Muscle Memory

One of the signs of a good video game is how quickly you can forget you are using a controller or keyboard to move around in the game’s world. There is nothing like the immersive feeling of living inside the magic of a well rendered environment. I’m mostly thinking about 3D games, but I’m sure that people really into a 2D game, (think space invaders or pac-man – where all the movement is with in two dimensions, up/down & left/right,) also soon realize that the the thought, “go there” doesn’t include a specific command to a finger, you just go there.

It helps that most games use the same keys or buttons to make similar things happen. Such as moving forward. Usually on a keyboard you use the ‘W’ key to move forward.  On a controller, you push the left hand toggle forward.  Doesn’t matter who makes the game – if they want people to feel comfortable moving around in the world they’ll stick to what players already know.

But for people new to gaming, it is hard to remember what to push when. And that is, I think, what keeps a lot of people away from video games. If you didn’t learn when you were five, when your mind, in its most absorptive state, memorized a hundred new things a day without even trying, controlling an avatar for the first time can almost induce motion sickness.

women-with-goggles-riding-a-bikeBut in the end, it is just muscle memory. Like riding a bike. When you learn to ride a bike, or when you are back on one for the first time in a decade, it seems all you can do to just stay upright. Feet pedal, hands stear, spine balances. But soon, you are just riding. Your body just does it.

You just…  go. there.

Like everything else in life, riding a bike, controlling an avatar…  it takes practice to get to the point where you stop looking at your fingers and just enjoy the sights and sounds.

I wish there was a way that people who have never played in a 3D environment could experience the immersiveness of a beautiful game, without the steep learning curve. I think Virtual Reality will get us there eventually, but in the meantime, there are a lot of people missing out on the magic.



What was your first video game?

Wikipedia – The Sears Tele-Games Atari Pong console, released in 1975.

Mine was Pong. Yes, I’m that old. My dad was always into the latest gadgets. He probably bought it at Sears. I remember the knobs to move the paddles on the screen and the clunky switch that would turn the TV into a game.  This was all when I was about five or six I think. So, really, I don’t remember a time when there wasn’t such a thing as a game you could play on a screen.

And, for the purpose of this blog post, let’s be clear, a ‘Video Game’ is an interactive experience on a screen.  End of definition.  It is really just that simple. If you are so inclined, you can talk about your favorite genre of video game and tell me all about how it is the only real video game, but I will just laugh at you. Technically speaking, there is no difference between Candy Crush and Call of Duty.  They both are bits of code used to put graphics on a screen that you manipulate with your hands.

Whatever. Why do people argue about these things?  Why can’t we all just say how wonderful it is to live in a world where not only do video games exist, but we have the leisure time to play them?

I’m reasonably certain that everyone who reads this has, at one time or another, played a video game. Either in an arcade, or on a console or on the very screen where you are reading these words.  Yes, if you’ve played solitaire or minesweeper on a screen, then you have played a video game. They all count.

Now, for no other reason than I like to talk about it, I’m going to list my gamer history.  If you don’t know any of the stuff I’m talking about here, I feel bad for you.  You missed out on a lot of fun.

  • Pong was the gateway console game for me. The Atari 2600 was next, then the Nintendo Entertainment System, NES for short.
  • On the PC I started with text based adventures: Zork and Suspended (a terrifying game!) and Amnesia – never finished that one.  I played all the Sierra games, and Starflight – best game ever.
  • Then I had a long gap in time where I was surrounded by technophobes. Came back to PC games via Oblivion and WoW, and back to consoles when I bought a Wii – with the excuse that it could be used for exercise.
  • I went the microsoft route, xBox, xBox 360 and now xBox One. Loved the Fable series, and Skyrim. Loved riding the horses in Red Dead Redemption, though I never finished that one. Fallout 3 and 4…  Star Wars Battlefront… So many more.  And, I am not afraid to admit – Just Dance 3 and 4.
  • On PC – I have too many games in my Steam account to list, but I’ll mention Portal and Portal 2, Kerbal Space Program, and the latest favorite: No Man’s Sky.

Video games are such a core part of my personal history, I can’t imagine my life without them. And neither can you. Again – you have played games on your computer or your phone, I’m sure.  Maybe you had a Speak and Spell as a kid?  That counts too, even if it was only a glorified calculator – though, ET used it to phone home, didn’t he?

Anyway – my whole point is, even if you think you are not, you probably are a gamer.  It isn’t a separate part of the culture.  It’s like music.  Everyone listens to music. Some people get really, really passionate about it, others only turn on the radio while they’re driving – but no one would ever say, oh, music is something I never hear.

It just occured to me – using an ATM could fit into my definition as well.  And that’s a game you almost always win, isn’t it?

Video games are everywhere.





This is just a silly rant…

SWTOR Bounty Hunter (IMG_3681)
SWTOR Bounty Hunter  (Photo credit: chaines106)

I really, really wish there was someone out there in the world who liked to play MMORPGs* the way I want to play them:

1) Quests only: no dungeons or raids, I just want to follow a character through the story-line of the game.

2) No PvP*: I don’t want to fight real people – I want to fight NPCs*.  I don’t understand the appeal of fighting other players.

3) No crafting: feels too much like work.

4) Gear:  I really don’t care what kind of gear my character has. As long as it is the right level for my character – that is good enough for me.  And as an addition to this, I don’t care about buying or selling gear in the markets – too much work.

The thing is – I really like to play with other people, But the key word there is PLAY. It is a game, it is supposed to be fun.  When your game becomes an obsession and when you get angry at people who don’t take it seriously, then it is no longer fun.

I don’t want to just randomly hook up with strangers either – I want to already know who I am going to play with and more importantly – I want them to know me and my playing style and be cool with my giggling when the monster starts attacking and I start yelling, “run away, run away!”

I have yet to meet a single person in real life or inside the games who wants to play the way I do, and so that means I don’t really play anymore.  It is boring to play by myself.

And that is the end of this silly rant.

Where I am:
SWTOR –  Shadowlands – main: Jilanna – Sith Assassin, alt: Vaunna, – Smuggler Gunslinger
WoW –  I’m sort of all over the place – been playing since 08′, never got a char past level 60 – I just get bored and start new ones

*Glossary for the non-gamer:

MMORPG – Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game – basically Dungeons and Dragons on the computer with strangers from all over the planet.

PvP – Player vs. Player (real people)

NPC – Non-Player Characters (not real people)

SWTOR – an MMORPG called Star Wars, The Old Republic

WoW – an MMORPG called World of Warcraft