Well, Gears of War 3 came out today. I saw the commercial for it last night, as well as one called Rage. To be honest, and I know this will probably send someone into fits, but they look pretty much the same. To be honest, I've never been a big 1st person shooter player, well, except for Half-Life, which was an amazing game! Maybe it was the memories of the time around playing it, in college, usually with friends, etc... and so that got me thinking about the difference between these games, the ones that I like playing (I'm playing now Alice: Madness Returns, the follow up to American McGee's Alice), and the addicting games that are on Facebook or on Android, such as Angry Birds
First off, I don't see the hype in Angry Birds. I tried playing it once, and found it low key and either really easy or really hard. There wasn't really anything to keep me playing. No explosions or power-ups to stimulate my ADHD mentality, nor anything brain-bending to keep my brain interested in the game. I would much rather play a round of Worms: Armageddon where a Holy Hand Grenade or Exploding Sheep can be used as weapons. And there you have to take into consideration wind speed and angle...etc.... and you can play with friends in multiplayer mode.
I've always thought of video games as being something better done in isolation, strictly a one-player affair. When my friends were over playing games, I never saw the point, as it didn't allow for any interaction between me and whoever it was that was over. Imagine the interaction between friends as arrows, and then if we're playing a board game, or something like Basketball outside, the interactions are directly between one person and the other. But when watching TV or playing Video games, the interaction is with the screen, and so there's no real bonding occurring. With today's technology, multiplayer games, from one computer to another, from one country to another, is possible, linking people all over the world, and you see the other person as the sniper on the building, or the guy with the giant energy blaster shooting you to smithereens. The interaction actually goes through the monitor and into the other person. Friendship is still possible in this way, unlike the more passive approach of just watching someone play a game on one monitor.
Unfortunately, I've never been very good at the games that are popular right now. My brother can, as a sniper, see that pixel way off in the distance, pick it off, and sure enough, it's another player. And in the realm of StarCraft, I tend to be more build oriented, more defensive, whereas those that play it with any regularity like attacking and destroying. It's why I liked Spore so much, until it got to the stages that resembled Warcraft and the like. This probably has something to do with me actually being anti-social.... I just don't like playing such games, where I have to interact with people I've either never seen before, or I end up just being an easy kill and there's no fun in it.
So let's return to Gears of War vs. Angry Birds. Taking the social aspect out of playing a video game for a second, playing either game does basically the same thing neurologically. I've often talked about video games as being a method of escape, much like reading or watching television. It's a stimulation that engages the visual senses (Neil Postman would have a ball with today's technology and how we use it to communicate with one another), engages the emotions, increases adrenaline, gives us the taste for victory that we once had winning the war on actual battlefields. We can play NFL football without actually being athletes, wearing jock straps, getting ourselves injured, or being in front of thousands of fans. But we get the same rush when our pixelated wide receiver runs into the end zone for a touchdown.
So does playing Bejeweled Blitz, for instance, provide the same biological needs as going out and buying Gears of War 3? There are so many games on the Internet now, through, ironically, social media, that are free, stimulating, and more time consuming, than paying $250 dollars for a console, $60 for a game, and then bringing it home. Granted, it is well worth it to play the masterpieces in Video Game Art as they come out. The computer I have now I originally bought so I could play games like Psychonauts, as the older one I had wouldn't even play the games I saw at Big Lots. And it's well worth playing Little Big Planet for the music soundtrack alone. Those experiences are worth it. The game designers are much like filmmakers, writers, or artists, in that the world they create is as much a part of the creative process as Leonardo painting the Mona Lisa, or Schumann composing "Arabesque." Some video games are experiences that can affect one emotionally, or, dare I say it, change a life. This is something that endless hours of Angry Birds can't do, other than adding pounds around the waist.
In the end, it's about how we spend our time. James Taylor wrote, "The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time." Daivd Crosby wrote a song, "Time is the Final Currency." We work and spend our money so that we might enjoy the time we have on Earth. It just depends on how we want to enjoy that time spent. Do we want to fling birds at pigs, or combine 3 of the same jewels, or do we want to engage ourselves in masterpieces of alternate realities? I guess it all depends on how much time we have to play.