Posted on Tuesday, December 11th, 2012 at 6:00 PM by Chris Smith
This article is dedicated to the memory of Sir Patrick Moore; the once and forever GamesMaster.
If you were to ask ten people that know me, “What one word would you use to describe Chris?”, I’d like to think they’d say “gamer”. They wouldn’t, of course, because (as is the way with friends and family) they’d think up something much more colourful and disparaging. The follow-up question of “No, but seriously?” might get the desired response, though; I’m a gamer. I own hundreds of games for a multitude of platforms. But somewhere along the line, people started getting the idea that I was great at playing games… and I’m really not.
There are several levels of confusion operating in conjunction here. For a start, being “good at games” is like being “good at sports” – the description doesn’t mean too much unless you start getting specific. I doubt there are many people out there who simultaneously excel at every sport they participate in. Similarly, not everyone is going to be great at every genre of game. Furthermore, what people generally mean when they think I’m this wonder-gamer is that I can best any challenger in a multiplayer battle; again, this is an incorrect assumption. I’ve never been good at playing against other people.
Let me use an example – Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun. A classic game in the RTS genre and one of my favourite C&C’s. I fondly recall many long nights spent playing the campaign, and after completing the game, I turned to skirmishes: set matches played against computer-controlled enemies. In time, I was able to beat the computer on its hardest setting, so I thought playing against my friend (using a crossover Ethernet cable; go 20th Century!) would be a similar challenge. It wasn’t. I spent half an hour building up my base, researching everything possible. I wouldn’t let my friend attack until I was done, because even at that early age, I despised rushing as a tactic. After amassing my army, I called off the truce and was utterly obliterated within about five minutes.
I don’t remember if I took it well or not, but to this day, I don’t like playing against other people in RTS games. Not because I lost, but because the way I like to play them doesn’t fit in with the competitive element. This theme of disliking multiplayer in just about any form is primary among the reasons why I can’t really accept the description of being a “great gamer” or suchlike. When people talk about their kill/death ratio in the latest Call of Battle: Modern Field Duty or whatever, my eyes tend to glaze over. But even when we discount multiplayer and focus strictly on single player, there are other metrics against which to judge gamer performance: GamerScore, trophies and achievements. In five years or more of owning a 360, I’ve only managed to get full GamerScore on three games. I’m not even sure if I’ve maxed out any games on my PS3 or on Steam.
I can certainly understand why people think I’m some sort of gaming guru, and I’m not saying that to be boastful. It’s because the people who think this see how much time I sink into playing games, so surely I must be good at the things, right? But it turns out that I’m actually not that great at just about any game you’d care to mention. If I had to describe my level of skill, I’d say it was average to advanced at best… and I’m fine with that. I’m completely fine with knowing that there are other people out there that get enjoyment from squeezing 100% out of their games, or playing through a title as fast as they can.
My enjoyment as a gamer comes mainly from the stories. I’m a great lover of fiction, especially fantasy and sci-fi, so it’s no surprise that I like RPGs and RTS games. Those hundreds of games I mentioned before: I’ve played and completed a good deal of them, with plenty more sitting waiting for me. I’ve played more games than a lot of people will in their entire lives. I have rare titles, old classics, indie gems, mainstream hits and – above all – fond memories of all my time spent gaming. I have entire music albums that remind me of a game, or even a specific point in a game. I still get goosebumps when I hear the opening chords of any Final Fantasy VII battle theme. I get so much from my games that isn’t tangible; isn’t accountable or calculable.
I may not be the “gaming expert” that people I know seem to think I am… but if there was ever a way of measuring how much someone loved games, instead of how good they were at playing them, I think I’d be a contender for the worldwide Number 1 slot.
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