I have a dirty little secret… don’t tell anyone, but I like to play online computer roleplaying games. Yes, that’s right, Everquest, DAoC, City of Heroes… those kinds of games. I also have to admit I played a lot of desktop RPG’s (D&D, Rolemaster, Aftermath, etc) when I was younger. There, I said it, now everyone knows I’m not just a geek but also a nerd.
Whew, glad to get that off my chest. I’m not ashamed of it, but I do know that a lot of people don’t understand the draw of these types of games and consequently end up classifying and labelling people who do play them. What they don’t realize is there are as many different reasons people play as there are people who play. When taken in moderation, these games can be quite fun and can provide a good social outlet.
Why do people play online games? Everyone who games has their own reasons for doing so but for me it’s the social interaction that means so much. I like people. I like the give and take of good social discussions, teasing each other, yelling at each other, relying on your teammates and friends, or just soaking up the atmosphere of being in a group of friends that “gets” you. These types of games, for me anyway, are a good way to expand my circle of friends and to get that social fix that I so crave. I’m not into the bar scene, I can’t go skating when it’s wet and cold and I can’t spend every day skiing in the winter so I use these games as a means to stay connected to a little bit larger chunk of the world than just my couch, refrigerator and television.
I know some people who game for the competitive aspect. They need to be the first to get some item, the first to max out in level or belong to the biggest uberguild. Sometimes these people turn to these games as a means to achieve status, power or even some measure of fame. They may be completely unknown in the meat world but when they log on everyone knows them and respects their accomplishments. They get the respect all of us need, they just get it in a different venue.
Other people like to solo. They consume the content of games in one huge gulp, racing from start to finish and trying to solve all the puzzles, raid all the content and finish every single quest. For them, these games are more like a single player CRPG, sort of a Morrowind that they have to log on to the internet to play instead of playing locally. Sometimes these people even go to the point of being annoyed when they have to rely on someone else (or worse yet an entire group of someones) to finish a specific piece of the game.
There’s also the classic explorers. These people relish in the thrill of discovering all the little bits of buried information, lore, experiences or adventures in the game. They may take forever to advance in levels but they will also end up knowing every tiny little nook and cranny of the game world like the back of their hands. They may be gregarious in nature and share the exploration with a group of friends or they may be solo but invariably their reasons for gaming revolve around the sheer thrill of discovery.
At times I dip into each of these categories. Some of them I may only brush the surface of and others I may get really deep into, but in general my reasons for gaming revolve around my own social and gregarious nature. It’s odd, though, because while my main reason for playing these games revolves around being involved with friends I also don’t go out of my way to make a lot of new friends this way. I’m not antisocial to new people, I just in general won’t go too terribly far out of my way to meet a lot of new people. This usually means that when my circle of friends shrinks or moves on (either they quit the game or move to a new one) I usually end up being through with the game as well.
It’s funny… I can sit down in any cafe or truckstop in America and within 30 mins be deeply involved in conversations with any number of people around me. I meet people easily, I enjoy people and can find something interesting about anyone. I love talking with new people, or just sitting back and watching them and being an observer of human nature. When I log on, though, I generally find myself a lot LESS likely to approach someone than I would if we were face-to-face. The anonymity of a keyboard usually encourages people to interact more freely but I find it works the opposite for me. I’m not sure why, but I do recognize that it happens.
Anyway, as usual I’ve gotten completely off the original topic I wanted to discuss but hey, that’s what’s fun about doing things like this! I guess if I had to find a point in here somewhere I would end up saying something trite like “Don’t be so quick to discount these games” or “non-nerds play these games too” but in actuality I’d just have to say do what makes you happy, reach out to people around you and above all try and stay balanced in everything you do. Life’s fun… live it to the fullest!