Originally posted by Charles Reece:
Yeah, you're probably right, K. I don't know what it is, but every time I try playing a friend's game, I get bored within 5 minutes. Visually, they're very cool. It's amazing how they've developed, in fact, but Pac-Man keeps my attention longer. Anyway, the reason I stopped playing games a long time ago was it left me sort of empty after blowing 4 hours on them, sort of like depression. It's not that I'm saying I don't waste my time on other endeavors, that's just how I felt playing videogames. Boardgames and puzzles have a similar effect on me.
Sure, I can understand that. I mean, it's time into a vacuum, especially with the more complex ones. It's learning and work for a false sense of achievement and it's far more time and money than movies or even comic books cost you, generally. It's hard to justify playing video games at length if you have anything else remotely meaningful to do with your time.
I certainly wouldn't say I've never gained anything from video games -- they're just a part of my culture and generation, and I'll always have fond memories of certain games. In anything I ever do artistically there's bound to be a faint echo of influence from them, not so much the content as the weird atmospheric quality they held for me growing up, which particularly as a kid had a lot of resonance. It sounds weird but there's something about being buried in the corridors of an old game like Metroid with that incredible music playing (I know it's practically trendy now, but I do like old video game music) blasting away at the little bubble doors, piloting your acrobatic little astrogirl down to deeper and more difficult new subterranean areas. All the better if you'd uncovered some weird shit like the password that turns your head into that of a dog's or whatever. Early video games were incredibly strange, esp. the 8-bit era. They all had that secret staircase quality. Cheap to make so there's so much weird shit buried in some of those cartridges; the content was chaotic, often nonsensical. Often ridiculously imaginative too, god bless the Japanese. And all so abstracted, if only by technological necessity. Even Pac-Man. This little yellow ball chased by ghosts through a dark neon-lit maze as he rushes around trying to gobble up everything he can in an endless circuit. Dying and trying again, dying and trying again. All the hypnotic power of a flashing slot machine. That glimmer of hope in the corner that was a power pellet. If I were gene I'd call it mythic, but let's just say I remember very clearly the mesmerizing and bizarre feelings video games first evoked in me as a kid and have an easy time seeing the best elements within that, even if the sum total of their effect -- on an individual or on culture as a whole -- is not necessarily positive.
In a way the games of today are a huge step back or a step in a direction I don't care for anyway, as half of them are little more than interactive movies -- but really really crappy movies that go on for 20 hours and frustrate you to no end by forcing to you hit a bunch of buttons to get through the retarded story. But on the other hand there are some good developers working that have achieved the kinds of games I once barely would've dreamed possible. E.g. DEAD RISING from last year, a great game with a really sharp sense of humor that I enjoy as much as any Romero flick, in which you're a photographer trapped in a very large shopping mall packed through with Romero-esque zombies. You can wander into any store and use pretty much anything as a weapon -- cash registers, placards, squirt guns, real guns, bowling balls, skateboards, potted plants, lawnmowers, chainsaws, etc. and so on. You get points for snapping pictures containing particularly violent or sexual content. You can make your way out and down to the garage and tunnels underneath the mall to grab a vehicle with which to maul down the regenerating hordes; you can go into department stores and try on different outfits, including giant teddy-bear masks and frilly dresses. At the same time there's a genuinely interesting story and characters (for a video game anyway) and this wonderfully tongue-in-cheek vibe to it all, and the option to try to follow that story and the dictates of those characters exactly, or to just wander around doing whatever you care to do to amuse yourself (or unlock various secret weapons, etc.) and explore the huge, meticulously crafted environment.
What a blast that game is.
But yeah, my time for these endeavors and indulgences is definitely limited these days. I can't really keep up, they release so many that I'd ideally play given the time. Which is probably best for my wallet.