Virtual Reality – The Games That Got Away

January 6, 2010 by admin  
Filed under General Video Gaming

Some time around the middle of the 1990s, there was a widely held belief that the future of video gaming was the Virtual Reality headset. In the future, we were assured, there would be a lot less watching a screen while playing with a video game controller which made things happen about ten feet from your face. No, you would play games that happened right in front of your eyes, and it would be like you were really there. It seemed quite a seductive idea, and it was quite an innovation, but it’s safe to say you don’t know many people who own one.

Virtual Reality headsets are still very much in use, but in a gaming scenario they really never took off. Mostly it was to do with the difficulty of writing a good game for them – all you could really do was stand in place, walk around a little and then wait for the headset to catch up with you. They work a lot better in a setting where the surroundings are more fixed and sedate, and they have become quite useful in a scientific application, but for the time being it seems settled that video games will mostly be played on screens.

The idea of being in a more “participatory” game has become more realistic, with gamers enjoying driving games that make use of pedals and steering wheels, golfing games with realistic putting and driving strokes, and other similar ideas. Maybe Virtual Reality will have its day, but the present seems to be far more devoted to other innovations.

A Gym For The Mind

January 6, 2010 by admin  
Filed under General Video Gaming

Hands up if you have heard someone say “those video games are no good – they rot the brain and poison the mind”, or something that approaches that attitude in terms of an emotive response to video games. Now, put your hands back down. Put your hands up if you regularly play video games and have found that the game frustrates you because it poses a problem you cannot work around. Now, do you see the point this article is about to make?

The assertion that video games prevent people from broadening their minds and even work to retard the brain in some way really is an idiotic one. Let’s think about this for a minute. So many of the games out there on the market require the player to really think about what they are doing. Each has a quite logical pattern which can be followed by the gamer to get them to the next level. They very much encourage logical thinking rather than retarding the brain.

Of course, there will be some people who when playing a video game simply run around the (virtual) play area shooting everything that moves and, when they find something that doesn’t move, shooting it until it does. Even this does not mean that they are rotting their brains. Certainly no more so than reading a book which has a murder in it every other chapter. Of course, one of these two will always be seen in some people’s eyes as enriching their intellect – and there are no prizes for guessing which.

A Gaming Evening – This Generation’s Bridge Party

January 6, 2010 by admin  
Filed under General Video Gaming

Although the present generation are frequently attacked by their “elders” for the way in which they behave, it is fair to say that there is a certain amount of that criticism which goes over the top. Certainly, the way that some people react to video games it would be no exaggeration to say that they consider them to be the devil’s work. Video games – in the home, anyway – are a relatively recent development, and there are people living today who were brought up in a world without them. Therefore, people may well be prone to a fairly inflamed attitude to something they don’t understand.

When you think that – out of the millions of people who play video games regularly – a small number have been guilty of the actions which are routinely blamed on video games and those who play them, it really is not hard to see why people think gamers get an unnecessarily hard time. After all, there are probably some people who have gone to bridge evenings who have then killed a person at some point. It would be needlessly harsh to call for a ban on bridge, even knowing that.

Of course, it is possible for a video game to affect someone psychologically, but the fact is that one cannot take the attitude that everyone should be denied something that millions of people enjoy responsibly just because one person who does that thing took actions that were inexcusable. We need to look out for people and make sure they are well, rather than banning things that might “make” them behave oddly.

Video Game Addiction – It Is Real

January 6, 2010 by admin  
Filed under General Video Gaming

You will hear it said a lot, if you spend much time around gamers or their friends or parents – or indeed if you yourself are a gamer. The word is spat out with real feeling, but the way it is said is almost more mocking than angry, and it seems to cloud the real issue. You must have heard it, either reported, acted, or said for real. “That game, you’re always playing it – I sometimes think you’re addicted!” What might surprise some people is that playing video games can be genuinely addictive, and it can be a problem.

Indeed, some reviews of games and the advertising that takes quotes from them will use the word itself – “addictive”. Gamers themselves will say approvingly of a game that it is very addictive. It certainly is a selling point. But there is a fine line between “addictive” and addictive. Some people do develop an addiction to video games which is in its way as pernicious as nicotine, heroin or any other drug. It may be considered to be pretty lightweight compared to those, but for those who develop an addiction there are real problems.

Some people become sullen and withdrawn when circumstances prevent them from playing a video game, and some will respond in a very ungracious way to those who ask them to do something else. It is not as damaging, in real terms, as a drug addiction but it can be very damaging to social relationships and if you feel that you, or someone you know, has become addicted to video games (or one specific game), it is important to look for a solution to the matter.

Suspend Your Disbelief

January 6, 2010 by admin  
Filed under General Video Gaming

One of the things that is used as a stick with which to beat the gamer is the idea that gaming is a “fantasy world”. Some people do believe that the player sitting with a controller in his or her hands has reverted to a child like state in which they cannot tell the difference between digitised figures on a screen and real people. And while the best games do have an element of immersion to them, it is completely inaccurate to suggest that gamers have difficulty separating game and reality, as a rule. The games are fun, but if gamers were as feckless as cheap shot columns in newspapers and magazines suggested, they’d never be able to afford the games they play.

It would be more accurate to say that gamers enjoyed the time off from doing real-world stuff, but that is really no different from watching a movie or reading a book. People manage to do this stuff and hold down jobs. It is really not a case of regressing to childhood, and most gamers are every bit as aware of the difference between game and reality as are the people who write about their supposed lack of common sense. At any rate video games, as intricate as they may be, are not so life-like that it is possible to forget what they are.

Games are fun, and that’s the whole story. Does playing Monopoly turn people into money-hungry tycoons who are not satisfied until everyone around them is bankrupt and homeless? No.

Good Evening, Sports Fans

January 6, 2010 by admin  
Filed under General Video Gaming

The rise of sport simulations on video game consoles started a few decades ago, but the advances that the medium has made since then are quite something to behold. There was a time when whatever sport you enjoyed, playing it on a video game would be somehow unsatisfying. Unless your chosen sport was golf, it was incredibly hard to make players and conditions anywhere close to lifelike. Once you discovered a way to hoodwink the computer player’s defense, you could rack up as many goals, touchdowns or baskets as you liked, and scores would end up unrealistic and a little bit boring.

Video game software houses were no less aware of this than the gamer, and with every new release – for a sports game franchise is nothing without an annual update – they have added to what you can do. It used to be the case that an NFL simulation game had you controlling one player on offense and another on defense, and that was it. Now you can be general manager, head coach and conditioning co-ordinator and much more besides. A little confusing and overwhelming for a first-timer but blissful for the stats junkie.

Of course, there are now consoles which even let you participate more actively. Boxing by means of controllers which you hold while “punching”, tennis which involves you swinging the controller around like a racquet. This – we are told – will make us all fitter, and it is a response to the accusations that games are making us lazy. It seems to be popular, too. But it is not going to mean the death of the armchair sports simulation, for sure.

It’s All About The Game

January 6, 2010 by admin  
Filed under General Video Gaming

The popularity of video games has changed in ways more subtle than many of us ever give credit for. Yes, it has become a growth industry due in no small part to the way it has offered people what they want. Cerebral games are now more cerebral, violent games more violent, and games featuring hedgehogs now have all the more hedgehogs in them. However, there is also another difference which has become all the more telling since the 1990s. Early in that decade, to play a really good game largely meant venturing to the local arcade. Now, no such action is necessary.

Console gaming has grown and grown since it came to us in earnest towards the end of the 1980s. However, it used to be the case that consoles had nothing like the power of the mainstream arcade machines, and indeed games tended to be developed for the arcade before being drastically scaled down to make them playable on a console. Now, the vast majority of games are developed with console gaming in mind. Whether this is a good thing or bad depends on your viewpoint, but gamers generally appreciate the opportunity to hole up indoors for a night of action, with the option to drink and snack as they see fit.

Additionally, when playing on an arcade machine one was always conscious of the queue of people forming behind them waiting to take over should the run out of coins to feed the machine. Once you’ve bought the game, it is yours and you can stay there until you’ve cracked it. Long live the console!

How Times Have Changed

January 6, 2010 by admin  
Filed under General Video Gaming

A clever comedian once said that the idea that video games influence human behavior is a ludicrous one, pointing out that if the games we played in the 80s had influenced what we did then, people would have been running around in darkened rooms with flashing lights, swallowing pills as they went. He may have had a point. Certainly, what he said has a point behind it in another way. Specifically, computer games have changed incredibly over the years from the days of PacMan – when they were very simple, repetitive affairs – to the present day where we have the likes of Grand Theft Auto, Modern Warfare and various other incredibly deep and textured video games.

Obviously a major reason for this having happened is the improvement of technology year on year. Back in the olden days, three decades and more ago, a video game like PacMan or Space Invaders was viewed as being highly technologically advanced. Merely the fact that you could control a character on a screen by means of a joystick was something pretty startling. And due to the fashion for retro styles, it still finds a place in many hearts. However, there is also now the option to make the character interact more or less realistically with other characters on screen, to take the game in various directions and really feel control.

Whatever else you play a video game for, that element of control is an important one. The increase in popularity of video games may well have a lot to do with how much development has gone into them.

A Whole New World

January 6, 2010 by admin  
Filed under General Video Gaming

The vast majority of us will have to accept that the triumphs we dreamed of as kids will probably be beyond us in the end. Not because of failings on our part, but simply because of simple statistical fact. How many people play football professionally? How many will pilot a plane in a war zone? How many will build a new nation and run it along egalitarian principles? As a percentage of those who dream of these things, a pretty select group. Life gets in the way. Practicality messes things up. It’s something we learn to live with pretty early on.

Does this mean that we have to cut that dream out of our life? Once upon a time, maybe it did. However, now there are video games. And while it may not be anything like the same thing to score the winning touchdown in the Superbowl against digitised linebackers, it at least gives us the chance to play at being the best. While it’s not even a substitute for the real thing, it at least allows us to participate in something we identify with strongly.

Try telling a gamer that they don’t get real life. A huge number of them are extremely smart, intelligent individuals who are perfectly aware of the logical disconnect between gaming and reality. The same is true of movies, but they have numerous annual ceremonies to congratulate people in the celluloid industry. Gaming has its awards ceremonies too, but it has a wider band of detractors. They are always going to want to have their say, but it’s OK to ignore them. They rarely get gaming.

Not Just For Nerds Anymore?

January 6, 2010 by admin  
Filed under General Video Gaming

The popularity of video gaming has been a comfortable source for many news stories over the years. They are something to blame if something goes wrong in a high school, for teenage obesity, and even in some places for the lowering in quality of outdoor sports. A poor supply of players in skill positions? It’s because they were playing the game on a screen rather than on a patch of turf somewhere, honing their skills. Is it valid reasoning? Almost certainly not. Does it provide a handy way of abdicating responsibility for the failure of a system? Sure it does.

The truth is that video games have their good and bad points, but it is entirely unfair to make baseless generalisations about them to cover for a deeper malaise. High school shootings have been blamed on violent video games, even when it is clear to anyone with an understanding of psychology that the tiniest fraction of people playing a video game will be unable to understand the clear difference between what goes on onscreen and what is acceptable in real life. Not only that, but if people are convinced by a video game that what they do in the game is OK in real life, then they can realistically think that about a TV show, a movie or even a news broadcast.

The vast majority of gamers are completely ordinary people, and anyone with any common sense realizes that. But the stories won’t go away, and we should probably accept this fact.

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