September 3, 2010

From Gamer to Art Enthusiast

Posted in Musings, The Player Behind the Toon at 1:59 pm by Aduial of WrA

I have a bit of a confession to make, though some astute readers may have already guessed it.  I am, honestly, really not much of a gamer. It’s a realization that’s only came in fairly recent years which, looking back at my childhood, both makes sense and baffles me to no end.

When I was really young, quite a few of my mother’s friends had game systems for their children, and did their best to get a lot of the new and hot games for their kids, and so I was lucky enough to play these. Especially when a lot of these friends my mother ended up going back to college with; she’d go over to study and the kids (including me) would just play games for however many hours we were there. On some of the ones that were for one player only, several of the kids were nice enough to let me play while I was there, since they could play at other times, and it usually didn’t take long for me to top their best scores. Back then I did sort of consider myself a gamer.

However, by the age of ten, these trips over to my mother’s friends’ houses had long since stopped, and the only video game I had access to was an old Mario game that ran on the old computer we had at the time, and even then I wasn’t allowed much time to play it. At that age I never realized how fast the gaming world moved, so while I didn’t have access to games as readily anymore, I still considered myself a gamer.

I got my first little gaming system of my own, as much as it was one, for Christmas one year a bit after that, though I can’t remember the date of it to save my life. It was a purple, somewhat transparent Gameboy Color, and I was given an old Atari game to play on it (though it was obviously remade for the Gameboy). A couple months after that I bought a Pokemon Gold game from one of the used game shops in town, and that’s what I played most, though I only ever ended up with maybe half a dozen games for it (A solitaire suite, Monopoly, Pinball, and 101 Dalmatians being the only other ones I ever remember having for it). I also ended up hiding the fact that I had these sort of things at all about this point, at least around most other people, because at that time where I live “girls just didn’t play games,” it “wasn’t right.”

Later on I ended up getting a Gameboy Advance and a Nintendo DS, only a few months after the former came out and actually during the hype on the latter, though I had less games for the GBA and even less (only 2) for the DS. I still mostly hid the fact I was a GBA owner/player, and only a couple people knew of the second game I had for the DS since it was an RPG, though many more knew I had Nintendogs since that was apparently ‘okay’ for a girl to play. Despite all that my view of myself as a gamer was never really shaken, though I suppose it probably should’ve been.

The closest I’ve gotten to owning any system like the Playstation or Xbox or such myself was maybe about 5 years back, when my mother’s live-in boyfriend let his sons bring theirs over, and I’d occasionally get to play on it. I found I actually had a fondness for the Halo game they had, though of course when they left the picture, so did their games. And so I went back to just my DS and the newer computer we had acquired, and the internet games I played on it (mostly things like Collapse, Zuma, and Bejeweled). At that point I was fairly oblivious to most computer games existing beyond the ones on the internet; I’d only vaguely heard of things like World of Warcraft and other MMOs, and even if they’d caught my eye my mother had already pre-banned most things fantasy (as she had Dungeons and Dragons when it first appealed to me) because she was Christian and believed they “opened doors” as she said.

About three years ago I met Esgal through a forum RP we were both participating in, based on a web novel. Our characters developed a fondness for each other, and because of that he and I ended up talking more, at first about our characters and the RP, but before long we ended up getting to know each other aside from all that, and hit it off. When the RP died, we ended up looking for other things we could do together, and ended up looking at computer games. At that time I was running on a computer that had excruciatingly little RAM, so pretty much all the games we looked at, I wouldn’t be able to play. For a while the idea ended up getting basically put on hold, though he was fond of the idea, and kept trying to push me towards World of Warcraft. I remembered my mother expressing distaste for it whenever commercials for it or such came up, so I was hesitant; beyond that, it honestly didn’t much appeal to me. He’d link me to the website and try to get me to read and get into it, but all the details just ended up confusing me more, which of course put me off further.

He ended up coming into a bit of a windfall after a few months and decided to get me a computer, so we found a very good bargain, and he bought it for me. Once it arrived we started looking into games again, though I was still rather against World of Warcraft. I can’t even remember what all we looked at, but we ended up settling on Dream of Mirror Online, which was a F2P game (since I was also of the mindset that games should be free, or at least one-time costs, not one-time costs plus a large monthly fee). It ended up not working so well on his computer and I ended up playing alone much more often than not, so after a while we were looking again. I can’t even remember how long it was before he made the comment, but he was talking about WoW again and commented about how well it looked, even for how old it was… Said something about how every blade of grass was painstakingly put in, about climbing the highest mountain just for the view.

And so, he sold me. I agreed to play. I still wasn’t fond of the idea of paying a monthly fee, however, much less considering how little money I had at the time, so he said he’d pay, and he did for almost a year. I loved the game, and there’s still a lot of times I’ll just randomly stop to look at the beauty that is Azeroth, remembering the comment that got me into it to begin with, and within a few months we already knew I’d be wanting the upcoming expansion (which was Wrath of the Lich King), too, which seemed to just tickle him pink. He ended up pre-ordering the Collector’s Edition for me as a birthday present, since it was released on my birthday, rather than just the regular edition; mostly for the pet, since pets were one of the aspects I enjoyed most about the game. December of that year, though, both of our time had run out, I was broke, and he was moving so he was broke, too, and we stopped playing. We also had a rather large fallout and didn’t talk to each other for months.

After about a month I managed to save and scrape up enough to pay for a gametime card, put it on the account, logged in, and… Found out my guild no longer existed. I’d received an email a few days before saying someone in the guild requested to be made guild leader, since I’d been absent, so that they could recruit and further the guild in my place, though it didn’t say who, and there wasn’t anything I could do about it since at that time I didn’t have enough. But when I logged in, the guild was gone, and no one knew what had happened–Esgal didn’t even know, still had no time on his account, and the two other people who were closest to officer without being one didn’t know. Neither did the two other members, though since one hadn’t played in longer than I had that didn’t surprise me. To this day we don’t know what happened, best we can tell someone we’d recruited saw it as an opportunity and took it, along with the several thousands of gold worth of items I’d collected and put into the guild bank to help us, or to be sold when the guild needed cash. This made me ill, and I logged off and didn’t come back. After something like that, even the thought of playing again brought back queasiness, and I didn’t expect I’d ever return to WoW.

But then just shy of a couple months later my sister of sorts decided to roll up a death knight with a mutual friend on a new server to spend the rest of her game time, and I went ‘what the heck’ and rolled up one, too, since I had about 2 days left on the time I’d bought before. And so, we played, and I fell in love with the new server and WoW all over again, so detached from the other realm and what had happened on it. I ended up buying more game time, rolling an actual character, and starting out on my own. After a while Esgal and I started talking again, only to find out that somehow he’d managed to roll a toon on that very same realm, and so we played again.

Eventually I started noticing a lot more talk about other games. I’m not sure if it was a bit of a new thing, or if I’d just had my head buried in the sand before, or what… But questions of “what other games do you play?” or “have you ever played X?” were growing common. And for the first time, it hit me–whatever kind of gamer I may have been growing up, I wasn’t that anymore. I’d played a grand total of two MMOs, and one of them wasn’t even well known. The others didn’t (and still, for the most part, don’t) interest me. In all that time I’d been without many games, the gaming world had moved on. While I was still playing Mario, others were playing things like Everquest.

Several months back, I’d gone in and set my account up to be eligible for beta invitations, though I’d selected only Warcraft games. Somehow, I ended up with an invitation to Starcraft II. I’d only vaguely heard of Starcraft, and only knew (at least, that I knew of) one person who liked/played it. I asked him what it was about, what it was like, etc, and his answers didn’t really appeal to me, so I decided not to play. He’d begged me to give him the key, and I explained it wasn’t actually a key but was tied to my battle.net account and that I couldn’t, and so the invitation sat unused. Of course, after it was pretty much out of beta I found out Esgal and Silveran both were into it (and really looking forward to playing it when it released) and when it was mentioned I was griped at for not just giving one of them the info so they could download/play, but at that point there was little I could do even if I would’ve.

But after the SCII hype, and my complete and total lack of interest in it, Esgal’s made several comments, at least to Silv, in a presumably joking manner, about “how are we friends with her again?” This is, of course, an even more noticeable slap of realization of how I’m really, really not a gamer anymore. In fact, after all this time there’s only really one other game that’s caught my attention, being Final Fantasy XIV. Even then, I haven’t looked terribly much into the gameplay. I know there’s an open beta, since Silv and Esgal have talked to me about it, but I don’t plan to bother getting in. I’ll get the game when it comes out, but not for the gameplay… If I enjoy the gameplay, that’ll be an awesome bonus, but that’s not why it appeals to me. Why does it appeal to me? Much the same reason WoW did. The art.

I’m not trying or even intending to start up one of those arguments about games as art, or anything, but it’s definitely something to think about, I think. I love a lot of things about WoW, and it can be truly engaging, but the reason I started playing, one of the huge reasons I still play, is because of how absolutely beautiful it can be. When I don’t care about the art, or about talking to people, more often than not I don’t bother signing in; I’ve got a Funpass on Gamehouse so I just load up one of the games from there to pass the time. The RPG I had on my DS, while I enjoyed the gameplay, had gorgeous art, which is a large reason why I got it. I’m sure there’ll be more good things about FFXIV than the art, but all of those will be supplemental for me.

Are any of you like that? Do you ever pick up a game just because of the art, the way it looks? How important is a game’s looks to you, or does that not even matter? Would you ever play a game that has gorgeous art, but average or below average gameplay? Do you think anyone who plays games just for the art is wrong, and that they should play for other reasons instead, or is it fairly normal? How detailed does the game’s appearance have to be for you to call it art?

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