Thursday, April 7, 2011


Over the holidays last year, my husband and I were visiting my parents.  I was spending some down-time late in the evening on the sofa in their living room with my DS, much as I've done ever since I got my first DS in 2004.

My dad wandered into the room and finding me apparently intent on my little screens, asked, "So... are you winning?"

And although I heard him clearly, my only response was: "Huh?"  I literally didn't understand the question he was asking me -- "winning" was never even on my mind.

I get that games, in their traditional sense, are all a competition.  Chess has a winner and a loser.  So do baseball and backgammon and poker.  You win or lose at roulette or blackjack or even Pong.  But I can't even think of the last time I thought of a video game I was playing in terms of winning or losing.

The games I've played -- even back into the mid-1980s -- are always stories.  You complete a level or a game, but you don't win it.  We win the battles, sure, when we take down that boss, but you don't win Metal Gear Solid or Fallout or even, I think, Super Mario Brothers.

And you most certainly don't win a Professor Layton game, which is what I had in my DS at the time.  I couldn't win at that game any more than I could win at Star Wars or The Hobbit.  I could solve the riddles, and I could complete the story, but... winning?

Every time I have a serious discussion about gaming (and a discussion about serious gaming), I have it reinforced to me that we treat competitive multiplayer gaming as a completely overlapping circle to all gaming, and that's a bad idea.  Sure, they're a Venn diagram with a gigantic overlap in the middle, but single-player narrative gaming is a different beast from, say, hopping onto a Counter-Strike map with some people.  In due time I'll be finished with Mass Effect, just as I finished Bioshock and Fallout: New Vegas, but even as I make the "right" choices along the way, I'm certainly not winning any of them.

So no, dad, sorry: I definitely didn't win.  But I'm pretty sure I haven't lost, either.

1 comment:

  1. I agree. I am not at all a competitive person, which is part of the reason I love video games and a big part of the reason I never play multiplier.