Saturday, May 30, 2009

Finding Time for Games: A Matter of Matchmaking

It’s a common joke among the Charge Shot!!! editors – we write games, sure, but do we play them? Andrew and I both hold down full-time jobs, while Craig’s drama career gives him sporadic, intense bouts of employment (Shakespeare ain’t a part time job, know what I mean?). It’s hard sometimes to put in substantial time with a game.

Obviously, different games appeal to different gamers, but do some games endear themselves to a certain lifestyle more than others? Say you come home after a miserable day’s work – is firing up Final Fantasy XII the perfect remedy, or does it just add grind to grind? Read on for suggestions for the working gamer.

Before I begin, I should admit this is a flawed endeavor. It’s entirely possible that one’s favorite way to unwind is hacking through legions upon legions of randomly generated monsters. But I would like to propose that finding time to play games is as much a matter of scheduling as it is picking the right game.

(For the sake of convenience, I’m using the male pronoun. Feminists, remain seated).

If you’re Gamer No. 1 – let’s call him G@M3R – you’re wondering what the problem is. Gaming isn’t a matter of time management. It’s a food group, consumed alongside lunch and dinner for sustainance. You’ve logged hundreds of hours into World of Warcraft, and the many geographies of Azeroth are more familiar to you than your bus route to work, where you procrastinate by frequenting WoW forums. You’re close friends with people you’ve never seen before. You wish you could ride an eagle to work.

For G@M3R, gaming isn’t simply a diversion. He exhibits what bogus pop-psychology brands “gaming addiction;” really, his way of life is so alternative that we can’t help but brand it as pathology. MMORPGs are as more a social event than a solitary game played in private. They’re not deranged; just different, like Rainman, or like your mutt that got hit by a Buick and has only walked in concentric circles since.

Gamer No.2, Nine2Five, punches the clock and competently executes a job he’s only mildly interested in. When he gets home, even his bones are tired. While I insinuated above that those ground by the grind would be ill-advised to lock into a game like Final Fantasy, I think a deep, storied RPG is just the solution for Nine2Five. The core draw of gaming is escapism, and with their lush, vividly imagined worlds, their ornate storylines and singular aesthetic style, a gamer crushed by reality could hardly depart this world more completely than with Final Fantasy XII.

Gamer No.3 works 9 – 5 also, but he’s the rare creature that enjoys his job – a lot. In fact, WaterCoolerCrusader calls it a vocation, not a job. He gets immersed in what he’s doing, often chalking up unpaid overtime. Why so serious, WaterCoolerCrusader? Sit down, loosen your tie, and stop plotting your next big move for a second. Pick up this controller and blow the hell out of something. I recommend to you Red Faction: Guerilla or Saint’s Row 2, both Volition titles whose sole mission is mayhem and destruction. Switch off and let your, ahem, ape brain take the helm. Let your eyes glaze over.

Gamer No. 4 could never fathom games, period – could never grasp the controls, follow the stories, or care enough to invest a quantum of necessary effort. Fortunately (or unfortunately), his day has come – he, she and Wii can indulge in the remedial pleasures of casual gaming, whose simple graphics and pastel tones and wiggy-waggy controls can be grasped and enjoyed by single-cell organisms (case in point: more than half of my local bars now boast a Wii and a big-screen).

Stereotypes aren’t stereotypes if there aren’t exceptions, so if you’re a passionate, devoted nine-to-fiver who also likes Final Fantasy XII, good for you. If, however, you find yourself pinned down by the man, try playing a different kind of game – you might suddenly find your calendar more accommodating.