Around here, I am the odd woman out–I don’t play many video games. The only game system I personally have is a Wii and I barely use that, although we will break the ABBA Dance game one day soon, I keep promising myself. When I tell people that I write for this site, they say, “Oh, you’re a gamer?” and then look surprised and a bit confused when I say no, not really.
However, I got to thinking about this the other day and I realized that I play games pretty much every day. Mostly, I play games on my phone, and they fall into two categories: games to relieve stress, and games to connect with friends.
For stress relief, I am a big fan of short, fast games; the kind of thing where you have to pay complete attention to the game for one minute or so, like Bejeweled Blitz. When I am feeling overwhelmed at work, I whip out my phone, pull up BB and start matching jewels. Boy, am I bad at this game–I am always seeing great moves right after I make a move that completely removes the chance to make said great moves–but if I play several games in a row, I can usually come up with at least one game with a reasonable score.
Beyond not totally embarrassing myself (friends can see your current high score, after all), I don’t much care about the score, though. The fast pace and enforced concentration on one thing only is very calming for me. I know, I am strange, but I embrace my strangeness and work with it. For a very short and manageable time period, I only look at one thing and I completely ignore everything else around me. Even if I am really busy, I can pull one short minute out to play a quick game and not feel even the slightest bit guilty.
I would put Hidden Chronicles in this category, too, although I have to play this on my laptop rather than my phone, and I mostly do that at the end of a long day. The same general concept applies, though–you do a lot of short scenes where you are trying to find a list of objects as quickly as possible, forcing you to focus on one thing, but not for too long. I can easily watch TV while I am playing, only playing scenes during commercials or boring parts of the show. I will say that in the past few days I am disappointed in this game, though. You need to request parts from friends to build things, and they seem to have made it a lot harder, no doubt to encourage people to spend cash on the game. One of the interesting parts of the game is the way they create mini-stories within the game where you complete quests to open up new scenes. The stories are very interesting, but lately I can’t seem to get through them, because it is harder and harder to get through the quests. Requests don’t seem to be making it through, and I rarely see posts on my Facebook wall from my friends. Unless all of my friends that play this game didn’t decide to abandon it en masse this past weekend (which seems unlikely), Zynga has to be doing something to make it harder to play for free. This is not encouraging me to pay to play, though–more likely, I will abandon the game soon. This is supposed to be stress relief, not difficulty!
My favorite connecting with friends game is Words with Friends. I love that I can have multiple games going at once, and play whenever I have the time, but still keep up a running game with someone else. I like that it makes me think, and I like seeing how my friends think through a game that involves language, strategy and knowledge of extremely obscure words. I do care a bit about the score on this game, because I don’t want to look dumb to my friends, ;), but the main thing is to feel like I have a game going with my friends and to keep my brain limber by thinking in creative ways with the letters.
I also do the odd board game with my kids, but not as much as I thought I would when I pictured parenthood before I had kids. We are so busy it gets hard to fit games into our evenings with dinner, chores, homework and everything else. Still, the kids love it when we do fit in a game, so we try to do it at least once per month, more if we can fit it in. We do a lot of Lemming Mafia and card games, and my son tries to get us to play Summoner Wars whenever possible.
So, that seems like a lot of game-play for a non-gamer. I don’t generally identify as a gamer because that brings up a specific image to a lot of people of either a hardcore video game player or, for a small nerdy subset, a role-playing game player, and neither of those image really fit me. But I do like to play games, and I play them often, so maybe I should reconsider. With my daily playing, I am a hardcore casual gamer, I guess. Does such a thing exist?