Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Looking into the House, Through a Window


This topic is about gaming or rather, the perception of people about gaming & its true face. I intended to write this after reading a few articles where games were (in my words) misrepresented. When people think about gaming, they look at it as a single activity which involves violence, lots of hours in front of computers, mental rage & addiction. Some educated people have went to the extent of calling Gaming as Drug. And this is because, they have no experience in gaming, they haven’t been through it to understand it & they gather information from articles that concentrate on a single aspect of gaming like ‘MMORPG games played online’ or sensational articles that show the life of an addicted gamer & the sufferings he had gone through. I have tried to explain how complex it is & not as simple as shooting someone on the head with a AK-47 with blood spilling all over the place; as it is portrayed in most media.

Non-Stop Gaming:

Let me start off with the limits of gaming. People say when we spend too much of our time on games, we start to get addicted to it & thus ‘Games stop being fun’… Actually, anything that crosses the limit will become a overkill. As the saying goes, ‘Too much of anything is good for nothing’. Anything that is overdone, anything beyond a limit is bad. Its not just limited to gaming. They say ‘Get addicted to books instead’. Well, no one can read books 24 hours a day, neglecting work & family. The same goes for Gaming. Ofcourse we shouldn’t be playing 24x7, any activity if given so much time will arouse problems in our daily life. This is where the issue of getting addicted comes in. People say that, games are like drugs, once you try, you will want more & more. Now, this is an entirely different topic, which we are now moving to.


For any normal mind, the word addiction has meaning only when combined with drugs. Drugs can disable our ability to reason and therefore will get us addicted to it. Other than that, there is no question of addiction in any other field. But yes, some people are addicted to Chatting on the internet, some are addicted to messaging on the cell phones, some are addicted to driving their vehicles fast; yes they do exist. But that’s because of their own personal lack of resistance towards the activity. Not all Internet users are Chat addicted, not all mobile users are SMS addicted, not all drivers are speed maniacs & similarly not all gamers are addicted to gaming. Meaning that, Games are not equal to Addiction, therefore Gaming is not equal to Drugs. I have seen in articles where old gamers say “The game almost ruined my life”. Well, old friend, ‘games’ don’t ruin your life; your inability to forget your game, your inability to stop playing & your inability to give importance to other things in life, almost ruined you. If it was the mistake of the game, then all the people who ever played the game should complain the same way. But that’s not the case, is it! Many have made it a profession & not as an addiction. It is within us to understand the difference; to understand the limitations. Addiction is when we spend too much time on unwanted things. So, the solution here is, either, the time spent on gaming should be limited and in this case, it has lots of positives & is basically fun. Or, if the person spends too much time in gaming, then he is obviously interested in it & so let him make a career out of it & look for ways of making it a lucrative job. Having said all this, still, there exist certain cases of game addicts. And to understand that, we need to look into the different genres of gaming.

Gaming Genres:

The complaints that have been raised globally are from young adults who play games on the internet all the time, neglecting everything else in life. Where people miss the obvious difference is that, these are MMORPG games otherwise known as Massively Multiplayer Online Games. These are the types of games where, a player takes the role of a single character that he created online & then pursues endless missions to achieve endless goals. These are games played for time pass. Meaning that, they should not be taken seriously & time spent on such games should be very less. Only in such games exist the question of addiction as some weaker minds are unable to come out of the characters that they created & instead they cease being the real them. Such games actually help shy people & people with lack of self confidence to come out of their shells. The collaborative & competitive nature of working with or against other players give it the social aspect that they lack in their real life. This should be used as a learning tool to create friendship & start relationships. After gaining confidence, they should move on with their life. But if they are unable to come out of this, then they should have never started this. But this is only 1 genre in games. But unfortunately, when people think of the word Gaming, only this comes to their mind. And yea, one more thing that comes to their mind is, of course ‘Violence’.

Again, ‘Violence’ exists in 2 genres of gaming. One is in ‘Action’ games, where we use a gun to fight for a cause. Well, if you don’t like the bloodshed, then there is always an option in these games to switch off the bloods etc… Then all that would remain is a game, where we need quick minds, high concentration, hand-eye co-ordination, basic sense in gaming. All these are good for the player & not detrimental. The other genre of games to have violence is ‘RPG’, abbreviated as Role Playing Games. This is once again where the problems are raising. These games are single player games, where we are asked to do certain tasks, which involve violence. Well, they are no different from a violent movie. There is absolutely no question of addiction here, as the games come to an end after a month’s hard work in front the monitor. As far as the violence is concerned, doing something violent in the game doesn’t motivate me to do the same in real life. I’m saying this as a personal gamer myself having finished most of such games. Consider any product for that matter, its our responsibility to use it properly. As Mr.Scott McDaniel, vice president of marketing for Sony Online Entertainment rightly said “You don't see disclaimers when you get in a car saying 'Don't run over people.' People have to exhibit their own good sense, and if they have kids, they need to pay attention to what they're doing”. Even movies use violence for comedies. Such comedies and reality shows with violence on televisions have more possibilities to induce violence than such games. From my personal experience, after watching a few wrestling matches as a kid, I tried it on my pillow & friends; this is very much true. But after playing hours of action games, I didn’t feel like killing someone or bullying someone. Such a thought never occurred to me. So basically, I don’t think gaming leads to violence.

Now, what most people fail to see is this genre, ‘Strategy’. Well, these games are like a game of chess. I’m personally a trained chess player & my favorite gaming genre is ‘Strategy’. These are the games where we take control of a civilization, gather resources, make technological advancements, create militaries, make strategies, use counter military units & attack with an army to defeat the enemy stronghold. These games take a while to learn & are not easy to play at the beginning. They are similar to chess, because, they need quick thinking, they need tactics & plans, they need time management & all other aspects of a game of chess like sacrificing a pawn to kill a Bishop. Such games require a master mind to play. The advantages of playing such games are too many to bring under this topic & besides, my aim is not to say that games are good, but to change people’s perception of games & to show that it has a lot more than just violence & addiction.

Then there are other genres like ‘Racing’, ‘Adventure’, ‘Simulation’ etc.. Racing is a real cool genre where we need to know the physics of a car, like Aerodynamics, Gear Ratio, Suspension etc.. Its no more as simple as getting behind the wheel of a car & driving it. Adventure is a genre for fun & to be awed by the graphics.. And some adventure games really make us think as we will have to find clues & discover ways to the next step. It’s a lot of fun & very interesting & it comes to an end very quickly. Simulation is something used by professionals, like Pilots or Soldiers. Its used in training people. Its more complex than we can imagine. These are the major genres of games that we should know about.

Competitive Gaming:

Now, this is the aspect of gaming that I really support. This is where I learned a lot about life. Its not like, if I play in tournaments I will learn life. Its more complex than that & very hard to explain in words. Still, I’ll try my best to explain my feelings.. Competitive gaming mostly involves teamwork. We are made to play & learn as a team. Now, a team isn’t formed from nowhere. We create a team after spending some time in local cafes. Then, we try to know which games we are good at. Then, we get in touch with people who are good at those games. There are ways to get in touch with them, like gaming forums, playing online, visiting cafes & participating in tournaments. Once we meet them, we then form a team with like-minded gamers. Then we start to work as a team to win in competitive situations.

Team Work:

I’ll shortly explain the things I learned during my hours spent with my team. First, when we formed the team, I felt as if I’m on top of the world, as I have just formed a dream team with the best players in my area. As time passed by, I learned that forming a team (or starting a project) is not all. Its just the beginning & there is a lot more to go. I learned from these experiences that, not everything comes from luck or by sitting relaxed & doing something that we enjoy. I learned that, a good start counts only when we do a lot of hard work. Ofcourse, you may say that “We have always taught you students that hard work is a must”…. But tell me, how good is hearing a few words when I’m saying that I was able to experience it personally. I mean, I had so many dreams when I started gaming that I’m going to be so successful & only when I really stepped into the tournaments I realized that life is not that simple. I realized that everything needs lots of hard work, devotion & time to be spent for success. I learned that forming a team is not the difficult part, but to maintain a team, to lead a team, to take decisions as a team is very difficult. I learned to cope with people who have different views from myself. I learned that everyone has their own egos & self respect. I learned that I won’t get anything done by just shouting or getting angry. Instead we need to talk to people, with a understanding voice. This is something not even most grown ups have learned or controlled to the full.

Personal Experience:

When I first entered gaming, I was this silent boy in the class, who won’t speak to friends much or didn’t even have many friends. But I also had this other character in me because of my personal life, where I was very angry, I would easily get raged or upset. Not many knew of this, but it was always inside me. After a year of gaming, I learned to improve both these characters. I started to speak out more & started opening my mouth atleast in situations where I must. I reduced my anger, I learned that anger won’t get my anywhere. I learned that, as much as I want to, I cannot live alone in life. I learned to go well even with people who are rather offensive & with different opinions.


All I want to say is that, gaming is not just violence & addiction. And its definitely not a drug. There is a lot more to gaming, that most people are yet to see. So, don’t jump to conclusions about gaming, as it is rather a vast subject. Basically, what people are doing is looking at a single aspect of a single genre of gaming. Its like looking into a room through a window, when we should be looking at the entire house. Competitive gaming is a sport. Its like cricket or football. Narain Karthikeyan once said in an interview that when he approached a company asking for sponsorship, the person there asked him to join cricket as it is financially more lucrative. Such is the situation of Cyber Gaming in India now. But nonetheless it is a sport & a lot of gamers are truly athletes, not spoiled brats, but the latter exist too…