Experience Points: For The Love Of Games
Since everyone and their Uncle Ezio took it upon themselves to talk about Assassin’s Creed 3, either lambasting or defending it, here on eGamer; I thought we needed a break from discussing such trivialities. Instead, I wanted to focus on something greater and more worthy of your time. I thought that this time around I would discuss something important, something which we never talk about in gaming enough, something a tad positive. Today, dear readers, I want to talk about ‘the game’ that opened up your eyes to the wonder of games, gaming culture and the like. Perhaps in some ways that particular game changed a facet of your life in some way.
You know I often get asked the question: “Do you get paid to review games?”. Nearly every time, I answer with a nonchalant “no”. I review games because I love gaming. I’m not in it for some ulterior Doritosgate motive and PR sham. No, far from that even, and to understand this, I need to explain a bit about my history with gaming. I grew up with the Golden China, AKA Super Famicom, also called NES. In South Africa, we called the console “Golden China” for some reason that was beyond my basic understanding of Apartheid South Africa, copyright infringement and the piracy that ran rampant in the gaming sector at the time. As a result, I was brought up on the likes of Mario and Adventure Island. I then graduated to my first gaming console, the Sega Genesis or Mega Drive, where I actually understood what I was doing, i.e. playing videogames. I played games like Sonic The Hedgehog 2, Mortal Kombat 2 and some random X-Men and Power Ranger games that I remember fondly. I finally made the move to the PlayStation where I became addicted to JRPGs, and Final Fantasy 9 was my ‘thing’.
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Following this, I started playing around with emulators and found myself playing through older classics on the SNES, with Chrono Trigger being a highlight of my high school days. I then moved on to the PlayStation 2 and it wasn’t until I started PC gaming, and came across a Bethesda game called “Fallout 3” that I really began to take gaming seriously. I had always played games. It was ingrained in my psyche and spirit from early on in childhood. Retrospectively, when I think about it I did grow up gaming, but I lacked the self realisation about what it meant, and I never had thought about it beyond being something that I did to pass the time. There wasn’t an emotional investment or an attachment that I felt. I think this had a lot to do with my level of maturity and the phase of growing up that I took to gaming much more readily, and with a dedicated passion.
For me, Fallout 3 was the ticket to a greater gaming passion and dedication. The game stood out to me at a time when I had finished high school and had started my first year at university. It was engaging on so many levels. Yes, the game was flawed, and bugged to hell and gone. But it had a great sense of freedom, an interesting set of characters to interact with and a story of hope, and suffering, in a nuclear wasteland. That resonated with me, and it was at that point that I thought of gaming in a more serious light. I had written about games before. But this one game ignited my passion to actually attempt at writing about games, in the most honest and truest way I could muster. I didn’t know what that meant at the time. Or where I would land up, but games clicked with me at the stage of my life.
Some may say I was late to the party and missed out on so many great games, many of which I played over the duration of my undergraduate degree with games like Half-Life, Half-Life 2 and much of Valve’s offerings. I looked back at games I had played over the years with greater understanding, and I could see that ‘gaming’ was something much more than simply the action of playing the game, inputting commands into a controller and purely playing. Through my own gamification, I realised that games went well beyond the perceptions of older generations and what they accepted videogames to be. In games, I saw the culmination of film, art and music.
Games offered a world of interactive escapism that could teach moral lessons, ask hard ‘human’ questions and bring to gamers stories which could only be told in the format a game provides. My passion for games had surfaced and made its path clear into my research interests, as a researcher in academics. It was in 2010 that I decided to write about and conduct research around gaming culture.
Then, during the earliest part of last year, I e-mailed my details for a possible column post here at eGamer and was invited to write for the website. This had been a long time coming and when people ask me why I write about games I wonder ‘what’ they think my reasons are. It’s not because I think games are cool, or a trendy thing to be talking about. It’s because games have defined so much of my life, who I am and where I’m going. Writing about games is a natural extension of myself. At the end of the day, I am a gamer.
I play games for the love of games. Not to pander to other people’s opinions, to become a slave to the PR machine or be a troll for the sake of attention and views. Games and I have a long journey ahead of us. It is a journey I look forward to with great optimism. The coming year has a host of games that can be seen as pushing the boundaries of what a game is ‘supposed’ to do. Let’s see where this goes, without ranting and raving at the drop of a hat.