“Prose is an art form, movies and acting in general are art forms, so is music, painting, graphics, sculpture, and so on. Some might even consider classic games like chess to be an art form. Video games use elements of all of these to create something new. Why wouldn’t video games be an art form?”
— Sam Lake
I’ve been in a relationship with a gamer for over seven years. Now, I intend to marry him. I am not a gamer. It’s not because I tried and had a dislike for video games, but that I never tried to understand why he does. Now, I feel I have been left in the dark for too long.
My gaming days started with Nintendo (Super Mario Bros.) and ended with Nintendo 64 (also Mario). I was hopelessly addicted as a kid, begging Mom (a.k.a. Luigi) to play with me. Luigi always found the most improbable ways to die when Mom and I played. When I think of video games, I have good memories of being a plumber fighting for a princess. The most violent scenes involving squishing evil mushrooms. I have viciously stabbed many a mushroom since. True story.
Fiance doesn’t expect me to take up playing his favorite games any more than I expect him to start reading my favorite novels by Dickens. But, I feel I should know more about Fiance’s favorite hobby. I tend to tune out when I wander in and he is playing video games and he starts describing them to me. I hear, “Blah, blah, *pow pow pow* blah, blah, new game coming out, *pow pow* watch this, wait, wait, watch wait, blah, blah, blah *pow*” when he is really saying…uh…well, I don’t know what he is was telling me because I wasn’t paying attention.
So, I want to take this opportunity to interview Fiance. Learn more about the art that has him and many other fiancés, boyfriends and husbands hooked. Can I understand the appeal?
Me: What was the first video game that you played and how old were you?
Fiance: The first video game I played was Pong on the Atari and it had to have been about…about…ss…seven…six….six or seven.
Me: What did you find appealing as a child?
Fiance: Video games? What are you asking me?
Me: Do you find that playing video games since you were six or seven has impacted your ability to follow a conversation?
Me: Okay, let’s move on. What video games do you play today?
Fiance: Mostly first-person shooter.
Me: War games?
Fiance: Yes, mostly Battlefield 3.
Me: How many games do you own that involve you shooting things. In the first person or otherwise, I mean.
Fiance: Most of them. Does that make me a violent guy…nope.
Me: Wouldn’t you say that you are a violent gamer?
Fiance: Gamer? Yes. No, actually the games I play…you are the good guy. So, it is more protecting people…except for Battlefield 3. People who don’t game won’t understand this.
Me: Why do you say that?
Fiance: Because people who don’t play video games blame video games for killing sprees. It’s the crazy people that go [on killing sprees].
Me: How you would describe an average gamer like yourself?
Fiance: *Pause* What are you putting?
Fiance: I’m just a normal person who enjoys games.
Me: You don’t understand the question. I’m blaming video games for your lack of understanding. Let me give you an example. “An average video gamer is a male in their teens, 20s or 30s who uses gaming to network with friends and relieve stress.”
Fiance: Uhhmm. It also…it…gets us away from reality. It puts us in a virtual setting so we can do what we want and be who we want…depending on the game.
Me: What is so awful about your real life that you need an escape?
Fiance: Nothing wrong with my real life.
Me: Dublin threw up, and the stain needs working on. Anyway, back to the interview. Tell me more about your favorite games.
Fiance: *Pause* I enjoy Battlefield 3 because it takes strategy. On multiplayer, you have to get a team together and use strategy to defeat the enemy.
Me: Do you feel a sense of accomplishment from playing?
Fiance: Yes. When the other team is defeated.
Me: Some may argue that video games keep you from accomplishing real things…like cleaning up cat hairballs. How would you address this perception?
Fiance: For those people who are extremely addicted to games…yes. As for me, I’m not an addicted gamer.
Me: What do you think is a qualifier for game addiction? Hours played or otherwise.
Fiance: Spending eight to twelve hours playing…everyday. I’ve spent eight hours playing a game once.
Me: Which game?
Fiance: Grand Theft Auto 4.
Me: Why play Grand Theft Auto if you are not helping others?
Fiance: It’s an open world map. You have the chance of doing whatever you want however you want to do it. You can be the good guy or you can be the bad guy. The campaign, or main storyline, of the game is to be the bad guy.
Me: A lot of the first shooter games look and sound the same. What makes them different?
Fiance: The game play. Maps…structures…vehicles. All that changes your strategy.
Me: Do you feel video games are a hobby?
Me: Do think gaming is a hobby that can improve the player?
Fiance: With everything, time makes…the more you play the better you are.
Me: At what?
Fiance: At whatever game you play.
Me: So video games are played for the sake of being played?
Fiance: *Nods head*
Me: Do you think that they improve hand-eye coordination or cognitive ability?
Fiance: Yes, studies have shown that it does improve hand-eye coordination.
Me: Which studies?
Fiance: *Explicative* I just read this. I told you about it, too. Remember?
Me: No. Which studies?
Fiance: It was a college, I want to say in Boston. It was on Twitter. They did a big study.
Me: It must be true. “They” did a study publicized by Twitter. Moving on…
Fiance: I will find that Tweet!
Me: I stopped caring. So, you play on XBox 360. Do you also play games on your phone?
Me: What kind of games?
Fiance: Variety. Word games, memory boosting games and old-fashioned arcade games.
Me: Why do you play them? Is it to pass the time? Challenge yourself? Challenge yourself to pass the time?
Fiance: Challenge myself.
Me: Is that why you play games in general?
Fiance: *Pause* Yeah, and to relieve stress.
Me: If you didn’t have gaming to relieve stress, what do you think you would do instead?
Fiance: Work on cars or carpentry.
Me: Stereotypically manly hobbies. Wouldn’t you say?
Fiance: Yes, I would say so, but not uncommon for women to work on cars or carpentry.
Me: Yes, but you didn’t say quilting or cupcake decoration either.
Me: So do you find video games more of a male hobby?
Fiance: Generally it is more men, but I know females who play as well.
Me: Tell me something that you accomplished during your last session of video game playing.
Fiance: I got an achievement for transport.
Me: I have no idea what that means.
Fiance: Achievements unlock points…
Me: Hold on…I don’t care. Wait, okay…I’ll listen. Please continue.
Fiance: Unlocks points that mean absolutely nothing other than bragging rights among other gamers.
Me: Okay, I have failed to truly pay attention. Why do you play video games?
Fiance: To often escape from reality…
Me: This hurts my feelings.
Me: Because I live in your reality.
Fiance: Not when you’re asleep. I only play video games when you are asleep. I give you all my time when you are awake.
Me: First of all, that sounds creepy. Like the video games are a cover for something much more sinister. Second, you are on your phone right now.
Fiance: I’m trying to find the Tweet about the study!
Me: No doubt your hand-eye coordination is better than mine. Can you pat your head and rub your tummy at the same time?
Fiance: *Pats head and rubs tummy*
Me: Damn you. So, your ability to pat your head and rub your tummy is owed to video games?
Me: What then?
Fiance: Catching a football, dribbling a soccer ball in the air with my feet and head…
Me: Wait. You went outside?!?!?
Fiance: Sometimes. When forced.
Me: What would you do if your XBox and phone disappeared?
Fiance: Do something else. Work on the car…
Me: Wait. So you are telling me, that if your XBox and phone were gone, the car would be tuned and the carpet possibly cleaned?
Fiance: Probably not…but a better chance? You’re making me sound like an addicted gamer!
Me: You are answering the questions!
Fiance: But they make me sound like I play 24/7!
Me: My questions are unbiased, and I take offense to that accusation! Now, next question. Do you ever find yourself drooling and shaking if you cannot play a video game?
Fiance. Yes…not really.
Me: Did you play Super Mario Bros.?
Fiance: Who didn’t?
Me: Did you ever save Princess Peach?
Fiance: Not on the NES, I did on the 64.
Me. Damn you. Okay, so if I was kidnapped by a giant lizard and held captive, I would have a pretty good chance of rescue?
Fiance: Depends on how big the lizard is.
Me: I really don’t see the benefit of video games. I mean, I can’t even get a rescue from a lizard here.
Fiance: If a lizard was big enough to take you…then it is not real life.
Me: I’m relieved you know the difference.
Fiance: You’re making me sound not smart.
Me: Hey, I am just asking the questions. I will give you a chance now to talk about why video games are played and …
Fiance: Go back and type “Sound like I am not smart.”
Me: Stop looking at my computer! You said that! Back to my open-ended question…go ahead and say why video games are the backbone of society…and quote sources.
Fiance: It’s not the backbone of society. It’s an entertainment industry.
Me: I still don’t see why you play. Maybe we need to play something like Super Mario Bros.
Fiance: We need to find an NES first.
Me: Second, you’re Luigi.