Why Can’t I Play Video Games?

Excitement is turning up all over for the new video game Spore and I’m thinking about buying it.  The trouble is I can’t play video games – at least not modern games.  I could play Space Invaders, PacMan and Galaga back in the arcade days, but for decades now whenever I try to play a popular video game I come to a screeching halt.  It’s like I have a mental block – I literarily have no idea what to do. I guess if I had grown up with video games I’d have a repertoire of gaming skills and it would be intuitive how to start each new game.

Spore seems like just the right kind of game for me since I love evolution and science fiction.  I downloaded and installed with minor difficulty the Spore Creature Creator Trial Edition.  My first stumbling block came when I couldn’t figure out how to launch the program.  It took me awhile to even discover I had a Games area on my Start Menu where the installer put it.  When I finally got the program running I knew enough to know I’m suppose to create a creature, but there are no guidelines as to why and what for.  Do I just add features randomly on a whim?

The same thing happened to me when I bought Civilization, Ages of Empire, Myst, and other trendy games.  They sound wonderful, but when I start them up, I wonder what do I shoot, and how do I avoid being hit.  That’s about all I know.  The last video game I was addicted to was Arkanoid.  Susan, my wife, age 55, plays video games for hours at a time and earns endless satisfaction from them, but then she’s always been adept at games and puzzles.

I can play cards to be social, and I know how to play chess, but my mind just clouds up with boredom when I do.  I find reading about chess far more entertaining than playing it.  Someone once suggested I lacked the gaming gene, and that may be true.  But I want to play.  Video games are the emerging art form of our times and it seems like a shame to miss out on them.  Unlike jazz or impressionistic paintings, the cost of experiencing the art of video games is hours of work and I’m just too lazy or impatient to pay the price.  I feel guilty about that.

I’m afraid if I don’t catch up to the video game world now, it will evolve past what I’ll ever be able to learn, if they haven’t already, and I’ll be shut out from this art form for the rest of my life.  Playing video games might be compared with playing the piano or the guitar, something I can’t do either.  However, guitar players can record their performances and I can enjoy them.  Wouldn’t it be neat if great video game performances could be recorded for people like me to experience?  I imagine watching video games would be a combination of watching a movie and a spectator sport.

Getting old means learning to live with limitations and it’s annoying to discover that I can’t do something nearly all first graders do with ease.  It’s already galling enough to know that my old body can’t handle the physical games I played in school.  I now understand why golf is so popular amongst oldsters.  Not being able to play video games, which require little physical effort, is more telling, since it suggests my mind is going, but it’s more damning than that, it means I’ve lost the will to play.  Now that does make me feel old.

The makers of Spore and other video games should offer free editions with training wheels for us late blooming boomers.  I can picture these games with lots of tutorials and practice sessions.  They need to start with 1 minute practice games, and then move up to 2 and 3 minute games.  Get us hooked and we’ll buy the full package.

Another thing video game makers could do is create video gaming teaching programs.  Analyze the most common features of video game play and create lessons on them.  Or build online gyms for video game training where novices can go and do circuit training to build up their skills.

And I need to build up my tolerance and patience levels.  I need to stop being so wussy and caving in after 45 seconds of frustration.  It’s why I didn’t stick with playing the guitar or any other activity that didn’t feel natural from the first moment.  I wonder if I adapted to playing video games if I could apply the same mental techniques to learning how to play the guitar and other pursuits I gave up on in the past?

Update 9/8/8: I guess I won’t be buying Spore after all. The fury over it’s DRM has convinced me to not bother. I’ll have to find an older game to start my video gaming training.

Jim

One Response

  1. I certainly love being a video gamer. While I don’t do it as much as I used to…blogging and a bigger commitment to reading have cut into what used to be more gaming time…I still consider this one of my favorite entertainment activities. Especially with games that have a bit of a story, Like Elder Scrolls: Oblivion. I’m currently replaying a great horror game, Clive Barker’s Undying, and it has been a lot of fun. It is a deliciously creepy game.

    I do find that a number of games are not user friendly for new people not used to playing them. I certainly was intimidated by role playing PC games before getting into Oblivion, which to me seems very user friendly, but I also have a lot of gaming experience.

    I certainly think it is a fun activity worth spending some time learning, but in the end it probably isn’t something you need to beat yourself up over if you don’t get into it.

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