Gaming is for bachelors?

While Auriea is away, visiting family at the other side of the globe, I find myself more interested in improving personal skills than otherwise. I usually don’t care much for challenging myself or developing personal routines when I’m with her. I guess the relationship itself brings enough challenges and routines. Plus any free time spend on my own, doing personal things like learning to play a certain piece on the piano, feels like time away from her. Which is not how I prefer to spend my free time.

If I have the choice.

But if I don’t have the choice. If I am alone. Then suddenly those options become available. I do think it’s mostly because it takes my mind off of being alone -something which I deal with very badly, Auriea and I having done virtually everything together for the past 10 years.

And I find myself thinking of the challenges that players of videogames enjoy so much -and that I often fail to understand or appreciate. Maybe they are similar to learning a piece on the piano: trying to do something for no other reason that being able to. Dedicating yourself to the task of developing the skill. It passes the time and takes your mind off of your life for a while. And your death. And your loneliness. And it makes you feel like you’re improving yourself.

Maybe I just don’t understand videogames because I’m happily married. Maybe this is what is keeping games from breaking through as a medium. That most people are.

18 thoughts on “Gaming is for bachelors?”

  1. It’s curious that you compare gaming with developing a skill. I see them to be quite the oposite while a skill usually requires some dedication for a period of time (often long). Games kind of give you the illusion of getting something done in a short time, you have to go there kill/find/collect something and you go and do it, most of the time you don’t even need to think much about it, and a soon as you get it done it turns meangliness there is no real sense of achievement. Also where you can learn to play a instrument and then perform different pieces in most games you can get level 999 and then play a different game and event if you understand the mechanics perfectly already you’re stuck at level 1 and you are forced to learn to walk from point 0, even if you can already run

  2. Being away from Auriea is no excuse for being obnoxiously condescending, you know. There are a lot of experiences you don’t enjoy. I get it. But I resent your implication that anyone who does enjoy them has some sort of personal problem. In doing so, you have crossed the line from stating an uncommon opinion into flat-out insulting other people. I’ll have you know that a happily-married friend of mine enjoys conventional games. But even if you couldn’t find any evidence of married gamers, you should be ashamed of yourself for suggesting that the two things are related.

  3. Heh, it was my boyfriend who introduced me to games. We’ve now been married for thirteen years and I still play them. Sometimes together, sometimes alone (but still in the same room, just doing different things). Never out of frustration. In fact, if/when we have some kind of disagreement, I don’t feel like playing games at all.

    Must admit I do play games when I am on a business trip and away from him, to make the time we’re separated seem shorter. But I fail to see how that would make my marriage an unhappy one. 😉

  4. In the best cases, I feel exactly the same, Sand Whale. But when I’m not having fun, other people tell me that it’s because I don’t take the challenge seriously, that I need to develop the skills to solve the problems that the game poses. And that that leads to fun.
    I can certainly imagine that.

    I was just wondering out loud, Mory, not making a statement. There’s no need to get upset. I have nothing better to do than ask myself silly questions. 😉

    Yes, Astrid, Auriea and I have played games together a lot. So it’s definitely not a general thing. And I consider every marriage where the couple stays together a happy one. :)

    Also, there’s nothing wrong with being a batchelor! I don’t have much experience with that life style, but I can see that it has certain advantages. Like being able to enjoy certain games, perhaps. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying games. Not even with enjoying games that I don’t happen to like. 😀

  5. I say use that. Go prototype a game. Design something when your shaken out of your usual pattern, and see where it ends up. But try to approach it with less of a cynical view of the capacity of games, a less narrow view of the capacity for game play itself as a means of expression, as opposed to relying entirely on color and theme. You might find a way to show those meaningful goals you have in game play in a way that you find relevant. Games can express anything in the world, perhaps you can find your best stuff when your in uncomfortable territory.

  6. No offense Michael, but I think you’re just being mopey because your sweetheart is away. Games are hardly only for anti-social bachelors– heck, when we’re apart my wife and I like to play silly online games together (REALLY silly, like card games and stuff with wizards).

    And I’ll be honest, on the road in a hotel room by myself is probably the last place I’d feel like playing a game like The Path or The Graveyard. Not if I felt like getting to sleep, anyway. I think there is a time and place for cheerful, not as serious games. Just because you haven’t improved yourself by playing them doesn’t mean they’re bad. Two of my favorite authors are Virginia Woolf and P.G. Wodehouse. Woolf might be the author who makes my brain work harder, but I don’t think that makes old Plum any less brilliant.

  7. I’m not mopey. As I said, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being alone. I just think that it’s easier to enjoy challenges when you’re alone. If only because there’s no one around to see you fail a hundred times before you get it right. 😉

    My mind connected this to videogames because they are often described as challenges and there seems to be something wrong with with people who don’t like them, especially people who make games. So I’m just trying to figure what’s wrong with me.

  8. I enjoy common games and I think you really understand what they are about, Michaël, but you just don’t enjoy what they can give you.

    Most games are about offering a space with its own rules, inside of that, the player has to exploit those rules to make whatever has to be make in the best way possible. The point is understanding what is everything about and then using the context the game gives you to get the prizes you can get from it. What is behind everything is just competitiveness. Competitiveness with real people (you versus other people) or competitiveness with yourself (you versus the challenges the game gives). By thinking this way I find videogames really similar to sports or playing an instrument.

    Then, as you say, what is the point on doing that? Why the weightlifter trains 8 hours a day his muscles for being able to lift 300 kg.? The main thing is challenge, seeing that you can do better if you labor a bit more. The art of crafting nice things with the materials (the rules, the mechanics, the different elements) you have at your reach.

    I also have to say most current games are not just this way. Unfortunately nowadays we are stuck on a strange combination of hollywoodism (expectacular looking achieved via graphics, physics and other technical issues as american commercial cinema has its entertaining show with its special effects) and traditional “sportive” gaming mechanics. I find being at that intermediate point without succeeding in any of its extremes its what is damaging the most this medium.

  9. Many of these comments are strange. They seem to be getting defensive and angry about things that Michael’s did not even say in his post.

    Michael doesn’t seem to be saying that there’s anything wrong with people who play games. He’s trying to explore why he doesn’t really get into playing games (any more?).

    I am a game designer, and I don’t play games nearly as much as I used to, so I find it a very interesting post.

    I think that I used to play A LOT because I had more free time. If I had more free time right now (if I suddenly became unemployed for posting to forums instead of working, for example), I would probably load up a few of the games I have installed that I haven’t even found the time to load yet.

    I think that within a week, I’d have played some of Fallout 3 and Far Cry 2, for sure. but I haven’t even loaded them up, because when I get home, I want to work on the various projects I have going, that I never have enough time to get on top of. I work on games all day, also, so I suppose that’s a special case, and it removes some of the escapist appeal of games, perhaps. But I think it’s more a matter of spare time. I still enjoy games when I play them.

    I think that for serious gamers, you need to alot a lump of time to “get into a game”, like 1 – 4 hours. That’s the way I play games. And I don’t have a 1 hour block to allocate to getting immersed in a game. I have other things that aren’t getting done if I choose to do that.

    Also, if you have a wife or husband, I think you unlikely to have lumps of spare time to allocate to gaming, unless perhaps you both play together, or are separated by distance or circumstance for some time, and you find yourself with some lumps of free time on your hand. I think that’s because – especially if you work full time – you just don’t have much time to spend together, so the time you have, you’re unlikely to be performing a soloist, reclusive activity like gaming, you’re probably going to be cooking dinner together, going for a walk, or even sitting together reading, or going out somewhere together. Different relationships have different dynamics of course, so different situations for everyone, but it’s likely you’ll be doing something together. And games are still generally a solo activity, with the human engaging with the computer.

    I always enjoyed games as a kid where the game would facilitate a raucous interaction between players in front of the machine. Like Gauntlet, Spy vs spy, etc. Multiple characters on the one screen, interacting, and working together or against each other, with the players sitting side by side, jostling, jibing, heckling, etc. That’s fun! There should be more games like that. (I suppose console games take that approach more than computer games, with multiple controllers hooked up, and a comfortable environment to co-inhabit the space in front of the game – ie: the lounge room couch).

    I look forward to a time when I have some more gaming time on my hands again!

    Enjoy yourselves!

    – Murray

  10. Thank you for recognizing and supporting the innocence of my post, Murray. It is indeed strange how gamers are so aggressively defensive when it comes to their hobby. But I think I understand it in the light of this post. Because it can be read as a confirmation of the prejudice that videogames are only played by creepy asocial nerds. This was not my intention at all!

    Then again, while I understand that nobody wants to be called an asocial geek, from a broader perspective, this deserves some thought. Indeed, as Murray has pointed out, many people move away from games when they get jobs, get married, etc. As a result, the gaming audience does remain young. And as a result of that, due to the highly commercial nature of the industry, games are predominantly made with a young audience in mind. Creating, obviously, a vicious circle.

    The likes of Murray and I, who want to play but don’t have sufficient solo free time for the games currently on offer, are left out in the cold by the industry. Shorter and more social games would indeed bring us back in. And why doesn’t anyone make games for couples?

  11. No worries, Michael, your post didn’t seem negative about gamers, so much as the games that are readily available. Specifically, I was thinking about your comment that becoming skilled at a game “takes your mind off of your life for a while. And your death. And your loneliness. And it makes you feel like you’re improving yourself.

    If something is escapist, it can be hard to justify time spent playing it. What I was getting at (and probably phrasing it badly) is that I don’t think “fluff” games do nothing for the player. Sometimes the mind needs to unwind, and things like mainstream games and silly novels can do that.

    But it would be nice to see more games that aren’t just the equivalent of thriller novels, but are more literary in motif. Tale of Tales makes those, but the list of companies that do is a short one, I’m afraid.

    The point that you and Murray bring about time is an important one. I think you’re right– the majority of the “big titles” seem to built around rewarding in game time. Perhaps games could be designed around shorter periods of time in, where simply dipping one’s toes in during a coffee break (or while your wife is in the tub) would nonetheless be a rewarding experience.

  12. Hello
    I can say that i can spent MANY ours playing different real PC games like Half Life 2, Carmaggedon 1, 2, HioCtane and still today i play them..Btw as a matter of fact i played games on Z80 if anyone remembers them..I have a pretty big experience..
    In my case from gymnasium (grade 1 to 8) i developed a BIG social anxiety state for unknown reason.When people around and when i knew deep in my subconscious that all my actions excites some other people especially adults made me enter automatically in Shaking body, negative thoughts and all bells and whistles that this problem had..So basically nothing was good to me because almost ALL enviroments where i ended was full with 2 legged animals.I somehow drain their emotions from everyone around me and build them In me and ended with BIG problems.I am 25 now and i can say these years were very painfully for me because my anxiety made me incapable of doing anything right..Always mistakes and i couldn’t control.My parents and adults around me were stupid enough to not what’s happening and they kept pushing me all the way..Guess which was the ONLY escape i had..It was the all video games that all parents hate today..And there you can trial and error as much as you want and no adult was around to correct me at this..No physical being so my anxiety state was more or under control.Unfortunetly when the playings in network with other people my anxiety kick in too so basically my subconscious KNEW that i play with human and trigger my lovely state all time.After all this years i can say that i developed some different ways of achieving things and keep me alive and my view on the world is pretty diffent than the normal adolescent guy..
    The anxiety problem brought me to fields and ways to solving things differently..At 16 or 17 years old after i saw some mind cycles repeats themselves but i couldn’t control them i discovered a book about telekinesis.Maybe some people here don’t believe in it but this is not the point.This start of reading about telekinesis made me read about alternate state of mind so BINGO i have a solution for my social anxiety/depression..Also some video games gave me a glimpse HOW it feels in alpha state but unfortunetly they were for a match or two and couldn’t control them…This curiosity kept me alive..I want to enter in that state and control it.In games i could win without concentrating at all.I just sit on the chair and before i begin the match i see something in me is changed..Very relaxed and everything is easy to do without training..This brought me further and further from games like simple shotters quake, cs, half life 2 etc to Mind altering games and powerfull emotionally that are worth every second like Silent Hill series , Myst and URU series…All this last games have something in common with your games michael and is ART and dreaming state, quietness and lonelinness..I had a LONG way to go to apreciate what means quiet, why is nice to be lonely …Why it’s nice to listen to a simple waterfall listen to the forests…
    Another thing that made me play games is that unfortunetly texts (books) themselves sends me to sleep in 10minutes or 20minutes..This happened very often so school was a pain for me because i begin to sleep long before i even begin to repeat materials for next day..So the altering state of mind was triggered basically in video games because the brain was amazed and the curiosity kicked in hard…Sound, image and atmosphere and the most important for me were feelings that rushed in my blood..
    Trust me on one thing…The competitivity games or big lans don’t bring any art..I was in clans in Half 2 deathmatch but basically is borring..Usually the very high succes titles are no filosofical or dreaming ones (this the biggest problem of many video game players),they lack the unexplained ingredient.This games are logic usually and you need to Learn the mechanics and combinations..On the other hand in URU or The path there is no logic during levels so basically many gamers will dismise the game like is too hard..You need to FEEL these art/dreaming parts to really love these games…
    I think the theory with left and right brain is very true and because WE use the left brain that is logical 90% of time we dismiss the unlogical stuff..
    Corporate mentality is full of logical people, they need steps, asurance, they need explainable things, they need logic..They need to feel confortable so they can work..This is why poets are not understanded by most people or abstract drawings ….You are a right brain i suppose and you developed other structures..The logical will never have your brain structures and they will never understand But you can understand the logic crowd, you can learn their patterns easily , they are easy to predict..
    ALso i am surounded mostly by BORRING things like routine family crap conversion , drinking, girls, corporate crap conversations and mentalities so basically i am in the wrong place and my survival instinct tells me that you can’t hear all this crap anymore and needs something else….It needs the fresh air, it needs the silence..This is where games like yours kick in..ART..ART..Curiosity and ART..
    I hope i explained as clear as i could this complex fact..
    I love the fact that your game The path is like in meditation or trance:
    “You don’t where you are.You know that you are somewhere.You don’t need to know what to do.You figure intuitively and naturally what you have to do..You just look around and walk, and walk..walk and you get a feeling at some point that is done what you have to do”..What your game do is throwing me in alpha state and keeping me there and the books can’t do that..

    Good luck and have fun…I wait for more games from you…

  13. One of these days, I was playing some game on my computer, while my girlfriend was working on her own projects. She doesn’t quite understand much of my likes for computer games, but she respects it.
    Afterwards in the same day, I was working on my master’s dissertation, while she was playing guitar. Sometimes, we sit and talk about by ressearch, she helps with a lot of things, and vice-versa.. sometime’s each one of us works at her/his own project, “alone”.

    Sometime’s, we seat together just to read, each one with his/her book – when we get excited about something really awesome in the text, we read it to each other. Or not.

    It’s a great experience: doing whatever you want to do, While sharing love with someone else. Being yourself, and being with someone else. I don’t believe that’s “wasting time” where I could be with her, I believe that actually is One of many other ways to share my life with her. These are days that really strengthens our bonds, I must say…

  14. ……
    I know how it feels to dive deeply into someone else’s life, to live a long time by some common perspective wich is built by the two, and to actually “get lost” in it (who says getting lost it’s something bad?).

    But I dunno… if you don’t actually create something that IS your own, it is usually not good at the long run of our lives.

    For me, gaming is like reading a book. If your life (as a bachelor OR not) leaves you with no space for reading, gaming, or ANYTHING like it, it has nothing to do with “happily” anything (nor “happilly married”, nor “happily employed”, etc).

    I’m not saying AT ALL that you’re having problems at your marriage. If she’s someone with whom you’re able to share a lot of your life, I’m certain it’s something really special.

    What I’m saying is that the formula “free time spend on my own, doing personal things like learning to play a certain piece on the piano, feels like time away from her” isn’t one of happiness. It is a formula for dependence. It CAN coexist with happiness, but in time it tends to destroy it (took a lot for me to learn that).

  15. If people that are not having time to take pleasures of their own (read a book, play piano/guittar, to paint, to play a game, etc) claims to be “happy”, I belive there’s something trully wrong in the world.

    And I don’t believe it has to do with marriage, but much more with work: people have so little time to spend with those they love, that they have to be really selective.

    I think “games” are not taken seriously, these days, because they are taken as “waste of time”. They aren’t something meant to “teach anything” worth to capitalist production, they are just meaninsless entretainment to some bunch of “nerds”.
    It’s the same thing with comic books..

    So it is taken as “something for kids” (fortuanetly, children may STILL some time for meaningless entretainment, although even that has some risk to end…).

    Even so, I don’t believe it has something to do with “being happy in marriage” (must say: I don’t believe most people are), but with being so immersed in a “work/production” scheme, that leaves little to “meaningless” things in life.

    And that works to bachellors as well.

  16. I support the innocence, here. Sometimes I feel ashamed to be a gamer because so much of the community can be so…flagrant. Wish more people in general saw beneath the surface, with a greater eye for intention.

    You guys are one of my favourite couples in gaming. Always happy to see people content together, especially after so long.

    Peace. :)

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