Thursday, February 14, 2013

memory of games

What does it mean - to win, to succeed, to level up?

There are quite a few extra cards, optional, that come with the Silicon Dawn. Being rather traditional with my tarot preferences, I kept most of them out, but the 99's were among those I kept. The culmination of a suit, its essence developed, a sort of opposite to the Ace. The king can be seen that way, is in many decks, but in a way this idea makes more sense - Like the Ace, this is a card representing forces, situations, opportunities rather than people, the personal.

Fire-Disks, the practical in life combined with energy, light, destructive potential. The metaphor in this card is a great example of why this deck so very much appeals to me. I grew up playing video games - Sega Genesis, SNES, several generations of playstations and gameboys and computer games. Books you could get for free from the library, huge stacks of them - video games were what saving up money was for. You fight and walk and solve puzzles and dig around in virtual garbage cans for hidden treasures.

My favorite games were the ones where you could customize your character. Pick a race, a class, skills to put points into. When you leveled up you could further specialize: would you be fast, or strong? Shoot fireballs, or learn to heal yourself and save a ton on potions? In some games, later on, you would have many characters on your team for storyline reasons, and you had to further choose which ones would be the ones you fought with, developed, allowed to level up again and again.

There were the difficult games where you had to grind - to walk around in certain areas fighting monsters again and again to gain experience, go up levels until you were finally strong enough to face this or that boss without being defeated. There were games where you had to strategize how to develop your character, what would help against this or that opponent. Brute force? Picking them off at a longer range? Status effects, attrition?

I still remember my first ever computer game. It was called Rise and Rule of Ancient Empires. You picked a civilization, built cities and roads and armies. I liked being the Indian empire best because of their elephant units. Strategy there was in that, yes. Which buildings will you choose, which advantages, will you lay seige to that city, take the offensive early on or bide your time and hope your neighbor doesn't build up his forces faster than you? There were the city building games too...Egypt, Ancient Greece. You start with a few hovels and farms, and expand. Build temples, mines, bathhouses, theaters, tax collector's offices. A garden next to houses will allow them to evolve, a mine will lower the property value - even in video games no one wants to live next to a mine. Can you level up that city enough, build the infrastructure needed to harvest the resources that will allow you to advance to the next part of the game?

You would calculate and think, in those games, trial and error. Trade offs, budgeting, this for that and you can never have everything. I played three generations of Sims games and even now my thinking about interpersonal relations is so very influenced by them - sometimes I imagine those bright green bars indicating hygeine level, social need, energy. The bars that showed relationships. Talk on the phone to advance, except if you don't have a strong enough relationship that person will not want to talk to you on the phone. Have you leveled up your skills, schmoozed with your coworkers and boss enough to gain a promotion?

In media video games often get so much flak - the violence, the time waste, the people with the
'video game addiction' and 'no life'. They are not mindless though, not all or even most. I read like mad and played video games too. And life too, has leveling up, of sorts. My social skills have certainly leveled up over the years. My ability to prioritize, my confidence even. Some things still need work...even in the Sims it was rare to have, without some kind of cheating, an elder with all their skills maxed out. That was a simple game. Always you can improve, grow, use energy to become more.

Achievement and pride, but fleeting. There is always more to be done, new beginnings, chances for gain and for loss. Some skill and some hard work and sometimes, luck, or lack thereof. I remember sitting in the air-conditioned computer room in elementary school, playing Oregon Trail. Perhaps if you prepared well and chose a good course and prudent actions you would make it to your destination. Other times, you would be mauled by a bear, your comrades would catch a disease and so it goes, game over. When you can you level up, and then you keep going at it.


Sharyn Mallow Woerz said...

Wow. I didn't have a clue, thank you for giving me some light today!

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