despite the internet. I am all for games that force us to connect with one another. Even if that connection is forged over progress and survival.

Are you playing The Witness? Tell me about your experience in the comments below. 

Bloodborne: Joy In Death

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Scuttlebutt on the street is that Dark Souls games are cruel. Punishing difficulty. Death equaling toys being taken away. A regular playground bully of a game series.

Firing up Bloodborne, I expected a steep learning curve. Dying over 30 times on the first nether beast, I thought that my experience was par for the course. Maybe the game doesn’t give you weapons for awhile? My fists of fury will triumph! And they did. After many rolls, dodges, and time, the nether beast died. Joy to the world.

Death is the teacher in Bloodborne. My moment of joy pooled in blood. I can hear Han Solo telling Luke Skywalker in A New Hope, “Great, kid! Don’t get cocky.” Best advice ever.

My friend Scotto noticed that I had taken up the hunt in Yharnam. He sent me a link to a walkthrough he is using. He noted:

“Helped a ton, and the author is pretty funny.”

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My character looks like Harry Potter. Complete with wire rim glasses. Will take a screenshot of him soon.

Geared up, I restarted the game with a new character. Picked up weapons in Hunter’s Dream. The hunt begins now.

Exploring the city, I take on it’s infected denizens with ease. Silly me to think that the game was sadistic enough to hold back weapons. Rolling, coming up behind an enemy, pure mechanical satisfaction. I found myself smiling. Until I embraced cockiness and died. I laughed.

Bloodborne could be the most fun I’ve had gaming in a long time. The challenge and skill level demanded is perfection.

I walk around screaming, “Bring it, monsters!” Forgetting that the blood shed comes at a price.

I have enjoyed knocking on closed doors in the city. People answering me on the other side. Revealing a small bit of story. Hunkered down until the madness of my hunt comes to an end. Am I damned to slaughter the infected forever? As long as I have my trusty cleaver and blunderbuss, I’m good with whatever the game wants to throw at me. Roll, fire, slash, repeat. Another night, another hunt.

Bloodborne: Death As A Teacher

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I am not a fan of the horror genre. Life has enough real horrors already.

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Ah, beauty of a different sort.

The City of Yharnam has become my new prison. My attempt to break out of my gaming comfort zone and explore the Souls genre. Bloodborne demands mechanical mastery. The ability to read individual animation frames, seeking vulnerability. Discovering that sweet spot at which to sidestep evade and attack. One cannot get too cocky. Spamming attacks with Diablo-like gusto. Some attacks take a moment or two longer. Leaving your character open to damage. Death brings about a refinement of skill. Death the great teaching tool.

I think I died at least 20 times trying to take on the first monster in Bloodborne. No, no, make that 30. No weapon in hand, no help, I struggled through Death Education 101. And yet, I felt compelled to continue.

“Tab, I think this is the meanest game I’ve ever played.”

In a moment of triumph, I beat the first shadow monster and made my way outside. Only to face a man with an axe. He died. Rounding the corner, I ran into two more guys with axes. I let my guard down, just for a moment. The game tells me in a simple manner, “You Died”. Yes, yes, I did.

Bloodborne is definitely not one of those games that I will be playing in front of Wyatt. The Gothic atmosphere, showers of blood, and creepy monsters all have the makings of a fantastic nightmare.

For me, the Gothic aesthetic is just there. I had thought it would bug me with my aversion to the horror genre. Like Neo from The Matrix, I don’t really see the in-game world. All I see are moments to evade, attack, and not get killed. Bloodborne appeals to that mechanical side of me that loves pure gameplay. Gameplay that demands your absolute best.

Yharnam is my home now. A digital mosquito bite that I want to itch.