Sunday, December 13, 2015

Love the game

Tonight I was thinking about how the first experience in a video game can be like falling in love.  I remember with startling clarity many of the early experiences in relationships when I felt myself falling into that state of crazy delirium, the sense that madness was taking hold and that I would be a slave to a new rush of chemicals.  It is a wondrous feeling and manages to cement memories that to an outsider might not look like anything interesting at all.  You can't get that sensation back, no matter how hard you try.  You can find love again with somebody new, but that first taste of attractive insanity is ephemeral and temporary.

Games are similar.  I remember playing Skyrim for the first time and my absolute wonder and joy at my first venture up a mountain into the ancient tomb called Bleak Falls Barrow.  It was guarded by bandits who began to rain arrows down on me as I approached.  I saw them up on their high perches and could not figure out how I might survive their assault to get close enough to mash them with my gigantic hammer.  I ran away, badly wounded, and hid behind a pillar to try to heal myself and desperately formulate a plan.

That first foray into an unknown place, not understanding the dangers and pitfalls I might encounter, dreaming of treasures and wonders, was very much like falling in love.  It came from something new, something unexplored, something unknown and terrifying.  That combination of optimism and fear, uncertainty and bravado, was absolutely intoxicating.  I played Skyrim for so many hours and had many fabulous moments of discovery and triumph but I never recaptured that feeling from Bleak Falls Barrow, that first few moments where the scope and power of the Skyrim world revealed themselves to me.  While I loved the game, that feeling would never return no matter how much I searched for it.

There are things that are definitely shared between discovering a new person (or just a new side of a person you thought you knew) and discovering a video game for the first time.  There is something immensely powerful about the unknown, both in that there may be scary things, bad times, and suffering, but also the possibility of rapture and joy.  Once a person is understood, once a game is explored, that sense of secrets to be found and the unknown fades away.  Both the love of a human and the first experience of a game world cannot be sustained over the long term as the unknown fades to known, as the map is filled in.

All of which explains a lot of why people have similar sorts of styles when it comes to games as they do when it comes to relationships.  Some people want to get past that first stage and just settle into playing a game over and over forever, content with second stage love.  Some people flit from game to game, always hunting for that hit of first love, of newness, of desperation and terror and hope.  I don't think that these things are particularly related though, as I definitely know people who sit tight in relationships, very happy to be settled, but are polygamers, never sticking to just one thing at a time.  There are also plenty of the opposite who chase the thrill in new relationships but play one game always and forever.

I can't tell which I am, to be honest.  I used to be more monogamous both in games and in love, but these days I find myself wandering from place to place, looking for new thrills instead of focusing in on one single thing.  I do wish I knew why this is the way it is though.

1 comment:

  1. My worry is that I might never re-discover that feeling with video games. That addictive rush that made we want to play more than anything else. Haven't had it since early Civ5 and Skyrim, and that's a couple of years ago.

    Well, except for Magic. Playing Magic again after a year away was an incredible rush - I skipped work to do it! So absence may make the heart grow fonder.

    Thinking about it, multi-player Civ also had that same rush, as did early Agricola. So I guess it's still there. But right now I'm between games and missing it a lot.