Eight Geeks

Thursday, January 26, 2006

A Philosophy of Games

I've always been attracted to games. I don't mean your average "kid likes to play" thing; rather, games are large part of how I became who I am. They are a fundamental force in my life; an influence on my mental processes and psyche. I've been thinking a lot about it lately, and I'd like to share.

Some of my first memories of family involved card and board games. My parents taught me how to count with a deck of cards and point-counting games like rummy, dominoes, and Hi Ho! Cherry-o. They worked my memory with games like Husker Du. I don't know how much this early exposure shaped my outlook. A lot of good early memories center around games. It might have been the fact my family always seemed to have fun then. We weren't exactly a hate-fest at other times; quite the contrary. There were rough times, though, mostly money and work-stress related. I wasn't actively aware of it at such an early age, but I had to have noticed.

Even before I hit ten, I was obsessed with games of all kinds. Sports were okay, but I liked more strategic things, like chess, Tank Battle, and Carrier Strike (my brother's games, showing both a bit of hero worship and the start of a trend of him whooping my ass at military sims).

Then came the videogames.

I was hooked on arcades before I ever went to school, and between the Coleco Telstar, the Atari 2600, and the NES, it was never going to stop. Here lay the answer to my most baisc gaming problem; i.e., needing someone to play with.

As I grew, other games came and went. I was obsessed with Magic for a while, and MUDding. I had played RPGs before, but not regularly, and not with people I actually liked that much. College was really what changed all that.

You're probably starting to wonder "What's the point of this listing of crap you've played?" Well, the list isn't important. It was just to give you an idea of exactly how much of my life has been spent playing games. I've spent an enormous amount of time rolling dice, clicking mice, and getting things thrown at me for being an overcompetitive bastard.

Games are probably my key de-stressor. If I want to sit and think, or rest my mind, or clear it, I try to play a game of some kind. If I've been under a large amount of stress, to the point of getting angry for no reason, the best way to cool off is games. I admit I'm obsessed, but how did it start?

I think I latched onto games for several reasons. The social aspect of board and card games was big to me. Even when I was small, I didn't relate to others well, particularly after I skipped a grade. That throws you into a situation of not only being younger than your classmates, but you've been removed from your social group, and been set apart from your peers (being different is so great for kids, really). Games, though, have a defined social framework. There are rules that define relationships between players. You have stick within those rules for the situation mean anything, and failure to stick to the rules is a basic taboo. "Cheater" is a tag no kid wants to be saddled with. It was a situation I could work with.

Those same rules also allowed me to change who I was. I didn't have much going on the self-esteem front for most of my life. When I play games, though, I enter another world; the world of the game. Pieces and situations come to life for me. It's a place where I can put aside my insecurities and simply let loose. Even should I lose, I can divest myself of that world and move on to the next. At lot of my competitiveness comes from playing against my family, who always play to win and don't cut anyone any breaks (even a five-year-old). However, a lot of it comes from the fact that winning in that other world boosts me up in my own mind. It gives me a reason to smile. That's less of an issue these days, but the same impetus is there. The same satisfaction occurs; it is just less of a balm and more of a bonus.

I sit and reflect on this a lot. It's a hard thing to express to others. I'd like to understand how games work for others. They're so comprehensive an influence for me, I have problems seeing how trivial they might be for others. Not a lot, but it leads to the occasional loud disagreement.

What do games mean to you?


  • My earliest memories of family game-play was my little sister kicking my ass in Uno, which hurt a lot more than you might think, since she was actually below the recommended age listed on the box. My sis is a lot smarter than I ever gave her credit for, I guess.

    As to what they mean to me, well, they're a chance to sharpen my mind and my skills. That's why playing with Aradia drives me nuts, because she's the least competetive person I know, and beating someone like that is like kicking a puppy -- it may not be easy, but if you manage it, you're gonna feel bad about it in the morning.

    By Blogger Coralius, at 11:46 PM  

  • Hey,
    I'm not sure that I like that. I may not be the most competitive, but I LOVE to play, and, oh yes, I even LIKE to win. It just doesn't drive me nuts to not win like it does some of you.

    What do games mean to me? To begin with, playing games with my family indicated to me love, closeness, happiness and serenity. My family didn't have much, but we had each other. Playing games meant that Mom and Dad were in such a place that they could relax a bit and have fun with us. Now they mean that I can relax and be myself with people that I love - when I get the opportunity.

    By Blogger Aradia, at 11:14 PM  

  • We're trying to arrangve that more often. We're also trying to balance that with not taking up the weekends you have off together. I feel guilty about that.

    By Blogger Ranson, at 1:34 PM  

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