Since When Did Playing Games Become Work?
I ordered Dragon Age Origins from Amazon last week. Now I am not a real big role-playing fan but I do play them from time to time. In fact I usually buy one role-playing game (RPG) per year. I played Oblivion in 2006 and Mass Effect in 07. I never finished Fallout 3, so I stayed away from the genre until Mass Effect 2 came out earlier this year. I guess Dragon Age could be my RPG for 09. Whatever.
Somewhere in the midst of checking the US Postal Service website for the status of my package, I began to wonder why I was so intent on playing this game. I then realized that while the game only mildly appeals to me (I prefer sci-fi RPGs), I am fascinated by the morality system and the choices presented in the game. I know if I can get my hands on it I can probably use the content as the basis for a study, a paper, or at the very least some good blogging. That’s when it dawned on me: I play games for research and not for fun.
So then I started debating with myself, thinking “surely I play other games just for fun.” What about NCAA Football 11? I play that game every day, but it is also research. I’ve already blogged about dynasty wire and social media. I sent some tweets about the power of the press in that game. In fact I started tweeting about the social aspect of the game before I even picked it up from Gamestop. And while eating breakfast this morning I tossed about an idea about getting users to create more stories to increase the hype and tension before big games and therefore make online dynasties more realistic. That would make for a fascinating study.
Well then perhaps I play Mass Effect 2 just for fun. That’s no better. After all that adventure provided inspiration about death in games, cultural hegemony and racism. I even thought about blogging on how the game treats the disabled in the “Overlord” DLC. So much for that.
Worse still, I bought Red Dead Redemption to see how Rockstar went about developing the narrative. Fable II was only an exercise in studying the morality system and how NPCs would react to my in-game decisions. I got great information, but never finished either game.
I think something is wrong with me.
It finally dawned on me that my gaming only serves as a platform for my research. Even when I think I am just having fun or relaxing, I suspect that somewhere in the back of my mind I am taking mental notes for my next project. I would not be surprised if the gaming I’ve been doing these past few years (Mass Effect 1& 2, NCAA Football, Dragon Age, Tomb Raider Underworld, Gears of War, GTA, Modern Warfare 2) will provide a wealth of potential projects to work on after my dissertation. And so here I sit with research ideas about male body image and the use of drama in video games floating around in my head. Even now I have a blog draft about the perseverance of hyper-masculine heroes in games such as Gears of War. In an age where Lara Croft looks more like a women and less like an adolescent fantasy we still have Marcus Fenix who exemplifies the typical ultra-macho, super-aggressive male role model.
And so my brief self-reflection has led me to the conclusion that my days of gaming just for fun are gone and they aren’t coming back. That pastime has been replaced with the need to explore game content for hegemonic messages, changing player identity in the face of moral choices, and genre-blending trends in the industry. I used to joke that studying games gave me an excuse to play them. Now I think studying games is my sole reason for playing. How my (gaming) world has changed.
- Indoctrination, Assimilation, and Elimination: The Reaper Methodology in Mass Effect
- Return to Mass Effect: The Compassionate Shepard
- The Walking Dead Game: A Case Study of a New Hegemony
- Airport Massacre Revisited: How “No Russian” Might Have Influenced a Killer
- Mass Effect 3, Marketing, and a Magic Bullet: Emily Wong Reporting
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