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The spirit of an older gamer: Why I play games and why other people play games


Clephas

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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?

 

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I love playing games with my friends but online competitive games are the worst. Played LoL for few years and now I just can't stand playing it with my friends because they are getting serious, screaming and pointing out every single small mistake. 

Mindlessly grinding Diablo 2 or 3 and PoE is still okay with friends because there is nothing competitive in it so you can just click few buttons, talk and have fun.

But yes, I enjoy single player games much more.

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I stopped playing helbreath (MMORPG) back then because one day I realized I wasn't having fun anymore, maybe it was fun only the few first days. I spent months grinding, leveling up, getting better equipment, doing all kind of boring stuff.. which only stressed me, just to show off my "super character" to some people I barely knew. I remember having huge fights with other players for stupid things, getting mad and angry for nothing at all and the worst of all was that I also was mad irl too not just in the game.
It took me a lot of time  (almost a whole year lol) to figure out that I wasn't having fun, that it was more about my ego and showing off rather than enjoying what I was doing and yeah I probably was addicted to that shit xD.

Since then I haven't played another mmorpg or anything like that, I do play from time to time left 4 dead 2 but I have fun playing it, other than that I stick with single player games and recently only vns, it has to be a really good game or something that I truly love to hook me up like when I was younger (like any of the dark souls, any metal gear etc).

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I never play anything online, apart I believe we played WarCraft 2 on the modem with my friend. I do not like anything online, takes too much time and life is too short. I actually lost most of my interest in games after I graduated from university and started full-time job. It is too time-consuming, and after you played 50 RPG you know all the tropes you will see in your next one - same story for action, same story for arcade - nowadays it is just a bunch of tropes, only indies could deliver something interesting, but no game catch me same way it was when I was younger. So now it is like "download the game - play for 20-30 minutes - delete the game". So it seems I lost vigor I had, as any grinding irritates me (it was different before), any slowdown irritates me, recaps irritate me, so that said I will go full circle back to replaying my old favorites (like Aladdin for Sega/PC) or will play casual games like Super Hexagon or VVVVVV.

Too bad to be old.

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Online games? Ha!

I'm too slow to keep up with other people, and apparently I don't "take things seriously enough". The best evidence of this is how much I love RTS's... yet how I only play them in singleplayer. Perhaps the most recent examples are the Company of Heroes games, which I've played hundreds of hours of, and never even tried multiplayer. Well, I did try. I was useless. Nobody was very happy with me. The usual.

In other genres there's stuff like the Total War games which have an online component... hardly ever used it.

My ventures into Call of Duty online consisted mostly of standing around being useless trying to support teamates... only to realise everyone's a bloody lone wolf. Okay, I'll go back to the older games' singleplayer campaigns. Fine.

I'll eventually try out the Battlefield games, too. When I can convince myself to fork over the money and time for one.

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Similar story here with regards to JRPGs and MMOs.

I found my addiction to JRPGs is due to their story (fantasy/sci-fi genre) than its gameplay (though some still catch my interest) - thus moving to more story driven mediums for entertainment, i.e. VNs and books.

Also achievements and bonus dungeons (coughdlccough) in games these days are the worse thing ever as the goals are usually on the achievable but take a long time side - where's the "switch off the console and think about how good the game was" feeling once the credits finish rolling?

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I can relate, in fact I'm currently taking a long break from my favorite multiplayer game because I realized I wasn't having fun anymore, and was mostly playing it out of an obligation to stay competitive. I might still go back to playing it after a while, but I really need to rethink my mindset. I constantly keep getting upset about people killing me and blame the game for being unbalanced, and even if I win, I think of it as something for granted.

I could probably still have fun playing it as long as I don't overestimate my own skill and think that other players are just random noobs. It's all about expectations, after all.

 

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I do play MMOs from time to time (I'll generally tackle one every year or so) but ultimately, I'm not really a gamer, so even in those cases, the most I'll really do is login a few times per week and run around doing some quests and looking at pretty dresses for whatever loli I'm playing. Pretty rare for me to get obssesed with a game to the extent you're describing.

As for JRPGs, I also like them, but they generally have too much gameplay and not enough story to me (the ratios are messed up.) It's why I mostly stick to VNs and anime. 

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That has given me a lot to think about.

Ever since I started playing WoW, I've very much developed the kind of addiction you described. Granted, I actually did enjoy the WotLK expansion, but I only played Cataclysm for the PvE rankings. It didn't help at all that I was at the top of performance charts and meters in my guild, other guilds, and sometimes even worldwide (that's when the real obsession begins). Since then, I've put myself through misery in games like Runescape and Osu for the sole purpose of gaining ranks and feeding my ego. Granted, I did enjoy doing quests in Runescape, but I've finished them all and I'm kinda dreading the thought of putting hundreds of hours into grinding xp for ranks. Osu is pretty fun to play on certain beatmaps, but it's a ton of work to get decent at it and it's easy to fall into bad habits that can kill the game for you. I've also put a lot more strain on my tapping hand than I should have. I loved playing Osu at first, but it's been a couple years now and it feels more like I'm in it for the fame than for the fun.

The one thing about playing games like these is that they make me feel like I'm actually good at something. I was raised in a low-income family, and because my parents were always away at work and I had too many responsibilities taking care of my siblings, doing chores, and never having a regular allowance to spend, I never had the chance to pick up a more productive hobby. A small handful of video games and basic cable were all I had for the longest time. As much as I loved playing enjoyable games that weren't competitive, I still felt like I was lacking something. With online games, I loved the idea of being acknowledged for my skills as a gamer because it gave me a certain sense of pride. Considering how average I am in everything else, this was refreshing in a way. Sadly, however, there are too many downsides to this. The biggest one is that even if I do feel accomplished, I'm still not happy. I get a brief moment of satisfaction whenever someone acknowledges my prowess, but it doesn't last long. Having to put time into something I don't like has made it more difficult for me to cope with depression. I can also get pretty anxious when I'm coming close to a major achievement that I could mess up on. Things like keeping my hardcore status (not dying) on Runescape during a tough boss fight or holding out for a full combo on Osu are pretty nerve-wracking. And because it takes up so much time, I have difficulty putting in the time I need to get my life together (losing weight, finding a job, preparing for college, etc), and that just drives me even further into depression. Pulling myself out of online games would free up a lot of my time, which I could spend doing things I actually enjoy.

Thanks for posting this. Reading your article and typing about my experience helped me realize how much of a hole I've dug myself into with online games. I don't know if it'll last long (it probably will), but right now I'm convinced that I shouldn't be playing these anymore.

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With over 1000+ hours in SC1, 2000+ hours in SC2, and 500+ hours in osu, I think I know the flavours of addiction. I played Starcraft 1 and Starcraft 2 all the time for about a year and two years respectively, quitting mostly just before I went into Uni. Also was addicted to osu in streaks. Now I'm more sensitive to whether or not I'm actually enjoying the game, and I can put in perspective the gratification I'm getting from it.

Also, about MMorpg's, when I came back and tried MMOrpg's I was suprised at how weak the player to player interaction is by default. Couldn't stand it.

1 hour ago, Kenshin_sama said:

Thanks for posting this. Reading your article and typing about my experience helped me realize how much of a hole I've dug myself into with online games. I don't know if it'll last long (it probably will), but right now I'm convinced that I shouldn't be playing these anymore.

Glad you realized that. From someone who's gone through this... don't be too hard on yourself if it takes time to get off the game. It's still an activity that you are very used to. Especially for people who have used games as a diversion from real world tasks, important to recognize that failing in real world stuff (like trying to do X, and failing) isn't the end of the world, nor something to be afraid of, you just have to learn from it and try again. RL stuff relies on strategy and skill, and takes time to figure out, just like games.

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It's actually pretty hard for me to get addicted to a game nowadays since I get saturated pretty fast. It's almost the opposite, it's hard for me to get motivated to even start a new game even if it's a good one. I guess less time than in my younger years is probably the most likely reason, though not the only one.

Still, I played Dota 1 for almost 2 years regularly cooperative against the AI with some friends. That was a really fun time. Then we switched to LoL, the AI sucked and we played more competitive against other people and the game almost turned to stress with people getting too ambitious and upset when games weren't going well. And so I lost motivation and stopped. I was never really interested in competitive play since I play to relax not to prove something.

However, people are different, some friends of mine really enjoy the competitive part. Even if they get upset sometimes, it's somehow easier for them to come down again afterwards. I seem to be more... resentful. :blink:

Always kept some distance from MMORPG's since I didn't want to start a second 'life'. I also care more about story in RPG's than other people which is usually a weak part of those games.

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I'm only 20, so sadly I haven't been into gaming since the early days.

My first memory of a video game is at the age of 3, my dad was a tech-nerd all the way and has a beast of a PC back in the 90's, I still have his old VooDoo card. I remember at around 3 years old sitting on his lap and playing Fallout 1 with him reading the text to me, while I tried to get my 3-year-old brain to process what the fuck was going on. After that we bought a PS1 for the house and I instantly fell in love with Crash Bandicoot, my dad and I used to play Crash Bash together and he even thought me to hold the controller backwards due to his competitive nature. After that when we moved out of the U.S. I managed to get a copy of GTA 3, still one of my favorite games, playing it at around age 7 or 8 maybe? It was an amazing experience for me, playing something that mature.

This is when we devolve, moving back to the U.S. I had neither a PC nor a console, so my gaming died out for a few years. Eventually in 2007 my mother bought me a new PC, a crappy one, but a PC nonetheless. This is when my MMO age started, I could never afford WoW, and being really young at the time I started playing Maplestory, fond memories. All my classmates at the time played it, so we used to run a guild in Scania, those were fun days, and maybe the only MMO I truly enjoyed except one other.

After that moving out of the U.S. again I found myself again without a pc or a console. This is when I started getting into building PC's, I took parts out of some old PC's and built a really crappy PC, Pentium 4 if I remember correctly. This was 2011 by the way, so, crappy PC. Luckily being Jewish when I was 13 I got a shit ton of money from my family (yay me), and used it to build a new PC in 2012. These were good days for me, this is when I started getting back into Fallout, my dad being dead by this point and Fallout being a connection to him I fucking loved it. I started playing everything Bethesda, EVERYTHING. I went into Mass Effect and loved it. Then into Baldur Gate, Neverwinter and finally Dragon Age: Origins, one of the best games ever made in my opinion.

Today I sit here sadly, I fucking hate Fallout 4. The only game I really enjoyed aside from visual novels in the last year was The Witcher 3. I still love tinkering with PC's, I just feel like I have nothing to do with them until a new CD Projekt Red game comes out. Like you, I drop games left and right because they feel boring and like a waste of time. I guess i've matured somewhat, expecting more from the games I drop my money on.

And that's the story of my life, gaming ties into it pretty heavily. :vinty:

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4 hours ago, Godskrieg said:

 

Today I sit here sadly, I fucking hate Fallout 4. The only game I really enjoyed aside from visual novels in the last year was The Witcher 3. I still love tinkering with PC's, I just feel like I have nothing to do with them until a new CD Projekt Red game comes out. Like you, I drop games left and right because they feel boring and like a waste of time. I guess i've matured somewhat, expecting more from the games I drop my money on.

And that's the story of my life, gaming ties into it pretty heavily. :vinty:

Go Cyberpunk.

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I'm pretty sure I only have fun playing single-player, story-oriented games, but I do find myself on the addiction train with games quite frequently. I have friends with whom I regularly play competitive FPS games (currently, we're playing Destiny every weekend); we play it seriously and get mad, almost exclusively at ourselves rather than each other, but we're all mature enough to not get too worked up about it. We definitely have more fun when we're doing the less-competitive stuff, even if it is still grindy; the PvE gameplay in Destiny is a genuine pleasure, in a team environment, so I'm actually happy when we do that. Less so with competitive. The adrenaline rush is great and all, but the disappointment of losing really does suck.

I miss the days when I played more JRPGs, but on the other hand, I don't see those friends very often, and one of them especially is a very good friend, and this is by far the easiest way to keep in contact with him.

And, even when gameplay may look grindy or repetitive to some people, it can still be dazzlingly fun to the player. I never got tired of pushing buttons on a plastic toy guitar in Rock Band, and I was absolutely euphoric when I got really, really good at the surprisingly deep, responsive, and skill-rewarding combat system in Lightning Returns: FFXIII. Even Destiny has a lot of that same joy, and in a much better way than similarly-styled MMOs with RPG mechanics at their core rather than shooter mechanics, mostly because by making the interface much more difficult (shoot the dude rather than click the button), they also had to make the game so much more forgiving to mistakes. That left a lot of room for creativity to do your own thing, which keeps the game fresh and fun even though I've been playing it for hundreds of hours.

But yeah, I've definitely been through the addiction, almost exclusively with MMOs where the social aspect serves to keep you in the game, though also with Disgaea games where it's the grindy nature of the game itself that somehow pulls you in. It's not pleasant, and you don't realize just how bad it is until you're finally truly clear and realize just how much time you have to do things that are actually fun.

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