November 11, 2004

What a player

Games. We all play them, or at least most of us who are honest about it do. What about when it gets out of hand, though? What about when the game becomes more real than the real?

Okay, I spun that out about as long as I could, which wasn't very long at all. I don't mean mind games or romantic games -- though goodness knows people play lots of those, too -- I'm talking about the proliferation of video and computer games. It never ceases to amaze me how so many people are so into them.

Not surprisingly, it has come to my attention again recently with the release of Halo 2. It seems like every few blogs I visit (or 8 out of 10 if they're written by guys) have had a mention of it in the last few days. Some people haven't been able to put it down. And I think some other people would be playing it non-stop if they could. Then there are the articles: Does it live up to the hype? It does. It doesn't. It kind of does. It really does.

Shooter games have never really interested me, especially since they have gotten more and more violent and more and more graphic. The commercials for the ones coming out now leave me cold, but then I'm not exactly the target audience. Ones like the latest Grand Theft Auto (the game and the commercial) I find absolutely appalling, though I suppose that matters to no one but me.

Not being into that kind of game, the array of platforms or systems or formats or whatever is always something I'm a step behind. I'm aware of the different ones, but I never know which game goes with which system, or what ones you can't play on a PC, etc. The reason I mention this is that part of me kind of has to cheer certain of these games, because the well-being of the company I work for depends on those games coming out, being "good," being popular and selling well, and driving the development of still more graphics-intensive games in order to spur sales of high-peformance processors. So I'm a little conflicted about them, which wouldn't so much be the case if they weren't almost all about killing and destroying. Trying to turn that tide would be like spitting into the wind, so I'll just be happy that I don't have kids and don't have to fight that battle, so to speak, in my own home. Oh, there's a Playstation 2 somewhere around here, and plenty of games, but it's not mine and my brother is free to play whatever he wants and kill all the CG bad guys he wants, so long as I don't have to be in the vicinity!

Before Halo 2, the newest version of The Sims was the thing everyone was talking about. I'm not into that one, either, but I also haven't tried it in ages.

No, I'm much more into puzzle games, word games and arcade games. Thanks to AOL (malign it if you must, but it does have some things to like) I can pretty much play a different one every night for free, and you have the chance, albeit a small one, to win cash from some of them if you hit a jackpot.

The thing is -- and I know this isn't a news flash -- they're like a drug. You get started and it's hard to stop. A real opiate of the masses, but on a one-on-one basis (I'm not sure if that's a contradiction in terms, but you get the point) and in every flavor. For instance, as I believe I've mentioned before, I tend to hop around while I'm writing a post -- it's rare that I just sit here and write, post and move on. Oh, no. It's write, surf, check e-mail, watch whatever I've recorded on TiVo in the last day or so, check another e-mail to see if anyone sent a pet picture (yeah, like that ever happens), write some more, watch more on TiVo, read a news article, surf for a particular link, write for a minute, watch TiVo, check e-mail again, and so on.

Well, add to that mix "compulsively play the game of the evening" and getting though the actual writing of a post is extended by about three times. Once I get into the groove of a game, the next level, that next jackpot spin, is too hard to resist. Case in point: That time down there? 11:23? That's the time I started, and that was about an hour after I began a new kind of game on AOL. It's now...well, I'm not going to say because a certain friend at work will give me a hard time about it...but it's a lot later than that and I'm still playing that game and I'm still not done here. Oh, wait, now I am.