Warning: Gaming May Change Your Life.

If you play a computer game for long enough, will it change your life?

There are many horror stories about gamers who spent a zillion hours plugged into their game of choice only to find themselves divorced, without a social life or at worst collapsing from the inevitable result of neglecting to eat or drink for a few days. But can we also be influenced in positive ways by playing computer games?

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We human being types go through many events and experiences during the course of our lives that slowly shape how we think, feel, behave and see the world around us. But what about gaming experiences?

I’ve picked out three games that had a profound effect on either  my “gaming” life or my “real” one. Have you had similar experiences?

Morrowind

Adventure! Explore! Customise! Choose your own path! How often do we see these words on the box? And how often does a game actually deliver such promises? For me, nothing had given the depth of experience I had secretly hoped for – until I picked up Morrowind.

Finally I really could do what I wanted, go where I wished and play in the style that I most enjoyed. The map was a wide open landmass in the form of the island of Vvardenfell. This time there were no set paths to follow, just a huge, dangerous and beautiful landscape peppered with tombs, caves, shipwrecks and the local inhabitants. There were oodles of  sub-plots and side quests and even the odd random event (remember how you met Tarhiel?).

This freedom extended to the character creation process where you could pick your own style of play rather than follow the restriction of set classes. If you felt so inclined you could even do the main quest-line and go on a long journey of discovery to find out all about that Nerevar character the dark elves keep banging on about. Add to all of this a deeply memorable soundtrack and a wealth of easily accessible lore and back-story; it was simply perfect.

Finally I really could do what I wanted, go where I wished and play in the style that I most enjoyed.

I have many fond memories of being murdered by skeletons, stealing diamonds (and everything else), picking flowers and getting lost in Vivec city. But the memory that stays with me the most was the freedom. I got to choose what I played and how I played it. No other game had given me that before.

Put simply, Morrowind is the game that got me hooked to gaming. It also raised my expectations of what gaming could give me.

Star Wars Galaxies Online

So you have to buy a game and then pay again each month just to keep playing it? Um no thanks… then I saw a friend playing the MMORPG SWG and I simply had to give it a go.

It’s been almost 9 years since I first wandered the sandy wastes of Tattoine in my hawt-pants but I still miss those carefree days with a feeling of great longing and a touch of sadness that I will never do so again. Oh the hours I wasted with my guild of crazy friends – decorating buildings, hunting dragons, making costumes, dancing naked in cantinas and being beaten up by our town’s Imperial neighbors  SWG, a sandbox MMO, gave me the open world play that I’d discovered in Morrowind but now I had the company and banter of thousands of real people to go with it – of all ages and from all walks of life. I absolutely loved it. And of course, it was Star Wars, what’s not to love!

SWG was an incredible backdrop to a beautiful, gamer-driven playground.

Whilst, technically, not a perfect game by any means SWG, in its original format, was an incredible backdrop to a beautiful, social, gamer-driven playground. It put players in control of their own experiences in a way that is rare in other MMORPGs even today.

This was also the game where I met my other-half and a few years later we had a child together. A pretty life changing result – all because I because I picked up and played a video game.

Eve Online

If SWG was my MMO childhood then Eve was my angry, angst ridden puberty. More than any other game I had played before this one was uninviting and bloody hard work. It almost felt like it did not want to be played at all.

Everyone who picks up Eve will have their sink or swim moment and it is this moment that will define your future relationship with the game. My own moment was a devastating corporation war that cost me most of my equipment (years of work and time down the drain), a few friends and a lot of pride. I could easily have joined the quitters at this point. I could have moaned on the forums. I could have complained about the unfairness of it all. For my peace loving corporation had been peeveepeed to death and that is not what we had payed our subs for. I took a break from the game. But then I came back…

Cutting a long story short, when I returned I began dipping my toes into PvP. I learned about voice coms and proper set-ups. I learned which ships played which roles and about different types of fleet. I hung out with other PvP pilots and tried to learn what I could from them. By 2009 I was living in one of the harshest environments in New Eden and had become a Director in a PvP corporation. That corp was ranked amongst the top 10 PvP corps in EON Magazine during 2010. I also ran a popular player blog about the fun times I was having in this game that just a few years before had kicked my butt so badly. Please don’t assume that I became the worlds greatest PvPer, far from it. But I did finally “get” Eve.

Everyone who picks up Eve will have their sink or swim moment and it is this moment that will define your future relationship with the game.

Eve is about learning from your mistakes, adapting and being proactive. Most of all Eve is about attitude. A lot of people never really get to grips with this and I’m so glad to be someone that did. To quote Captain Jack Sparrow:  “The only rules that really matter are these: what a man can do and what a man can’t do”. Oh yes, that is Eve Online.

Playing Eve changed the way I view gaming and in particular PvP. I am now far more proactive in learning from mistakes and gracious in defeat. A huge downside to this is the frustration I feel when surrounded by gamers who complain about “exploiting cheaters” or about a game or class/profession being “too hard” when the truth is they either got out-played or have simply failed to grasp their own potential.

In my real life there have been further shifts. Through Eve I discovered the power of social media and blogging, something I’d never done before. This helped me to progress in my job and in other personal projects. Eve certainly ended up having a far greater impact on me than I’d expected possible when I first took flight all those years ago.

So what about you?

This has been my tale of too much time spent plugged into a PC and of the unexpected results this led to. But what about you? What games have shaped the way you play? And have any effected your real life?


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