I used to think of video games as inherently evil and those who played them as greasy, hairy little dudes dwelling in basements, away from the sunlight and other people.
This was an incredibly harsh and narrow viewpoint to take, and it was proven quite silly once I actually met people who enjoyed playing video games and discovered that in addition to shooting up virtual worlds, they also read books, played cards, shaved, and got plenty of sun. It was the Fiance, who, while we were on our first date, told me that he thought I might enjoy playing certain video games because I liked to write fantasy. It was he who got me through the first few hours of running into walls and dying every thirty seconds: he who introduced me to characters and world-building as thorough and beautiful as any in my favorite tomes.
But I still don’t quite know how I feel about the video game experience, and I think it’s because I enjoy writing.
Now, this seems a bit bizarre to me, as I know of many writers who also enjoy video gaming. The two activities seem to go together: create a character, stay true to that character, and run around in a made-up world doing stuff. Before starting an Elder Scrolls game, the Fiance was talking me through character-creation, explaining how I had to decide what the character was like, what motivated him or her, and then be consistent throughout the game as that character made choices, and I told him that if he explained one more thing I was going to punch him because if there was one thing I knew too much about, it was how to create characters.
I’m still new to the gaming world and have very little experience with game-play, I’ll admit. But my relatively little experience isn’t just due to my irrational prejudices and late start; it’s due to the fact that I start playing and quickly become angered at everything I’m not being told, at how I’m stuck doing things because the Powers That Be in the game have decreed it, and at how much busy-work there is between getting more of what is often a fascinating tale. Examples:
Me, watching the Fiance play Bioshock: “Why should you believe this random dude? How do you know he really has a wife and child? Why are you doing all the hard work to rescue his family? If I were a father and husband I’d darn well be doing this myself.”
Fiance, sighing. “Just watch.”
Me, playing Skyrim: “My character is not killing that guy just because some god told her to. That’s stupid. She needs a good reason or she’s not lifting a finger. Yes, actually she is just going to stand here, waiting.”
Fiance, sighing. “That other guy’s going to kill you if you don’t–”
Me, playing Borderlands 2: “I don’t want to pick up Bullymong hair! What happens? Tell me!”
Fiance, sighing, “You have to play: that’s the only way to find out.”
Me: “I’m not good enough to live long enough to find out! It’s not fair!”
I assume this frustration stems from being so used to calling the shots. If I make the character, I should also be making the story. I should be building the world and allowing everything that happens to evolve from who the character is and what the character wants. But a video game isn’t like that: there are things all characters MUST do and things that MUST happen no matter what choices a character makes or what kind of person a character is.
That kind of fixed world is mightily frustrating when you’re used to making all of it from scratch. It’s one thing to eat out, and another thing to make a meal in your kitchen: playing a video game is like deciding to, rather than eat out, make a meal in your own kitchen but suddenly there’s this stranger right there, watching you, and rapping your knuckles with a wooden spoon every time you go to use some ingredient he doesn’t approve of.
I’m conflicted, my friends. These are my woes.