One of my colleagues asked me once to write an answer to this question. Why do I play games? I deflect the question back: Why do you watch tv? Why do you read books? Is there some profound philosophy behind your preferred method of entertaining yourself?
Well, for me, there is.
I have been playing games for as long as I can remember. Specifically video games. My first memories are of X-wing and Monkey Island. In those times, gaming was just shiny lights and buttons to press. For long games were just sandboxes filled with toys. Then they started to become escapism from the stupid world for an angst-filled teenager. Games were more about worlds that made sense, were filled with adventure and intrigue, not school and idiots. At these times I began to read fantasy novels and write my own crappy fantasy. Becoming something else than just a man was invigorating, and finding some way to express myself was important. Coincidentally, this was also the time I started participating in theater.
I played games for their entertainment and escapism for a long time. And after applying for Kajaani University of Applied Sciences, I began to play them for professional curiosity. Now, I play them to feel emotions. The people who know me personally probably have witnessed the two sides of my personality. My normal self; Cold, calculating, logic-driven. And then my gaming self; Expressive, energetic and brimming with emotion. Why this split?
The world is a damn annoying place. It is bad enough that I do not know why things exist or if there is some purpose to this all, but I am also stuck with a society that is just contend to exist, indulge itself and then die, serving no greater purpose or achieving any greater goals. I fight this uncertainty and unknown by following my own principles, which I once summed in three words: “Be The Best”. To follow it, I need strong will, agile mind and power to make hard decisions. Indulgence and emotions just get in the way.
But there is one place where I can be someone else than The Best. That place lies inside the magic circle of games. When I play a game, I transport into a pocket universe, where everything has a purpose and there is a clear goal. Every decision made there has an effect, but it won’t follow you to the real world. Games are places where I can be anything or anyone, doing anything I want and experiencing the reprecussions for my actions. I can ignore the goals, explore unconventional paths, break the system. Feel feelings that real life cannot conventionally offer.
A game of Magic the Gathering. The anticipation of the opening hand, the excitement of the opening turns, the horror of seeing your opponent’s plan, the glee of unleashing your own, the bitter taste of defeat, the glory of victory, the hatred towards removal spells, the love of using Norin the Wary. Very few things have let me experience the same range of feelings as an interesting game of Magic.
So that is why I play games. To feel. Why do you do what you do?