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Replay: In Defense of Gaming
by Joey Núñez

Last weekend I was spending some quality time with my Buffy and Angel DVDs[1]. As usual, my lovely PS3, Polly, was in charge of the DVD playing duties. All was well, vamps were being dusted and Buffy was being as kickass as usual. But it seems Polly had had enough of those silly DVDs, and decided a strike was in order. She proceeded to shut down. Polly hasn’t turned back on since.

Yeah, my weekend pretty much sucked.

Polly’s fate is still unclear, but if you’re wondering how I’m holding up, the answer is surprisingly well. Complete and utter chaos has not erupted, and work has kept me busy enough, so I haven’t had much time to fret. Still... even though it has only been a few days, the absence of my PS3 is already painfully noticeable. Polly is, without a doubt, the pièce de résistance of my bedroom, and in her absence it took me all of about two hours to dust off my PS2 and start revisiting some of my old favourites. The whole ordeal has revealed to me that a couple of days without gaming is a couple days too many.

As I bemoaned the painful, hopefully not permanent, loss of Polly to some friends, I found myself once again having to defend my hobby. I can’t deny that as I have grown older I have taken a hard look at my hobby of choice. Not too long ago the consensus was that I was getting “too old for those kid games”; but as the next generation consoles (and also the Wii. See what I did there?) have made gaming much more mainstream, that opinion has died down considerably. But the naysayers aren’t all gone.

For what seemed like the fifth hundred and thirty second time I had to illustrate to non-gamers on the glories and values of the video game. The result was somewhere between a rave and a rant, but by the time the dust settled I once again felt validated, the intrinsic value of my past time proven, and walked away with the certainty that my hobby kicks every other hobby’s ass.

Since a) you guys will probably find yourself in a similar “Defense of Gaming” situation someday; and b) you crazy kids just love lists, I’ve summarized my ranting and raving on the awesomeness of gaming into the four points below.

So, without further ado, this is why I game:

1: Fun things are fun

First things first: video games are fun. Can most of you remember the first time you put your hands around a video game controller, or set your fingers down on a keyboard? Back when we were all gaming virgins, and had no idea the relationship we were getting ourselves into, or what that guy on the screen was supposed to be doing, there was only one thing we could do: wing it. You jumped and ran around with no other goal but to jump and run. There were no trophies or achievements to hunt down, no urgent need to complete a level, no “noobs” to be “owned”. You were gaming to enjoy yourself, and nothing more. The important thing about playing a video game was having fun.

Games have become more complex, and gamers seem to take their hobby more and more seriously each day, but we should never forget, in the end, gaming should always be about enjoyment. Today your average gamer is tech-savvy enough to ask about frame rates, textures and level design, but even they have to admit, there is one key requirement that any good game just has to meet: one way or another, it must be fun. Good games are fun to play, period. What better way to spend a couple of free hours in a day than having fun?

2: Gaming is a social experience. No, seriously.

Sometimes it’s planned, and sometimes it happens spontaneously, but more often than not when Sunday comes around my significant other, my friends and I find ourselves huddled around Polly, controllers in hand. We mess around in the user-created levels in Little Big Planet 2, bash each other’s heads in for a while in Marvel vs. Capcom 3, or take some guided tours of Renaissance Italy in Assassin's Creed 2. No money is spent, no gas is used, but fun with friends is had none the less.

Contrary to what some people would like to think, we gamers are perfectly capable of having normal social interactions, and video games can prove to be an extremely useful tool to that effect. When you’ve got yourself a nifty gaming console and some good games at home there’s no need to cook up some lame viewing party or movie night to have your friends come over - all you need to do is obtain enough controllers to let everyone hang out and play.

I’m pretty sure that if every world leader had a PS3 in their office, diplomacy would be a much simpler affair. Who needs war when you’ve got co-op and death matches?

3: An easy way to go through the looking glass.

Forrest Gump had it right: life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get. We have all had less than stellar days, weeks, or months, when nothing seems to be going quite right. It is during times like those that you would give anything to be able to step out of your life, if only for just a second, and forget about everything that’s going wrong. It has been my experience that gaming is just the right way to do that.

It is true that movies and books also provide escapism to a certain degree, but I don’t think they come close to what video games have to offer. Sure, you could watch Frodo and the gang bring it to Sauron in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and I’m sure that will provide some distraction; but better yet, why not jump into a world which is just as detailed as Middle Earth and be the characters on their epic quest for just a little while, making the tough decisions and guiding the heroes in their journey by your own hand? If that sounds good to you, then Final FantasY VI through X are highly recommended.

As a kid I used to be mesmerized by the Indiana Jones films. I always wondered what it would be like to go on one of those dangerous adventures and discover the mysteries of an ancient tomb. As a teenager the Lady Lara Croft gave me a taste of that anthropological brand of adventure. I led Ms. Croft through perilous traps and labyrinthine halls, and with her I discovered prehistoric treasures and forgotten civilizations I'd never dreamed of. When I was playing Tomb Raider I didn’t have to dwell on the fact that my parents were getting divorced - not when I had an ancient temple to explore.

With the technology available to game developers today, even complete historical cities can be recreated for us to explore (Assassins Creed anyone?). Essentially, through technology, the entire world becomes our playground, and when created properly video games are nice little vacations from our lives. Let’s face it, we can all use a vacation now and then.

4: Gold stars, blue ribbons and shiny trophies.

A few days ago Greg Mengel talked to you guys about the wonders of Mega Man X. I, like Greg, am also a huge Mega Man fan, and as I read his article the other day I started reminiscing and pinpointed just what was so great about the Mega Man games: the extraordinary sense of achievement that seems to overwhelm you when you churn through one of those levels and crush its boss. It’s no secret that Mega Man titles can sometimes seem impossible to conquer, which is exactly why you feel so empowered when you eventually see those end credits roll. The experience of starting up a game, mastering its intricacies, and eventually plowing through its challenges is something every gamer loves.

Before Polly decided it was time for a break I was able to, after hours of practice, complete every single combo challenge for Phoenix in Marvel vs. Capcom 3. I felt like a freaking god (and yes, a lame victory dance was involved). Does that make me a complete and total nerd? Well, yeah, I guess it does, but hell, I felt great doing my victory dance. I'd earned it.

So there you have it, a rock solid defense for gaming, feel free to pull out this list, or some variation of it, when you find yourself having to prove you’re not an antisocial hermit just because you like to play video games to your family or friends.

In any case, chances are if you’re reading this now you don’t need convincing, you know gaming is awesome. So tell us below, why do you game?


[1] That’s right, in addition to being a gamer I’m a card-carrying, browncoated Joss Whedon fan. I’m awesome, deal with it.

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- Joey Núñez

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