Why we play videogames? What are the reasons behind spending hours—our lives, some would say—in front of a monitor clicking and pointing?
I’ve been adrift at sea with Kara for days, starving. I’ve found the princess in another castle. When I was inducted Spectre… Earth was so proud. I fell in love with Liara, but felt terrible because I was always sidelooking at Tali. I traveled to Dantooine aboard the Ebon Hawk; those estates where something to behold—they have always reminded me of Asimov’s Solaria. Canderous the Mandalore regaled us with epic—truly—war stories while walking through the pharaohnic ruins of Korriban. I was dwarfed and sick in the Cathedral of Flesh… My sickness was an eye opener. I felt proud in bringing down a Shivan Juggernaut, sacrificing myself so others could escape. I photographed exotic species that were beyond the homely ones. Spent geologic ages trapped in Montezuma’s labyrinth. I traveled the surface of the moon firing at enemy ships, evading craters. I held Marle’s hand through time, assassinated Kunitoki, the evil shogun, learnt the Alltongue to be understood in Arcadia, hidden in lockers through Sevastopol thinking of her… marveled at the space jockey through the narration of someone I knew… Debated myself between throwing a nuke at those degenerates—mankind—or not, almost right after leaving my shelter.
I was beaten thoroughly in the ’69 F1 season; those Ferrari 12cil beasts breezed through. Left that otherwordly papaya McLaren F1 in favor of the ultra-handleable High Stakes 911, I showed those fat left-turning gringos what it meant to race, and always fell off the road of the rainbow; had some truly epic pixel-finishes on the haunted track… Our best ending ever was, we were only two players left in the field—and a few NPCs of course. I shot the rebel scum of his sniper with mine, and me and my team screamed in joy over restoring Imperial Law over the Galaxy… only to watch those idiots screaming in too much of a similar manner. We watched the screens; I did kill him, but he did me also. We were elated. Were, because in the ’90s and ’00s, lan-parties were in real life.
And that is not even counting the sights I’ve seen, the glorious landscapes, all manner of post apocalyptic, underwater scenes, suffered several nuclear winters, saw the sea in all its colors, the cities of old Cimeria and Middle Earth, the underwater palace of Mu, the Arabian-like baths in another world, unnamable, unknowable and unrememberable places. The creatures I’ve encountered. Not even counting the… personages I’ve met.
I’ve woken in strange realms. I experienced a bit of what it felt to become an Ultra in the cavernous Armstrong, swamped for months in the Kingdom of Ehb. Stayed a while and listened, restoring sanctity to Tristram while avenging your death. Sent my Terminator Class Space Marines, in His name against the heretics… I fell short of my namesakes, Arthur and Asimov; the cultists of the necromorphs beat me. I was a spook, a Stranger back in the late ’20s hunting the occult with Papa Midnite at my back.
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.”
― George R.R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons.
As with books, videogames let you wonder, space-out. Learn and enjoy. A movie is static, it never changes—actually, it does change but for the worse; as you grow older and more critic, the movie loses—as much as you like it, even more so in these days where senile director’s come up with novel ways to ruin their previous works. Books are dynamic because the density of information is greater, and our memory is imperfect, our capacity to absorb a book in its totality, assuming a minimum of literary complexity, is low, so each read you find new things, much more so than movies. And videogames are dynamic, at least some—the RPGs, the Grand Game genre by definition, are.
So, to all who don’t understand why we play, those are the reasons. But, as with reading, you won’t get them until you experience it.
Oh, and don’t forget to always go right.