Monday, August 04, 2014

The Gaming Experiment

I've never been a gamer. Ever. My dad has taught me well that games are a waste of time. Back in the days, the PC was off limits and I don't dare use it, but that was the time when laptops wasn't the norm and my pops would be using the PC. Now in the time of laptops, people are sitting in front of their laptops from the moment they wake to the moment they retire to sleep so the desktop is free for non-laptop-owning people a.k.a. kids who are not yet in university that own laptops for work.

Even so, I am not one to be so driven to play games either. My hand-eye coordination sucks and I quit at every difficulty stumbled, and the fact that I could "die" and be revived in games, sometimes leave me abandoning my game character to die to end the game without even putting up a fight. Even in my playing style I tend to recklessly rush in and hack and slash my way which is why any form of upgrades I select in the game is to enhance my character's health or shield or health regeneration.

Recently, I've acquired my own console, and I had so much free time, it appealed to my reasoning that I might as well kill time with this, and I don't have to worry about overworking my laptop by playing high graphics games on it because I could do so on the console, and so, the gaming experiment began.

I tried a few games, but I was most addicted with Bioshock Infinite and Skyrim. I was addicted for real, I would play for a whole week for the whole day and then I'd realize my addiction and I'd suddenly stop. Currently I've stopped playing for a few days to get my life back into order in time for the school year.

I played Bioshock Infinite on Easy level, well, mainly because I wasn't confident of my skill, but I played the whole thing to the end. It's pretty much scripted all the way as it's based on a story line, so to know what happens next, you need to keep playing, and I guess it's like an interactive movie. The graphics were beautiful. I've never been a fan of zombie games because of 1) I'm scared of zombies 2) I hate the dingy decaying dilapidated deserted towns surroundings. Bioshock Infinite has a lot of open spaces, is well-lit, whimsical and colorful. I could just "walk" around in the game, sometimes I forgot I could even sprint from danger, while admiring the scenery around me, and I liked the characters in the game too. I just had to play it to the end to know the whole story and what happened to the characters. Of course, its plot elements and themes revolving around Science and Philosophy appealed my academic side, so, apart from pure fun and enjoyment, I enjoyed googling up the concepts after I play the game. It just hits the right bookish buttons in me, although on the gaming side I am really terrible at shooters. I'm a slash and hack type, and I don't aim very well while moving and taking cover. If it were a stealth kill shooting I'm probably better at that because nothing will be rapidly moving.

Skyrim's enjoyment mostly came from the fact that it's an open world and there's gazillion places to go to and gazillion things to do, and the scenery is insanely beautiful, although not as colorful. I could just not do anything in the game and watch the aurora in the night sky, but of course, some random beast would interrupt my sky-gazing session. And, you can freaking kill dragons and feel badass about it. Though, I could easily kill dragons but I die from a regular old sabre cat scratch -.-. Apart from the graphics, I also appreciated the work put into the AI's. Reading about how the developers tried to code in random events and what the vast characters in the town do to keep the game fresh or "organic" was the term they used was really interesting, and also, appealed to my academic side. The fact that you could interact with a character, make choices and change the character's disposition towards you is really interesting. Also, because of the extensive coding, the game gets buggy too, and the bugs are always fun. The only thing that probably disturbed me about Skyrim was probably the immoral things you do in it. Well, you don't have to do it in the game even though you can, but it probably won't get you far, and you probably just tell yourself it's just a game. Like, you can be a real douchebag and do whatever you want to an NPC (non-playable character), ranging from pickpocket to kill, just for kicks, but of course, if you commit crimes and you're caught, you could still go to jail in the game.

It's kind of weird how games get really violent, or are purposely violent. Yes, I am not in favor of the argument that games cause people to be violent in real life and inspire them to go killing, but it makes me wonder why are they made, mostly, to be violent. Why do people find the fun in violently killing characters in the game ?

There was one part in Skyrim, SPOILER ALERT, I helped out a priest, but in part of the same quest later on, I was supposed to lure him to a cannibal party. I had the option to either save him and kill all the cannibals or kill him and/or eat him. I couldn't possibly kill all the cannibals at that level cuz I don't do so well against magic-based opponents, so I killed a priest in his sleep, which already made me feel bad, and then, I had the option to either leave or eat him. If I eat him, I become a cannibal and I will be granted a ring that will allow me to eat flesh from dead opponents to regain health (which, of course, gaining health from killed opponents is right up my alley to make up for my impulsive hack and slash personality). So yeah, either ways, in real life, they would be terrible things to do. Maybe I'm just thinking too much because it's just a game, but even if it is in a simulated reality, the fact that you could make those horrible decisions which you probably won't do in real life can sometimes be disturbing, because you didn't have to do it, you were given an in-game choice not to, but you'd do it anyway either for the fun of it or for the rewards.

And the fact that people are trying to improve game graphics to make it look even more real, and gory, that's kind of disturbing too when the kill happens. Like, I can't take a kill that results in green colored goo spewing out as blood that seriously, but when human-looking things die it's a bit weird. Another weird thing I find is that I could face human opponents no problem, but when it comes to zombies it's a little creepy. Technically, if I went by that logic, I shouldn't be able to take killing zombies as seriously because they look less human than human characters. Then again, should only humans be morally disturbing to kill in games ?

I don't know why aside from the fun side of things, I'm putting on an academic moral lens while playing games. I guess, I'm not truly a gamer at heart as I still see it not purely for fun, but rather more as a study of human psychology and behavior when engaged in playing games. I guess technology does unlock a different dimension for human psychology to develop, because the virtual reality that is created in games can be made to mimic reality itself, but not quite.

Like when I stop to look at scenery in the game or "talk" to NPC's, you know they're not real, but the way you can appreciate the almost "real-ness" quality of the virtual world makes you want to "explore" it even more as if it really does exist in some kind of space or plane of existence. It's really weird.

Most people probably don't think this much about games than I do, or maybe I just miss reading or thinking or writing about philosophical stuff. I'm just. That kind of person.

Update : recently, my in-game spouse (yes, apparently you can get married) in Skyrim was accidentally killed in action. It's really weird how the finality of the "death" hits me when I realize how weird it is coming home to an empty house without having that character around for generic conversations. Apparently, it's pro-monogamy too and I can't remarry. It's so weird how things have transpired in this game and how it almost imitates concepts in real life that affects the player. Spooky.

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