(all articles written by T. Rob Brown, aka Chokra Broodslayer)
Originally published September 1, 2003, in The Scatter.
The Gamer’s Life: Episode I
By T. Rob Brown
(aka Chokra Broodslayer)
Sounds of forest insects chirping and a nearby campfire crackling filled our ears as three other Boy Scouts and I had one of our earliest gaming experiences back in the 1980s.
Dice rolling off our fingers in the cramped quarters of a two-man tent, we each hoped we would be able to slay the orcs just like the heroes in our favorite J.R.R. Tolkein The Lord of the Rings novels. Back then, the game Dungeons & Dragons (which is enormously influenced by the epic Medieval-style fantasy genre grandfathered by Tolkein) was considered to be taboo, so those interested were limited to playing anywhere away from their parents. Now, as an adult, I know the parents’ lack of knowledge generated that taboo; people often fear what they don’t understand.
Because of that, nearly every spin-off of Medieval fantasy and some science fiction have been chastized by a variety of people because they don’t understand why people are fascinated by elves, wizards, dragons, spaceships, lightsabers, and the like.
The main reason is quite simple -- escapism.
Escapism can be garnered in a variety of ways -- novels, music, plays, magazines, movies, TV, and most intensely through gaming. Each of these ways can transport you into a world unlike your own where the same rules don’t necessarily apply, the excitement level is hightened and rewards entice you to keep playing. For many, this is the intellectual choice for the escapism road that some take by abusing alcohol or drugs -- but certainly, gaming is much safer. Escapism is an excellent way to reduce stress, take your mind off your troubles and open up your creativity.
Of course, there are other reasons to game besides escapism: Challenges, strategy, socializing, self esteem, companionship, collecting and improved education in mythology and scientific theory.
Although some prefer to play a villain, most gamers prefer to be the hero or at least on the winning side. Despite the wary looks by those who don’t understand the gamer’s life, the morals of the hero gamer are sound. Why does the hero exist? Obviously, to defeat evil. A noble idea which rarely exists in real life these days -- something that barely remains from the days of chivalry. In these times, people look to athletes, businessmen and politicians to be their heroes but it just isn’t the same. Nothing garners respect of the masses like someone who can vanquish evil.
Portraying Conan in Conan the Barbarian, actor Arnold Schwarzenaeger replied when asked what is best in life, “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentations of their women.” Then again, Conan was a former slave and thief, he wasn’t exactly the hero in shining armor -- but he was a hero, nevertheless.
Take a look at George W. Bush’s approval ratings following the tragic 911 terrorism attack. Why was Bush so popular? Because he took a firm stand on the situation and sent in troops to Afghanistan to fight the Taliban -- he took on the role of the hero. Maybe not on a personal level in combat, but as the Commander-in-Chief. Can you imagine what it must feel like to be in that type of position? True, the hero’s life isn’t an easy one -- but you can’t beat the rewards.
And as summer turned to fall and fall into winter, the face of gaming changed from those days back in the early ’80s of Dungeons & Dragons. In the mid-’80s, we grabbed hold of a joystick on a stand-up piece of electronics as we maneuvered “Pac-Man” around winding corners to munch up food pellets and avoid ghosts, operated a spaceship against the “Space Invaders” or through “Asteroids,” or even later on guided an unlikely hero through the cartoon-style graphics of “Dragon’s Lair.” Unto this day, many gaming forms wear the electronic shroud of computer gaming. Each year, the level and intensity of computer games exceeds the previous in bounding leaps.
The last couple years alone have seen the introduction of the most amazing computer games ever created -- “Neverwinter Nights” and the “Shadows of Undrentide” expansion, Warcraft III and the Frozen Throne expansion, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind and its two expansions, Everquest: The Shadows of Luclin and The Planes of Power, Fallout Tactics, Diablo II and its expansion, Rollercoaster Tycoon series, Star Wars Galaxies: An Empire Divided, Jedi Knight II: Outcast, Star Wars Galactic Battlegrounds and its Clone Wars Campaign expansion.
Yet, gamers can’t stop drooling for more.
Hasta la vista.
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