Before I begin, I should state that I don’t hold a grudge against games or people who play them. They are a fine form of entertainment. Rather, in this article, I will aim to explain, in depth, why I personally don’t enjoy games.
So, what kind of games am I talking about, exactly? For this article, I’m going to limit my scope to video games, but many of the things I say will also be true of board games, card games and sports.
Let’s start simple: Games fail to hold my attention.
I have tried first-person shooters, role-play games, open world games, puzzle games, racing games, fighting games, a number of different genres. I have had plenty of exposure to video games, because I used to believe people when they told me that a particular game would be fun to play, and would give it a try.
Let me start with an analogy: Books and movies have to pull off something called suspension of disbelief, or immersion if you will, which is when you forget about your surroundings and start to believe in the story and the characters. In order to do this, it all needs to be believable. The setting, even a fantastic one, must feel like a real world. The characters, even if they are exotic, must be relatable.
Video games? If there are cut scenes, they always get my hopes up, but once the game play starts, the floor falls out. The rich, warm and detailed world in the cut scenes abruptly goes cold and mechanical. Your character is a soulless puppet. The supporting characters turn into predictable NPC’s with canned responses. Any hope of story immersion evaporates right there. The plot was just an excuse for the game mechanics, and I’m not buying it.
Obviously, video games are often not meant to tell a story, even when they pretend to. And I think that’s where they lose me, really.
I like reading, hearing or seeing stories or facts, whether it be through a book, a movie, or listening to a person talk. What I don’t understand so much is the urge to interact with a machine in order to accomplish imaginary goals, with nothing to show for it after it’s over.
Unlike the real world, games are often very predictable. They’re designed around a pattern of action, and you repeat that action pattern until you accomplish a goal, and to me, a given game feels more and more pointless as you learn that pattern, and you realize that you’re just going to be performing the same pattern, or minor variations on it, for hours and hours and hours, until you’ve mastered it.
Now where have I encountered that before? Oh! That’s right:
Games are like homework. Math homework. The kind you get in elementary school in order to cram the rules for arithmetic. The kind where you have a whole page of assignments, but they’re actually the same assignment repeated over and over, and only the numbers are different.
Somehow, enthusiastic gamers are either blind to this, or they like math homework way more than I do. Once the pattern becomes obvious, something dies inside of me. No matter how elaborate you make the plot, it’s still a plot that must be resolved by doing math homework.
“What about open world games?” I hear you scream.
Oh great! A game with no clear purpose at all? That’ll definitely get my blood pumping. At this point, I should add that I didn’t play with Lego bricks as a child. I was never very fond of toys. Instead, I read books, watched documentaries and learned about the world.
Games are a form of toy, so at this point, you may be wondering why I didn’t like toys. I think it’s because they are pretend objects. And why would you bother to obsess over pretend objects when the real world is so full of interesting things? Why escape reality in favor of a game when you can simply take your eyes off the part of reality that you dislike, and direct them towards a part that you do like? For example, if you are tired of people, why not learn about big cats in the wild, or the day-to-day life of an astronaut aboard the ISS, or why The Beatles began to experiment with classical instruments on their later albums? I can think of thousands of things that are more fascinating than the comparatively narrow world of video games.
And that’s why I don’t like video games.