I have always loved games, when I was a kid I would play Risk and monopoly a lot. In my family my Mom taught us “Poverty Poker”, she would stake us all to $2 in pennies and we would play, if we ran out of money we would get put on “welfare”, which was always very embarrassing, and some of us would hate it and try to get out usually failing and one or two of us would really start to work the “welfare” system and find creative solutions, still staying in “welfare”, and then one or two of us would have stacks of pennies in front of us and get very protective of those pennies. We learned a lot about the world playing these games. Risk and monopoly taught us strategy and thinking ahead and poverty poker taught us economics and most importantly they were fun, engaging and a great way to connect with family members on a rainy day.
When I got my first computer back in 1984, an Apple Mac 128k, there was a couple of games that showed up that were text based mystery games where you had to follow the clues and make choices that would lead you to more clues and, if you were good which I wasn’t particularly, you would solve the mystery and get the prize. I really enjoyed being on a quest and engaged in the mystery of it all as I wandered across deserts and through forests in my imagination as the game took me to places and often got me lost. This game was more of a solitary experience then the old board and card games of my childhood and yet in some ways it wasn’t. I was living alone in an apartment in New York City, I was surrounded by millions of people every day and worked closely with people at work and it was kind of nice to come home and spend some time with my little mac wandering the deserts alone up in my apartment. Then of course games exploded onto the scene in the next 10 years. There were all of the video games and arcades, which I never really got into, because to me the joy of playing the games was that it was I way I could be alone and having fun and get a little break from being around all the people. Then the games started showing up for the computer that were much more visual and interesting and the computers were more able to take you on the journey and it became more like interactive movies then something in your imagination. I still played these games and went on quests with Lara Croft and battled with Diablo in the pits of hell, and a little something got lost when it came to the imagination.
Then in came xbox, nintendo, and playstation I resisted these games for a long time thinking that I had gotten too old to get involved with them. They were really for the younger folk and for the folk that really didn’t have a life. Then one Christmas I was celebrating with Karen’s family and the nephews had a couple of friends over and they were playing an xbox game on the big screen tv, each of them had a controller and each of them were looking at the screen they controlled and moving their character around in that screen and at the same time they were aware of what was happening on the 3 other screens and where the other players were in both their screens and on the other screens and they were casually talking to each other about what they saw, while they were busily knocking out the enemy and sometimes each other on the screen. I was blown away by the ability to literally hold so many things competently at the same time and also quite astounded by my inability to do so. A new level of respect arose for these games and what they make possible. I saw that the next generation will be able to handle complexity in a completely different and more effective way then my generation can and I was grateful for what the games were teaching. I went home and got an xbox and Karen and I sometimes play games together and we are pretty pathetic when it comes to what my nephews can do and it is clear that there is a learning curve and even us old dogs can be opened up a bit when it comes to dealing with complexities.Which brings me to the current iteration of game enjoyment. These games I am playing on facebook have a different feel to them as does everything that facebook and its ilk have introduced to us in this world. In some ways it is a return to the original text based games that stimulated my imagination in the early days of computers within the game itself. There are quests,
accomplishments, levels to achieve and dragons to fight. There are farms to take care of and mobsters to kill. The difference is you have the option, and it makes the game much more fun, to invite in lots of other people to join your army, mob, or be neighbors on your farm. At first these are people that you already know that are in your facebook world. You are thrilled and excited to see them and send them gifts and leave them notes and you help each other along. Then as you expand your world you start inviting in people that you don’t know that are from all over the world and every continent and pretty soon you are connecting up with people of all ages and from all sorts of societies that you would typically never run into and some of these folks actually start to have short conversations with you, usually about the game, and you start to be surprised by the variety of people out there engaged in the same game you are playing. It is actually quite fascinating.
So that is me coming out of the closet about my enjoyment of games. I still love all of the old board games and the games we played and still play like the dictionary game and taboo and charades. I like playing cards and Karen and I sometimes get a cribbage or gin game going until one of slips into being whipped and defeated and we head off to bed with our tail between our legs in shame.
Shame is an interesting word to end the last paragraph on, because there is some sort of guilt and shame I have about my enjoyment of games. I think there is a part of me that still wants to look good and “enlightened”, and playing games doesn’t do that particularly. I really thought I had unearthed those nasties. More work to go there clearly.
There is another part though that is the shadow of all this for me. There is an addictive quality to it. It’s always a temporary “addiction” and fades away to some sort of sense of acceptance, followed by loss of interest for awhile. This “addiction” is really more of an obsession I think. I get pulled in and am aware of the game in the back of my mind a lot even when I am not playing the game. When I meditate it goes away and when I stop meditating that awareness returns, when I pick up the phone or lead a class or talk to Karen or any of the other myriad of things I do in my life this awareness slips out of consciousness and returns when I have nothing in particular to focus on. The part of my mind that judges me thinks that I “should” be focusing on “something important” in those times and not on some game I am playing on facebook, thus the shame and guilt is born.
What I do know about mySelf is that I love questing and I love questions.