[Gamer Responsibility] Escape and the Pursuit of Life

If I may, allow me to break the fourth wall of buttonmashing for a moment.

As some of you may know, I am an associate pastor of a rural church. One of my primary responsibilities is working with young people. A goal of mine is to lead and encourage them to live in faith, morality, genuineness, and to make an impact. In speaking with young people (who may even be like some of our readers) I am always trying to get them to see what is really important in life. Often in this society—especially in America—we spend most of our lives trying to escape it. Video games, movies, music, books, sports, parties, technology, and other such forms of escapism are moderately not bad, but can consume a person’s life.

Sometimes people forget. Why are we here? Many people think it’s to try and be happy, maybe even by pursuing the escape of life. I don’t think that is the reason. I believe it to be all about the impact we make on those around us. If we build a better life for just ourself, does it make it worth it? How about if we build a better life for another person?

You may have heard of Dr. Randy Pausch and may have seen his “Last Lecture” video. This is a person who doesn’t have long to live but is making an impact on those around him. His escapism is his life. The following is a ten minute presentation he did on Oprah that sums up his initial talk. I believe he gets it. He’s not a gamer (that we know of—he is a geek, however), but he knows about gamer responsibility.

Escaping to the world of video games is not a bad thing. Living the world of video games can be another thing entirely. Who does it benefit?

A few years ago I spent over 2,500 hours in Guild Wars. I have nothing to show for it other than lack of sleep, mini-arguments with my wife, and times lost that I could have spent with my first child during his toddler years. My evenings and Saturdays were full getting ultra-rare intangibles. I learned from that experience, and now I spend most of my time with the two boys I have.

Yes, there are times that we spend playing video games. Other times we read, we draw, we paint, we tell funny stories, we watch birds in the back yard, we travel, we disagree, we agree, and we talk. We live. As a gamer my responsibility is to not always be one. Yes it is something that I like to do, but there are a plethora of things that are more important.

I chose this topic for my first posting on gamer responsibility because I think it goes beyond just playing games. It’s foundational for how we should look at them. It’s foundational for how we should play them. I know that many arguments can be made for being immersed in video game culture, and I’ve not addressed any of them. That’s not what this is about. All I ask is who does living a life of virtuality impact?

January Cabin Fever

I’ll never buy a PC game again.

The following quote was from a Google Talk chat that I had with Tony a couple of weeks ago. I guess it was a lie. I don’t know what it is about January, but I always become weak this time of year for PC games. It’s like I have to catch up for the year before. Many times I’ll purchase a game in January and not play it until late December or early January (Hello, Civilization IV this year!).

I guess this year was no exception. This silly trend of mine started almost four or five years ago with Far Cry. Then it was Unreal Tournament 2004 (loved it!), Galactic Civilizations (learn..ing curve!), Guild Wars (2500+ hours!), Command and Conquer 3 (meh to good), Galactic Civilizations II (strategy perfection), and Civilization IV. In the last week, I’ve purchased four titles that I’ve had in the back of my mind to play: Unreal Anthology, Rise of Nations: Rise of Legends, World in Conflict, and Rail Simulator.

The Unreal package is kind of a weird misnomer this year. When we moved this last August, we ended up losing one box, just one. This was a box that had some computer games in it. Of course, they were some of the games I played once in a while. The anthology replaces some of those games.

I don’t know where this weakness comes from. I think it has to do with a man needing to have a cave. Our consoles are out in the open in the living room, but the PC pretty much has a room to itself. I find it enjoyable and comforting to go in there from time to time and just veg on a good game. It might even be to that I’m coming down of the holiday high and I want to replace that with something different. RTS usually seems to be the preferred flavor, but I may go all out crazy on some action as well.

I’m wondering if I am alone in this? Do any of you guys have a weakness when it comes to games, console or PC? Do you have a cave as well?

So now what?

I haven’t devoted as much time to games recently as I have to finishing Resident Evil 4. Before I started playing RE4, I wasn’t playing anything with any regularity. I played some Guild Wars when I got the chance, maybe a game of Mario Kart DS or Animal Crossing Wild World, but other than that, I wasn’t too commited to anything.

Finishing up RE4 has renewed my desire to game again and now I’m not sure what’s up next. Playing through RE4 has piqued my interest in the Resident Evil universe, so I may play some of the older RE games. I started playing the REmake of the first game for the Gamecube, but never really made it that far. I know most of the older games are flawed in their controls, so that may be hard to overcome, having been spoiled with the over-the-shoulder camera and controls of RE4. Nevertheless, I’d really like to see more of these character’s pasts and get more of the back story. I still say Capcom should capitalize on the success of RE4 and repackage all the Gamecube editions of the series in one mega-pack. Throw in a couple sweet collectibles and I’d be all over it.

I’ve also got “The Queue” to work on. I really should get back to Metroid Prime 2: Echoes and Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance. The list is long and I should give it some attention. But it’s probably not going to happen.

It’s not going to happen, because I’m strongly considering giving EVE-Online a try. The guys over at Kill Ten Rats, one of my daily reads, are always posting excellent EVE bits and pieces and I’m very intrigued. I almost bought EVE-Online last year when I was looking for a new MMORPG to play. I ended up with Neocron instead of EVE (which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing). Neocron was fun but eventually fizzled out. It didn’t exactly put Massive in MMORPG, which always bothered me. EVE looks much deeper (maybe it’s too deep) and a lot more vibrant. From the looks of it, the crafting system is complex and confusing. Just the way I like it. A good crafting system is one of my basic needs, so this may be the clincher. I loved Neocron’s crafting system (the best I’ve experienced) and EVE’s looks much better. So there’s a good possibility I may download the client and give the 14-day free trial a go. I will still have to grapple with the monthly fee, but that’s something that can be worked out.

You guys have any suggestions? Any experiences with EVE? Anything else I should try out?

What I’m playing

Even though I have a stack of unplayed games (hereafter to be referred to as “The Queue”), I am currently engrossed in Resident Evil 4. Even though I finished the game over a year ago, I’ve been playing the Mercenaries mini game, off and on, for the past couple months. Just recently I decided to endeavor to get 5-star scores on all four boards with the five characters. I unlocked the last character (Albert Wesker) and then spent some time racking up the scores needed on each board. Upon doing so, I unlocked the “Handcannon” which would be available to me next time I played. So I started the regular game over again, this time with the “Pro” difficulty. I figured I’d get to the first encounter with the merchant, buy the Handcannon, go blast some baddies with it and be done with the game. Things didn’t go as planned. I got to the merchant and the handcannon wasn’t available. But I had been enjoying myself so much that I decided to finish the game on Pro difficulty. I just rescued the President’s daughter from the church and now we’re trying to get out of dodge.

Having played this game extensively the past week has reminded me why this is such a great game. The game defines what a polished game is. The attention to detail is what gets me every time. From the authentic Spanish phrases (I will be updating the list with words and phrases I missed the first time through) to the gun reloading animations, I can’t say enough. Just a fantastic game, top to bottom.

Ashley Resident Evil 4I decided to go with the “Special Costumes,” an option you get once you beat the game. Leon is now decked out in his Raccoon City Police Department Uniform. It’s a nice touch. Little did I know that Ashley (the President’s daughter) would also be sporting a new, *ahem*, costume. I couldn’t find any screen shots of the new costume, but she’s gone from the demure and preppy skirt and sweater combo to a revealing cowboy outfit, complete with a rather revealing halter top. It was rather unsettling to see her risqué side. I guess I should come to expect such things.

So yeah, I’ll be playing Resident Evil 4 for a while. I’ll eventually get back to Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance and the rest of The Queue, but for now it’s RE4 time, all the time. I still try to squeeze in a game of Guild Wars when I can and I also check in on Animal Crossing: Wild World to check the price of turnips and to water my red turnip, but that’s about it. My animals will probably be complaining and leaving town sooner or later, but tough for them.

I got escort the President’s floozy daughter to safety.

WTS Charr Carving!

For you Guild Wars players:

If you’ve spent any amount of time hanging around in Piken Square you’ve probably picked up quite a number of these curious little charms… but now you can have your very own handmade replica!