What do we think about when we play games?
My answer to this question varies. Often, I only want to be immersed in an escapist world and not thinking about anything outside of my character or the game. At other times, I enjoy analysing the game experience in the light of my day job, a librarian and instructor. When I’m writing or speaking about analysing games to audiences of librarians, I often refer to Adler and Van Doren’s How to Read a Book. This tome was inflicted on me as an undergraduate, but lately I’ve come to acknowledge a grudging respect for its lessons. Chief among them is the idea of multiple readings of a text in order to explore different aspects of it. Approaching games with this in mind has really helped me separate playing games from analysing games. After all, I really don’t want to see a powerful graphics engine or think “the anti-aliasing and god-rays really enhance the depth-of-field in outdoor levels.” I want to feel “sweet holy bastard child of Jebus, that’s beautiful!” Once I’ve had that experience, I can go back and analyse what the artists and designers did to achieve the sensation, but I prefer to experience first and then try to understand (affectus quarens intellectum?)
It is with this in mind that I’m really enjoying the Horizons Broadening Project (part i, part ii) that Elysium (the honorable Shawn Sands) is tracking at Gamers with Jobs. The project calls, not only for participants to play games they would otherwise miss, but it also provides the opportuntiy to look closely at why we like certain games and describe our experience with new games. Shawn’s description in part ii is an elegant reflection on a game experience that tracks along different lines than a more traditional review or impressions article.
I’m in the midst of a similar project, so I’m finishing The Witcher so I can particpate in the conversation. I did not play Birth of America, for a few reasons. One being that I didn’t want to part with the cash and another being that I expect to pick up Empire Total War at some point and don’t need to play both. My first horizons broadening project game was Tomb Raider: Underworld. I’ve never played a Lara Croft game. I’ve never had much success playing any game with a controller, being a keyboard and mouse man. I’ve never really spent much time playing platform games either, so this seemed like a nice opportunity to experience something new.
It turns out, I had a really good time playing Tomb Raider: Underworld and over the next few weeks, I hope to explain why. In the meantime, my thanks to Mr. Sands for pushing me in new directions.