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Why Play Games?

Videogames are a world of fun, we all know that, but why do we play them? Is it to escape from the real – to enter the virtual, and engage in the kind of experiences we can only dream of? Maybe we play to vent our emotions, our anger, to release from our minds the pressures of work, of society, of life. Many play for the competition, be it for the winning, the losing, or the taking part. Ranking up, gaining the achievements, making the best high-score amongst their friends, it’s all relative to why we play games. So why did it take me a while to decide just why I play them?

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I often get these odd feelings that I should not be gaming, that it does nothing for me in the long run. I won’t be getting anything out of it, there’s nothing ‘at the end of the road’ for me to look forward to. It can all feel a little, pointless. Just why am I playing numerous hours of Call of Duty 4 online? Why am I trying for this dreaded ‘Repo man’ achievement for Crackdown that requires I carjack one hundred gang cars, when I could be actually progressing in the game, or, heaven forbid go outside?

I’d say there are three main reasons that people play games, with each person labelled according to why they play. In fact, there’s a striking similarity between Xbox Live’s gamer zone feature, and the following labels. You have the recreational gamer, the guy who doesn’t mind whether they win or lose, they just enjoy taking part, they take each part of a game as it comes, they aren’t fussed. They are the gamers who think people need to just chill and enjoy the good times life brings. Then you have the gamer that’s all about the winning, being the best of the best and beating everything on hard. They’ll play online for days until they are one of the leading players with every achievement unlocked, their kill to death ratio an impressive 2.0 – let’s call these the pro gamer. Then you’ve got the lone – or independent – gamer, the one who likes the single player adventures. They’ll touch multiplayer but only briefly, because for them, it’s all about getting completely into the world they’re inhabiting, forgetting for that very second that they live on Earth, because for them, they’re driving down Vice City with Billie Jean blaring through the radio. For them, it’s their story – and no-one else’s.

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We all know these kinds of gamers; chances are if you looked at your friends list you could stick each and every one of your friends into one of the categories. Maybe two of them apply to one person; they could like the single player adventures but still be as fierce as hell in multiplayer and beating everything a game has to offer. Me? Well, it’s constantly changing, sometimes I just want to be on my own in Rapture, soaking up the atmosphere to its fullest potential, while other times I’ll just want a friendly game of Pro Evolution Soccer with no grudges, and no hard feelings when I come out superior.

But then, when you look back on everything, no-one likes being labelled. Sure, you might have some people who will only play online because they need to know they’re beating someone, but for the most part, aren’t we all just one and the same? Shouldn’t we all just play for the fun of it and enjoy what is arguably one of the greatest media forms to grace our generation?

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When I think back to that question of why do I play games, the answer could be anything, but for me, when I thought about why I really loved playing games as I indulged in a session on my PSP, the answer was right in front of me; I play them for the now, for the present. I play games for that moment in FFXII when I’m traversing Ivalice, for when I finish top after a match of Gears of War. That feeling when you’re playing a game is the reason I play them, that moment you enjoy. And until that moment becomes meaningless, I’ll be playing from now to the end.

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in July 2007. Get in touch on Twitter @_Frey.

Gentle persuasion

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