"I am a gamer. Not because I don't have a life, but because I choose to have many."
I am a gamer, and a self proclaimed geek, and a nerd. I embrace all of them. Games have been a part of my life ever since my father brought home the Game Boy Color with Pokemon Red and Blue for my brother and I—a decision which he thoroughly regrets. My brother and I played and played pokemon, and we fought over whose turn it one to use the only Game Boy. Those games hold a special place in my heart because, as strange as it may sound, they were the beginning of a big change in my life.
I was never a really avid gamer until I purchased Starcraft: Wings of Liberty. Before then I had owned a Gamecube, the varying generations of Nintendo Handhelds (although my brother and I mostly outgrew them after we bought the first DS,) Xbox, and a scattering of PC games here and there. Starcraft, however; Starcraft was something new.
I had played Real Time Strategy in the past and I even owned Starcraft: Brood War (the expansion to the first iteration of the series,) but never had I become so absorbed in the mechanics, timing, strategy and flow of a game. It was not until Starcraft that I realized how much I loved games, and how much Starcraft, in particular, had taught me. While knowing how to four gate, 5 rax all-in, or maintaining proper unit composition are only idiosyncratic to the game and it’s players, I learned a lot about the thought process that goes into solving a problem and how I can improve that process for myself. Starcraft demands that you asses the situation, analyze possible solutions, and react accordingly. All of this should be done—preferably—before the other player kills you. In my life, this translated to a shift from being passive, inactive, and dependant to a decisive, proactive, analytical problem solver. Granted, there were other things going on in life that changed me too, but starcraft taught me that the mindset of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” is not good enough. If it isn't broken, but it could be better, then why not demand that improvement?
I won’t lie and say that I only play games where I might potentially gain a new skillset, or that I haven’t spent days of my life invested into what is, in essence, virtual. I have played games just for the entertainment; just because I like the story, because I feel bored, or because I’m avoiding some larger issue (just because I learned how to efficiently deal with problems doesn’t mean that I don’t fall prey to procrastination every now and then.) Moreover, this opens the whole debate between ludology and narratology (for those too lazy to read; it’s about whether we judge a game based on the narrative experience, or take it on face as a game), but we won’t talk about that here. For now, enjoy your games any way you like.
From the most primitive flash game to the awe-inspiring real graphics available to PC gamers, to the cartoonish nintendo style, video games surround us. We connect with them, they connect us to others, and—in their more complex iterations— they are capable of teaching us. We have all had days where we sit in a living room and play Halo, or Mario Party, and scream at each other in excitement and feigned belligerence. We let those moments pass without realizing what we are experiencing; we share joyful moments with other people, whether they be good friends, or in some cases, total strangers. My parents have never understood my love for videogames, or my willingness to self proclaim myself a “Gamer,” “Nerd,” and “Geek.” All of these stereotypes and sub-cultures riddled with misconceptions as being society’s introverts, pale faced ‘virgins’, and the socially inept darkness dwellers. I embrace these stereotypes because I seek to shatter them. It is easy to be an avid video gamer, engrossed in the narratology vs ludology debate while, at the same time being equally interested in things outside the virtual world. So, looking back at the leading quote; I do disagree. I am not a gamer because I have no life, I am a gamer because it it is part of my life. Maybe we all have a little bit of “Gamer” in us, and that is something that I, for one, take great comfort in.