The spirit of an older gamer: Why I play games and why other people play games
I've been playing video games more or less constantly for over twenty-five years.
That's a very simple statement that holds a surprising amount of meaning, considering how much video games have changed since I first began playing them.
It began with the NES, for me... with Mario, Luigi, and the ducks. I shot ducks out of the air, I jumped Mario across gaps and on top of turtles, without ever really understanding what was going on. As a kid, this was fun, seriously. Understand, this is the biggest point I am going to try to get across here... the difference between addiction and fun with video games.
I played rpgs, primarily jrpgs, throughout most of my first ten years as a gamer, starting with Dragon Warrior (Dragon Quest), eventually reaching levels of true love with Final Fantasy II and III (IV and VI), Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana, Secret of Evermore, and Ogre Battle. When the era of cd-gaming came, I played D&D dungeon-crawlers on a shitty dos computer setup, and I played every jrpg I could get my hands on, with a lot of shooters, strategy games, and sports games mixed in.
Throughout all of that, I was still having fun. Fun was my reason for continuing (I've always been a story-centric player, so I tended to stick with jrpgs, but I did play a lot of other stuff) and my reason for playing in the first place.
It was in the PS2 era that I first came to recognize the difference between taking pleasure in playing something and merely being addicted to it. I picked up FFXI and started playing it on the PS2 (yes, it was possible to play it on the PS2), and for the first time, I knew addiction... for the first time, I poured hour after hour, day after day, into a game that I wasn't having any fun at.
I was constantly irritated, constantly driven to continue, whether for social reasons (friends I'd made in-game) or simply because I felt like I was 'almost there'.
Then, one day, I suddenly looked up and realized... I was immensely depressed and not enjoying anything about the game. The sense of having wasted my time... sent me into a funk that lasted the better part of a year. I still played games, but the color seemed to leech out of the screen even as I played them. I realized that I was seeing bits of FFXI in other games, and that was enough of a reason for me to actively hate them.
No game hit me this way more than FFXII... because FFXII's battle system is essentially that of FFXI with some tweaks. Visually, it was a nightmare, and the weak story and characters only made it worse for me.
Ironically, it was the realization that I honestly didn't trust Squeenix to provide pleasurable games anymore that led me to start playing a lot of the weirder stuff out there... such as Eternal Darkness for the gamecube and the SMT series. Ultimately, because I'd become very much aware of the difference between pleasure and addiction, I lost interest in games that I would once have jumped onto simply because they were jrpgs or done in a style I found interesting. I started abusing Gamestop's used game 'seven-day return policy' to demo games, and I slowly but surely came to realize that I honestly and truly hate multiplayer games that aren't played in the same room.
I am now an unabashed solo gamer, even outside of VNs. I won't play most multiplayer games at all, and I hate games where the social element is as or more important than the actual gameplay or story. Of course, if a game has an interesting concept, I'll try it... but if I feel that sensation I used to get from FFXI, I drop it immediately, cancelling all subscriptions and discarding all related materials without a second thought, even if I paid a good deal of money for them.
To be blunt, life is too short to waste on playing something that is merely addictive (this coming from a VN junkie, I know). That sensation of false social interaction you get from online gaming and the high you get from winning in competitive games is highly addictive... but are you having fun, really? I wonder, how many younger gamers actually know what it is like to enjoy a video game, rather than simply being addicted to one? This is a question that seriously bothers me, as I saw my young cousin playing Call of Duty (whatever the latest one is) online, unsmiling, for two days straight while we were staying at their place a few months back. He really, really wasn't enjoying himself. He was angry, depressed, and frustrated, but I never saw even a hint of a smile when he won, only this vague expression of relief he probably thought was a smile. Was that relief that his team-mates weren't treating him like a worthless noob or an incompetent, or was it simply because the match was over and he could relax? I don't know, because I didn't ask. I know from experience that the difference between addiction and fun is fine enough that most people don't even recognize it is there until they are forced to.
What are your experiences, gamers of Fuwa?