When asked by my friends why I have a PS3, XBOX 360, 3DS and the like, I often look back at them with the same curious expression. Gaming could be likened to nurture versus nature, do you grow up gaming or is it in your blood? Can it be both?
The first time I picked a game up, it was one of those hand-held games that had the set background and the object of the game was repetitive, a la Donkey Kong. Though diverting, it didn't hold my interest for long, and the specialty batteries made it impossible to power after they had run out. This went on for a few years before the Nintendo became commonplace. I had to pay my parents back for it, but I got one, wasting countless hours away on Mario and Bowser until I could afford to buy another game. I had a total of four NES games as a kid, when I got my Sega, I had two.
As I grew up, I stopped playing games. Though my college dorm was rife full of gamers, they were mostly guys and didnt want to let a girl play. Once I graduated and starting making money, the idea popped in my head, how nice would it be to have a respectable game collection? The PS2 was a great entry back into gaming. I picked up Grand Theft Auto 3, a Batman Game and Metal Gear Solid 2. The first game I completed was a Spiderman game based off of the movie. Metal Gear took the longest to get through, but once completed, I was hooked. The challenge came not in the hours of cut scenes, but the elaborate story that was affected by the decisions I made, to some extent.
It was at this point that I realised gaming had evolved from the repetitive simplicity I had started on to something much more adult. Some might argue that the audience has aged with the systems, but that has always felt like a cop-out to me. There is still a lot of thought that goes into an idea, be it for kids or for adults. The audience matters, certainly, but that doesn't define whether an idea has merit.
Gaming was always a niche activity, something that had a narrow audience, mostly men. This never deterred me. The friends I discussed games with were all men I worked with, guys in their early- to mid-twenties. They didn't think much of it, I am a bit of a Tom-boy, enjoying sports and the like. It was this generous introduction that made me feel welcomed, the hobby inclusive, unlike so many other hobbies. Luckily I started gaming before online gaming really became popular, I would have realised that this was not what most gamers would like to see.
As a gamer, I want to enjoy my time in an evolved story where game play impacts the outcome of a game. There are few games that truly fit this bill. I think of games like inFamous that do this wonderfully, providing two very separate styles to play the game with, different endings based on your decisions. The same can be said about other games like Red Dead Redemption or Bioshock, though both only hold variant endings, perhaps. Games like these define me as a gamer, I think.
In games, whenever there is a choice, I always want to make the right choice, the one that benefits the person in need, the person who cant help themselves. I'm currently playing Assassins Creed 3, and in one side-mission, the option is to pay the red-coats or fight them or leave the man to his own devices. Being the gamer that I am, I've been doing dozens of side-activities, so the money is there, but more than anything, I wanted to avoid the open confrontation and have the issue be resolved to everyone's benefit. I know that makes me idealistic and naïve, so be it.
To play a game is to do something that, in real life, you would never be confronted with. It isn't just about blowing off steam or blowing your friends away in multiplayer. The games that stick with me are the ones that have a compelling story and game play that matters, that makes me want to decide whether someone lives or dies.
I feel, though, that I am in the minority. As a woman gamer, over the age of twenty-five, I don't carry the same sensibilities that, say, a twelve-year old boy would have. To me, there are really two types of gamers: the conscious and unconscious gamers. The conscious gamers are the group I would belong to, they are aware they are playing a game, aware that there is something more out there than the game, that games are an escape but a way to be creative and communicate. The unconscious gamer are kids, plain and simple. The unconscious gamer doesnt care about story, doesnt care about aesthetics, only shooting things, killing things and nothing more.
The two groups are easy to differentiate, one wanting to mow down everything in sight, others being thoughtful and introspective in the face of adversity. I'd like to believe the conscious/unconscious gamer can be seen in real life situations, but the contrast is too great to make a reasonable comparison. The gaming culture is made up of all different types of people with different backgrounds and different walks of life. Some use gaming as an escape, others a way to improve their lives, others still to take from those they play with. To quote the always appropriate 'V for Vendetta,' a gamer is 'was Edmond Dantés... and he was my father. And my mother... my brother... my friend. He was you... and me. He was all of us.'