Saturday, August 20, 2016

Computer games and me

This is me.
I'm a computer game addict.  Which is why I don't play them any more.  I used to play games for hours on end and despite the lack of enjoyment, the tiredness, the headaches and the feeling of emptiness I felt after finished them, I would still come back for more.

Eventually, I decided that there were far more good things in my life that I should focus on - my wife, my friends, learning things and creating things of value.  They all contributed to a lasting feeling of happiness.  


It all started when I was very young and I was visiting my aunty and uncle, who had a computer.  This was a big thing for me at the time because the only other computer I had seen was my primary school's one RM nimbus which could play the game Snake.

Naturally, there was always a big rush to use this amazing machine.

However, this tape based computer that my aunty and uncle owned could play this great game called Tachyon Fighter.  I'm no neuroscientist, but I can imagine that the game probably gave the biggest input of information I had ever had - the lights, the colours, the sounds, the need to win.  It was hypnotic and it gave me a great rush.

Every time I visited, I would spend most of my time in front of this computer, waiting for several minutes in the hope that the tape would work and load the game properly this time.  As time went on, the tape based computer was replaced by an Atari ST with floppy discs and a wider range of games with better graphics and more addictive gameplay.

Then came the day that they upgraded to an Apple Mac.  And I got the Atari.

I remember that within ten minutes, I had put a lead in a socket incorrectly and almost broken it.  However, it was fixed and that's when my gameplaying started in earnest.

My uncle had collected all of the ST format magazines which I had read cover to cover before, but then I also got to play every game from the cover discs.  I played them all, spending thousands of hours perfecting my game playing skills.  Many school holidays would fly by in front of the little green desktop.  Sometimes, I would have a platform game day and sometimes I would have an RPG day.  I have a bit of an obsessive nature where I want to explore everything to its fullest extent and this made me a sucker for most computer games like the roguelike game Moria. 

I had the ST for about three years before it ran down and it was replaced for a really old second hand Atari cartridge console which had games with terrible graphics and simplistic gameplay before that also broke down and I received the Mac in 1999 when my uncle upgraded again.

This computer only had a couple of games, but that's when there were plenty of games on the internet.  I played a game called Archmage and a cute little RPG called Dragon Court.  I was definitely showing signs of addictive behaviour.  I never had the internet in my home, so I would spend half an hour walking into town, just to use a library or internet cafe computer to play Dragon Court.  Then I would have to walk back.  I wasted money on an internet cafe if I couldn't book a free library computer just so I could get access to my game accounts.


I never realised that I was addicted until my final year of university when I would stay up until two in the morning playing Command and Conquer, not realy enjoying it and going through the motions.  I had done this before with the game Civilization IV when I was a teenager but I could stay up all night once in a while and it didn't affect me at school etc.  This was affecting my grades and social life at university.

It never got to the stage where I missed lectures or never came out of my room for days on end, but I could have done a lot better in all fields if I hadn't been playing computer games.

NWN:  10% action,
90% trudging back and forth
After my degree, I started training as a teacher, which took up huge amounts of time.  However, I still played games.  I was now playing and creating maps for Battle for Wesnoth and trying to complete the adventure in Neverwinter Nights.

It was not until I moved in with my girlfriend (now my wife) and I was teaching as a job, that I realised that I had to prioritise my time.  I couldn't do my job well if I was playing Neverwinter Nights for two hours a night, mostly involving level grinding and getting an item in one far corner of the city and transporting it to another far corner of the city in order to get to the next stage.

She didn't mind the gaming but it
he went too far when he started
doing a poo at the console.
My girlfriend did not appreciate it either although she is too tolerant to go to extreme lengths.  I had to cut something out.  All I had to think about was how I felt after saving a game in Neverwinter Nights.  I would always think to myself 'What have I got to show for this?  A file with some code in it, a headache and a feeling of tiredness.  This is no way to spend your free time.'


Computer games did nothing for me and I had other, more fulfilling things in my life.  After a few weeks without computer games, I felt much better and I've not wanted to go back.

I put hours of effort into
getting a picture on a screen.
I find computer games to be a waste of my life.  I sunk hours into controlling some graphics on a screen, desperate to see the consequences of my actions.

For the most part, I don't remember feeling much satisfaction, I just felt a compulsion to 'get through it'.



However, there was always another level (and if the game had a level editor then I would be on that for hours too), another way of winning, another challenge I could set myself and there were an infinite number of other games to play.

The only way that I would get out of this gaming habit was that if I just said no.

Originally, I intended this post to be an introduction to how certain computer games have given me material for gamebooks, but instead, it was an account of all the hours I wasted playing them when because I couldn't get away from them.  However, I am glad that I wrote about it.

In future posts, I will write about specific computer games and what they have added to my gamebook writing and why gamebooks are better for me than computer games.

5 comments:

  1. Some people are wizards and are better suited for weaving spells, and they feel empty if they've been put under spells by others.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I was very, VERY addicted to videogames. I started all the way back on the Commodore 64, playing Maniac Mansion and Zakk McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders. This graduated up when my dad bought a Mac Performa series computer, and I got utterly addicted to the Marathon Series and its precursor Pathways into Darkness. Around the same time, I was also getting into console gaming as well. In university I probably sunk 300 hours into The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind. It got worse when MMORPGs came out. I was really into World of Warcraft for a while, but it wasn't that bad. Then I discovered an MMO called Atlantica Online. I got hooked so badly that I dreamed about it. I was unemployed at the time because I was in the process of immigrating from the US to Canada and I must have sunk an average of 6-8 hours a day, 7 days a week into that game. I was a guild leader, organized dungeon runs, etc... I learned my lesson from Atlantica. I also lost almost 3 years of my life to it that I will never get back. I still game, but only an average of maybe 1 hour a day. I've found that keeping focused on my writing and wanting to be productive in my spare time has left me feeling happier and more fulfilled. Also, my wife is happier, lol.

    ReplyDelete
  3. What an interesting read! Thanks Stuart.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Eventually, I decided that there were far more good things in my life that I should focus on - my wife, my friends, learning things and creating things of value. They all contributed to a lasting feeling of happiness. arsenal players in england squad

    ReplyDelete
  5. This is a sad post, but I think that you are probably missing the point here, Stuart. Games are the way kids and teenagers prepare themselves for the future challenges they are going to face in life as adults. We all wasted some time playing games, but a lot of that time was actually very productive for our brains, self esteem and our success later in life. Once we grow up, we start having real challenges in life and that slowly replaces the games we used to play. This is the healthy way of growing up. We are all doing fine and the reason for that is at least partially the games we played as kids.

    ReplyDelete