Daily Archives: May 12, 2005

A Gamer of Some Import

I’m walking down K Street at quarter to ten on a Tuesday evening. It’s cool for a DC summer night, and the walk back to the hotel is a brisk one.

I’m alongside Constance Steinkuehler, a researcher who focuses on learning and cognition. Of late, her research focuses on MMOGs (Massive Multiplayer Online Games) and the forms of learning, thinking, and social interaction within the context of those games.

Tomorrow, we will be presenters at the Online Computer Library Center’s Annual Meeting.

Tonight, she’s geeking out about God of War with me.

“Did you play the sex minigame?!”
“Of course I did!”

We’re walking alongside a few other people from the OCLC. Some of them pause and ask us about what we are talking about. We start to explain the scene, and the gameplay elements. More than a few giggles escape when we talk about rotating the analog stick first one way, then another way, then all the way around.

Someone jokes about the sex minigame and her husband.

Constance and I continue talking about God of War. We rave about its unapologetic faithfulness to the spirit of Greek mythology, and its place as possibly one of the best morality plays, ever. Kratos is a morally ambiguous protagonist.

He is definitely not a hero.

We talk more about the blood and the nudity.

“This is probably not the sort of thing we should show at the presentation.”
“Probably not. But I have the sanitized trailer.”

We talk about how the game reminds us both of Prince of Persia with better implemented combat. We move on to other games. She chides me about the fact that I’m playing Jade Empire.

“I’m surprised you like Jade Empire. That game is really girly.”
“Tell me about it. Whenever Dawn Star gets angry at me because I haven’t talked to her in a while? Please!”

But then we go back to God of War. I almost spoil it for her, and she tells me that she’s only three or so hours in. She may have been stuck at one point, but she’s going back to it. I mention the fact that it’s only about eight hours, but it’s a good eight hours. I complain about single player games that are longer than 40 hours.

“I will suffer the worst abuses in MMOGs, you name it—grinding, crafting, whatever. But as soon as I’m in a single player game and I come to a stopping point, forget it. You’ve lost me.”

She makes an interesting point. I’ve quit a lot of single player games at around the eight hour mark, unless they had something spectacular about them. MMOGs, I play for a ridiculous number of hours. Sometimes I get nothing done, but I still put in the hours. It has to be the social aspect.

Too soon, we reach the Hamilton Crowne Plaza and everyone heads into the hotel. It’s an early start tomorrow, and there’s plenty to talk about.

I reflect for a bit on on our conversation on cab ride home.

I remember that in a conference call two weeks earlier, Constance approved of my game choices, specifically pointing out that I was most definitely, “a gamer.”

Now, I return the favor.

Videogames are fighting against an outdated perception. There are people who only see games as violent, morally corrupting, time wasters with no redeeming qualities.

These people have never felt the music in Rez, never watched Aeris die, never used a bomb to find a secret door, never dance danced, never fought their way back from the brink of defeat with a crash gem, never had an impressive KO streak against their best friends, never leveled an assassin only to lose them by not logging in, never read how a particular super hero ended up in Paragon City, never helped two young orcs find their way back to Orgrimmar, nor have they ever, ever in their entire life—rolled a Katamari.

And I do feel sorry for them.

Certainly, there is still a long way to go before videogames are as accepted as books, cds and movies.

But as a person who enjoys videogames, it’s good to see a gamer like Constance fighting against this outdated perception.

It’s a good thing she’s on our side.