Why do you game?

I get that question on almost a daily basis… Ranging from out of friendly curiosity to complete hostility.

I’m a 23 year old girl in higher education that likes to go out to party and enjoys cooking for her friends. I guess I’m too far away from the cliche. People don’t see me as a gamer or a geek and are sometimes ‘shocked’ to find out I was addicted to World of Warcraft for two years. I just managed somehow to combine it with my normal life. How the hell did I do that anyway? Six raids a week, all preparations for that, two of them I was raidleading myself and I still found time for my friends and parties. No wonder my results in school dropped a bit.

Back to the point. I game cause it’s my passion. Just like I love books and movies, but then again: I love games even more than those stories. I love what James Paul Gee calls ’embodied experience’. When I’m gaming, I’m not reading or watching a story. I’m in the story. I’m playing the story. I’m co-creating the story. You could even go as far as saying that I’m living it, especially in a massive multiplayer world. No other medium has been able to give me that experience. Not even real life. I can’t shoot a bow straight for real, not even if my survival depended on it. I can’t do magics and I can’t ‘respawn’ when I die. Gaming gives me endless possibilities to do the things I dream of and even the things I didn’t know I was dreaming of. I can be a rogue, a hunter, a magician or even a strong, sturdy melee fighter in a fantasy world. I can be a technological girl-wonder in the future. I can be anything that the real world won’t allow cause of well… reality. Damn you, gravity!

Don’t get me wrong, I value real life still over gaming. I think that’s the borderline of things going ‘wrong’. That’s when gamers can become addicts, when they start valuing the game over their real life. There’s nothing wrong with escaping every once in a while. Life isn’t always peachy. But you still have to want to live it. Cause when the game becomes more important than the real thing, what’s the point?

Another thing I love about games, that makes me drool with passion, is how a good game is designed. My education made me think more about my own gaming experiences and the learning in it. It’s fascinating how many actually good learning experiences can be built into a game. And most of the time we don’t even notice that we’re learning! That’s completely different from yawning in a schoolbench for a day and trying to cram in the facts at night. Every game has rules, you have to learn those. Not by reading the booklet. But by playing. Tutorials that gradually build you to higher skills. New ways of problem solving that get introduced. The space to be creative with your character and it’s problems. Even completely new ways of thinking and looking at the (virtual) world. You learn to play the game by playing it, there is no other way. Your own experience will lead you to new discoveries. Some people don’t see the value in this for education. Because ‘you only learn the game and nothing useful’. But look at serious games, those have ‘useful’ learning built into them. And since when are skills like problem solving, tactical insight, learning to work together or even becoming a successful leader not useful anymore?

We don’t live in a modern society anymore. We live in a postmodern learning society, where knowledge is more than remembering facts from school. Why wouldn’t gaming fit into that?

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