Why do we play video games? And are they are good influence in our lives? It’s probably a question which has been asked many times before, but it is one I have often thought about myself. Everyone has their own reasons why they enjoy playing video games, hence the wide variety of different genres and types of games on offer. But there a few things every gamer has in common when it comes to this question. I believe they play a major role in our lives and more often than not, they have a positive effect on us as human beings.
I guess the most logically and most common reason why we play video games is because they offer us an escape from our current world. Sometimes, life can become complicated and overwhelming, but by doing something we enjoy, it helps us to tone down the pressure and relax. They allow us to escape our daily routines and forget about our problems for a short period of time. Gaming is not a solution to your problems however, and it’s not advisable to hide away in your bedroom playing on your console 24/7, but for the average person, they offer us a way to relax, and ultimately, enjoy ourselves. We’ve all had things we have been worried or nervous about, whether it’s starting a new school, worrying about exams or even starting a new job, it’s part of life. Thankfully, I found gaming helps give my mind a break from the constant pressures of being human.
But of course, we also play games because we enjoy having fun, and for lots of us, that fun comes from video games. If video games weren’t fun to play, then I wouldn’t even be writing this article and JumpToGamer would never have existed. But what exactly makes video games fun? For me, it’s the fact that they allow me to experience things which are beyond the capabilities of human-beings or just wouldn’t happen to me in real-life. There isn’t some time-machine which allows me to go back in time to the periods where Skyrim and others are set. Nor will I ever become the dragonborn and have super-human powers. As with films, video games take us on an experience which we otherwise wouldn’t be able to see for ourselves, and in terms of gaming, even experience. I’m a big fan of role-playing and I love to take the games I play seriously. I try to play the character as if I am that character, make the choices I as a person would make, and in open-world games, live how I would live if I was that character. It makes the whole game more meaningful and engaging as it plays as almost a second-life to me. Some gamers enjoy this, others don’t. It is one of the reasons why I enjoy games so much though.
The wide variety of games on offer gives everyone a huge choice of what they want to play. If someone wishes to build an empire and try to conquer the world, there is a game for that. Want to play as a soldier in modern conflicts, or perhaps take part in D-Day? There are games for that. Want to sign for Manchester United as their next key player? You can do that too. Games offer us rich and immersive experiences which can’t be matched by any other means of entertainment, at least for the majority of gamers. I would rather Play a film, than watch a film.
Gaming also teaches us about our past. I’m sure plenty of people found history boring, but video games can teach us a lot about what happened in the past. In years gone by, if you wanted to learn about World War II, what it was like, the weapons that were used etc, you would have needed to read a book, or watch a film. How many gamers now would intentionally go and do those things? Not many I am guessing. But thanks to series such as Call of Duty and Medal of Honor, they actually teach us a lot more about history without us intentionally needing to take those steps to learn about it. Whether you think those franchises are all about the money and recycling the same old garbage, that’s open to debate, but one thing is for sure, they help educate us about our history. I feel that is extremely important, especially when such a huge loss of life occurred with regards to previous, real conflicts.
Games are also a great way to socialize. In a society where everyone is judged immediately upon their appearance, games put everyone on a level footing, virtually wiping out the need to feel self-conscious of ones appearance as you might do when socializing in a pub for example. In many MMO’s I have played, it is the socializing which has kept me wanting to play. Anyone who played Football Manager Live will tell you that what made it great was the interaction between each manager and the banter which occurred in the various chat rooms. Unfortunately FML was shut down, but still to this day, there are communities still in touch thanks to one game. I have also met some truly great people from gaming, people who I would love to one-day meet in person and become friends with, not only on the internet, but in real-life also. It allows less-confident people to be who they wish to be, or to express themselves freely. That has to be one of the greatest things which has come out of gaming, allowing everyone to be equal.
And as human nature has it, we are all competitive, some more so than others, but we all enjoy winning. We all love a challenge as well. As with socializing, gaming allows us to compete against other players and friends. And it is becoming increasingly more popular as more professional tournaments are springing up. One game which has really turned competitive is Call of Duty. I am a regular player of it online, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t get bored, I do, quite often in fact. However it is that competitiveness of wanting to finish top, get the most kills or captures which keeps me playing. I’ll be honest, I’m not the best at it, but I do get a lot of satisfaction from pulling together a decent kill-streak. Don’t get me started on FIFA however, that is one game I can’t handle losing on!
That leads me on nicely to why I believe playing games growing up had a good impact on me, even violent games such as Grand Theft Auto. When I was younger, all my friends played Grand Theft Auto, as they do now. Of course, we weren’t the age stated on the case, but we loved that game. Despite being able to go about and murder anyone I wished, without reason, It actually taught me a lesson about the world we live in, and about right and wrong. Every child makes the connection between being naughty, and the Police. It’s something every kid is taught, and realizes. So playing GTA where my actions have no real consequences, how did it teach me anything?
I’ll try to explain how it did. As a kid, have you really ever seen anyone shoot someone dead without reason in a film or game? Did you really even know what a “Grand Theft Auto” was? Did you know the consequences of selling drugs or not following the law? In GTA, by having the cops chase you down and try to arrest you for doing these actions, you immediately make the connection that, in real-life, this is wrong, and it is too in a game. Even if I didn’t get out of the car and allow my character to get arrested, I guess subconsciously it showed me wrong from right. Adult gamers already know this, and I am not suggesting that the age restrictions placed on games like this be lowered, but as a kid playing Grand Theft Auto, that was one of the things I took out of it. I’m sure there were plenty of kids who never really thought about it, never wondered if killing that innocent bystander would have an impact on his “in-game family”. I guess that’s why kids shouldn’t play such games, but I am glad I did as I at least took some things out of it which were useful. This is probably me over-thinking again, but that is genuinely how I looked at my time playing GTA when I was younger. Hopefully it will make some sort of sense to at least one other person out there.
The reason why we play games is a combination of different factors, and the game we play depends on what we want from life at that very moment in time. In my opinion, gaming has helped teach many lessons, both good and bad. Gaming has played a huge role in my life, and the games I have played and the people I have discovered have shaped who I am and how my outlook on life is. It’s taught me a lot about the person I actually am and my attitude towards other players. Just by playing DayZ or WarZ for example, it’s quick to see who are the genuinely nice people out there. Of course, those who kill everything that moves in these games doesn’t mean they are bad people in real life, but by meeting a player who is willing to help you out in a scenario like that, it tells you a lot about them as a person. Sure I’ve had sessions where I’ve been a bandit, and I felt bad when I thought about smashing my fellow survivor’s head in with a flashlight when he wasn’t looking just for his Jericho. Again, it is just a game and people play games differently, but that is my experience from playing. I have remained in touch with many people who have helped me out.
Anyone remember the Corrupted Blood Plague Incident from World of Warcraft? It closely resembled an outbreak which would be experienced in real-life, as Stormwind became a dangerous place to be. An example of how gaming can be good as it can be used to help scientists predict how populations react to outbreaks in the future and how outbreaks spread.
Isn’t gaming just great for so many reasons?