All of you reading this will, in some way, be a gamer. You’re at RSBandB because you do, or did, play RuneScape at some point or another. Many of you will play other games besides these, whether it be Counter-Strike or PokÃ©mon or anything like this. Many of you will have other consoles besides computers. Many of you will play other games that aren’t on the computer. Football, chess, poker. They’re all games you enjoy, and are all essentially a fantastic waste of our time.
Yup, a fantastic waste of time. Gaming is, at its most basic level, something to do when we’re not doing anything else. It’s mostly unproductive. But there’s such a universal affinity that people have with gaming in some form. Whether it be card games, video games, sit-down role playing games, anything. People like wasting their time, putting countless hours of effort into something that actually doesn’t really get them anything or do anything. We even spend money – paying to waste our own time. This is, you have to admit, fairly illogical.
Perhaps we have to delve a little deeper into the fundamental nature of games and gaming. What really is a game? Why do we play them?
A game is a chance to forget everything else around you and immerse yourself almost wholly within a new world. Whether you’re concentrating on your cards, or whether it’s that next alien appearing on the screen, you are devoting your attention, your mind, towards something that isn’t the real world. Depending on the game, you could be challenging your reflexes or your strategy, your problem solving or just your luck. You’re escaping into something you might not be able to do in real life. Rarely if ever do people in the western world have to test their ability to kill a bear, and never has anyone had to shoot aliens or fire shells around a racetrack or summon an Aeon.
The very nature of so many games is to escape from things that are real into things that are not. Those of you who have ever played a decent sit-down game of D&D will know that it can get really engaging and even addictive. So many other games are like that too.
This very fact is the reason people play WoW and RuneScape and PokÃ©mon and Second Life so obsessively – these games happen to be a significantly larger escape than others, with almost endless possibilities of things to do. Escaping into another realm like this can be destructive, but everyone enjoys the chance to step out of reality once in a while.
So many games are designed specifically to test and challenge us – in fact, basically every game is. Racing games are a test of judgement and reflex, RPGs are a test of strategy and tests of intelligence, action games are a test of quick thinking and quick responses to events on screen. We like a challenge, and we like succeeding at that challenge. That’s another integral part of human nature. Whether you’re a university professor who loves challenging yourself with mathematical equations or a mechanic who wants to find exactly what’s wrong with a car, we all like the idea of problem solving, conquering a challenge of some sort, and we all love the feeling of succeeding in something. Games give us opportunity for this.
It might not really feel like it with many games, but all games are about some form of competition. Often they’re competition against someone else, or another team of people, or it could be competition against yourself. Take Su Doku or Patience (the card game) – that’s effectively a competition against yourself. Chess and Draughts, very old games that have been around for centuries, are about a battle of wits with one other person.
Then there are multiplayer games, where you are in competition with many other players. Sometimes it is ludicrous to aim to really be the best (ie, beating Zezima), but there is still a level of competition amongst small groups of players. For example, someone might aim to be the best in RSBandB, or try to win one of the SkOTM competitions. It’s all about competition, trying to make your character better and stronger – partly competition in yourself, partly against other people. I’m sure a lot of you set yourself various goals when you’re playing RuneScape, or another game. ‘Get to level 80 in woodcutting’ ‘Do these next two levels’ ‘Get Pikachu to level 20’ etc, etc. In a way, these goals are a kind of competition just for yourself. Sometimes you might not succeed, sometimes you’ll win your little competition, and it will feel good when you do win.
In a way, all of these things are just different methods of interacting with the world, with others. All these things about various parts of human nature – being social, using our brains – they’re all part of what makes us people.
Winter-een-mas has just finished. It’s a holiday that occurs every year during the last week of January. A holiday to celebrate gaming in all its forms. First made just as a joke by a character in a comic, it’s an internationally celebrated holiday now. Not really official, but still celebrated by people all around the world.
I think it’s a very worthy thing to celebrate.
I hope you had a happy Winter-een-mas.