Computer Games — Inspiration vs Shifting Bits and Bytes

Not only did I wipe Lemmings from my hard disc,
I overwrote it so’s I couldn’t get it back.
Terry Pratchett

Time is a scarce resource, especially keeping others from using up your time. But it’s also very easy to waste time by yourself. In my childhood/adolescence, I played a lot of computer games. It did have some beneficial effects — my English improved, especially “special” vocabulary, it was easy to maintain my mood (the games were always there), and it gave me an interesting perspective: I sailed with a pirate ship in the Caribbean or made the Lave-Riedquat run in space and became elite, I was dropped as an Army Ranger to complete impossible missions or executed a Libyan army, build a syndicate or a human colony on an alien world, and of course, I shot Nazis and demons.

But one day I stopped playing computer games. I think the main reason is that I am only interested in the settings and the characters as inspiration (for which I use Game Walkthroughs now), but no longer interested in beating the game. Because in almost any games the computer could easily beat you — you just need more processing power. What you are essentially doing is shifting bits and bytes in an environment that the computer could make impossible for you to win. And many games aim at making it just difficult enough. My favorite example is Neverwinter Nights, where the computer tries to match up the strength of your enemies with your own (which doesn’t work if you create a rare character like a Cleric-Thief, but they are trying). And why would I want to waste my time on something like that? A computer who “plays with you” to make matters challenging, but not too challenging?

It’s only bits and bytes in the end, it’s only a savegame that stores what you have done or what you have achieved. And in the end, you haven’t achieved much, or would you tell someone that you had a really nice weekend because you cleaned up that house of Zombies? When so many people could have had the same experience because the setting is fixed?

Or isn’t it more worthwhile to do something real, create something you can actually use?

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