People become gamers for a variety of reasons. Some get into it because of the gameplay. Others for story and characters. Or it’s a bit of both. Based on what your personal preferences are, you’ll gravitate to one game over the other. A discussion I had with a friend recently reinforced what type of gamer I am––I’m the gamer who plays to escape into a great storytelling experience and with characters who linger on your mind after you’ve put the controller down and turned your console off.
It isn’t like I haven’t known all this before. I’ve mentioned it quite a few times in posts where I talk about my personal gaming experiences. What got me thinking about how I got into gaming is when this same friend and I were having a discussion about Spec Ops: The Line.
Spec Ops is currently the game I’m playing for my July video game challenge at my own blog. If you’ve been following those, spoiler alert, I’ve actually since beaten the game. Spec Ops isn’t the usual game I’d pick up and play. I’m not so great at shooters in general and military type games aren’t what I typically like to play. When my friend gave me Spec Ops as a birthday present last year, I was surprised that he’d give me a game like that. I mean, he’s one of my long-time best friends. I’d think after many years of friendship, he’d be an expert at my likes and dislikes. Did my friend suddenly get careless with his gift to me? No, it wasn’t like that.
After playing video games for a while now, it became easy for my friends to figure out that the games I like the most are the ones with a strong story and character development aspect. Don’t get me wrong, I do like games with fun gameplay and little to no real story to them. That being said, the games I find myself playing and finishing within two weeks to a month (depending on the length of a game) are the ones where, as I play the game, I feel like I’m reading a really good book. Games where I have to know how it ends will be the ones I’ll somehow find time to play no matter how busy I get.
When my friend had to decide what to get me for my birthday, he immediately thought Spec Ops would be right up my alley. He did assure me that while it looks like a military shooter game that I probably would put at the very bottom of my list of games to play on my current backlog, he promised me that I’ll like it for the story and characters. Thankfully, my friend does know me really well and he has been right on all accounts. If I had seen Spec Ops in a video game store, I would have kept on walking and would never have given it a second look. Because my friend played the game before and loved it, he knew this was something I had to play.
Having beaten my first playthrough of the game, my friend and I were excitedly talking about the story and choices you have to make in the game over dinner one night. As we compared notes and discussed the themes and motivations of the main character, I couldn’t help but think that this is the reason why I’m the play-for-story type of gamer––I like having intelligent discussions with friends about games like this one.
Those who aren’t gamers don’t realize how complex, enriching, and smart video game stories can be. It may seem odd to a non-gamer who much rather have an intelligent conversation over the high-brow books they’ve read or the art exhibit that comments on poverty through a post-modernist, avant-garde perspective, but to those of us who, like me, wasn’t much of a gamer in the beginning, it isn’t as strange as you think. I’ve managed to look at playing video games as an interactive and fun way to progress through a story. When the writers and developers do a really good job at delivering a game that makes you think about the themes, the story, and the characters, it’s really not all that different from reading a book. You’re just taking control of a character and leading him/her to the end of the story.
To be able to share my opinions about what the game’s overall story means to me, it always makes me hungry to find the next game that will be able to give me an experience like that all the time. Spec Ops is one of those rare games I’ve played where the entire experience stuck with me. I can only count a handful of games that have managed to do that for me and they aren’t many. Wherever there’s a good storytelling experience to be had, I’ll be there to play it. It’s just the type of gamer I am.