The general image of what a gamer is probably a teen male, however contrary to popular opinion this is not true. With the advent of flash games, MMORPGs and quick hit games on android and apple devices as well as Facebook there has never been a more diverse community of gamers but males in their 30’s are the highest percentage of gamers.
As a man in his early 30’s I am in the majority when I say that I am a gamer. I am proud to be a gamer but I do have to admit that in my life my concentration of gaming has been sporadic. At times I would immerse myself in a world and it would consume me whole until the game was complete. I remember playing Final Fantasy 7 during my time in University. Once lectures had finished I’d rush home and switch on my trusty old PS1, playing through Midgar and sharing Clouds pain. When I wasn’t playing the game I was thinking about it, listening to the soundtrack on my Discman. It had me enthralled. Once one game was over I’d look for the next fix of gaming mana.
I didn’t really think much of it until I came to Cambodia. I was born in East London and my whole life was there; family, childhood friends and all the memories of my life there. Once I was married my wife and I wanted a change, to do something different and to be honest Cambodia was as different as they came!
I worked in a school in Phnom Penh and after two years moved back to England. I have been reflecting on my time in Cambodia and want to share my reflections here.
I made new friends in Cambodia but the relationships were not as deep, I mean how can they be? International schools are great as you meet many people from all walks of life but they are also very transient, people are constantly leaving and arriving and so that deep level of friendship doesn’t occur as naturally or as often.
In Cambodia my gaming came to the forefront again- I played much more frequently than I used to (although not as much as when I was a kid) and although I enjoyed the games I missed the camaraderie of playing with my friends. The Wii offered a cushion to help me, offering up good memories and times. I have the Xbox, DS, PSP, ipad and Macbook but my weapon of choice to take to Cambodia was the Wii. I could have taken my Xbox 360 and played with friends online but the internet connection is temperamental due to developing infrastructure and the time difference of 7 hours meant there would never be a time I would be able to connect with my friends online.
So why the Wii? Maybe because my strongest memories of gaming were with Nintendo. It conjured up my first real experience with computers and the catalogue of games are like a childhood who’s who of gaming.
I never really got into MMORPG’s because I know how I am, if I get into a game I HAVE to complete it, no matter how bad or good it is. If I started on World of Warcraft I’d never see daylight again! I have a friend who used to be into sports and was quite active but over the last several years tragic events such as family deaths, poor health and divorce have ground him down. As a result he is now switched on to the virtual world, he hardly ever goes out and his friends are pretty much all virtual. It’s easy to see why someone who feels powerless in the real world would immerse themselves in the virtual world.
Games are amazing as they can distract you and immerse you. Their interactivity is empowering but for those individuals who are more obsessive or prone to addictiveness they can be destructive. Escapism isn’t inherently bad but when it comes at the cost of dealing with real world issues and having a sense of personal and social responsibility, this is where the problems start.
Games are by nature addictive and if you don’t watch yourself you can become lost to them. I don’t mean all gamers will become killers like Anders Brevik (click on the link below for a though-provoking article on the subject) but more simply that games can distract you at the time when you need to focus the most.
So I suppose the question is what kind of gamer are you, when do you most play computer games and why? Are you playing games because you enjoy them or are you playing to forget about something else in your life?