Tuesday 21 January 2014

Playing games...

Probably unusually for a girl 18 months shy of her fortieth birthday, one of my favourite leisure activities is gaming. Not gaming as in gambling, gaming as in video-games.

The very first electronic game I met was my brother's 'Frogger' - a large yellow plastic box housing a screen; the game was operated by a joystick and you had to move frogs from one side of an obstacle filled screen to another. Frogger is still out there on smartphones and the internet; slightly more sophisticated than that early iteration.

Frogger was followed by the Atari. An early 'computer' with a slot in the keyboard for cartridges, and a joystick (when required). The only two games I remember were 'European Countries and Capitals' which drew outlines of a European country and asked for the capital (which would be useful in quizzes had the face of Europe not changed so drastically in thirty-something years) and 'The Western Front' which was a scaled down electronic version of 'Risk' set in WW2.

Next came PCs of various makes and models. These had games as diverse as text based games (I always recollect one where there was a bus stuck in an iceberg) and basic strategy games (a shipping game 'Ports of Call' and one where you drew segments avoiding enemies to the song 'Popcorn'.

By the time I left school there were computers there; a supposedly educational text game where you collected mathematical solids and an endless maze rendered in wireframe.

The next time I bumped into video games was the Sega Megadrive. Happy days spent with Sonic the Hedgehog - a mis-spent youth if ever there was one (although heading to my late teens early twenties by this time). The Megadrive was replaced by a Sony Playstation and Final Fantasy VII entered my life. 

The person who owned the Playstation left my life, so I bought my own to finish FFVII (I never did - although to this day Radiohead's 'Creep' reminds me of one of the themes in the game). The PSOne was followed in time by a PS2 and Spyro and other video game characters became staples in my gaming life. The next addition was a Nintendo (four iterations until the DS was knocked off its perch by the smartphone). 

Then things got complicated. Sonic belonged to Sega (which at the time before cross-platform collaboration) meant the acquisition of a Gamecube. 

The heavily advertised Fable (Lionhead studios, whose 'Black and White' on the PC had proved beyond me) required the purchase of an Xbox (exclusive you see).

So for a while we were a four console (plus hand-helds) household. In the end Xbox won the war and all the preceding consoles apart from the PS2 were sold. My Xbox 360 is getting on a bit (it's white, which is telling to those in the know) but I don't want (or need) the Xbox One so it stays.

Now I have Facebook games, games on my phone and tablet, still some PC games (although they are related to console games) and an awful lot of Xbox games. Favourites included Travellers Tales Lego games and Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed franchise.

The iPad has me addicted to 'Simpsons: Tapped Out' which has the unexpected bonus of regular updates so you don't get bored and the support of the TV show as there are frequent tie-ins!

Facebook (ssh don't tell anyone) I still play Farmville. Without the enthusiasm and dedication I once did though. There are too many farms and quests, and like most studios Zynga are no longer a social enterprise but focused on making money by in game purchases.

This is the choice now. You can spend £40-£50 on a console game (which in my case will keep me amused for months), or you can get a game free (or for a few quid) but in order to seriously progress you will be required to constantly (and without limit or endgame) make in-game purchases, which will equal or exceed the price of a console game. These online games (social platforms and smartphones/tablets) are more community minded and require interactions and input from online friends. You do get this option with console games, but it is not an integral part of the experience (unless you are dead set on 100% completion as some games have achievements that can only be unlocked in co-op play).

I suppose in the 21st Century it comes down to where you want to play and how you want to play more than what you want to play.