Bards and Prophets mentioned Alex J. Cavanaugh's 'It's all fun & games' blogfest, which sounded like an opportunity I couldn't pass up.
Alex' idea was to list our 3 favourite games (board games, card games, RPG, video games, physical games, drinking games - even mind games!) and why.
In my day job I teach applied psychology and game design to budding game developers, so you can see why this blogfest caught my eye.
I had expected this post to be easy, but narrowing down my list to only 3 games turned out to be quite a challenge. I have a number of board games I really like - like Samurai - but in the end I narrowed down my selection to just computer games, because overall they've been more important in my life.
Planetarion is a browser-based MMOG (massively multiplayer online game), which I started playing shortly after its release, when a couple of my students alerted me to its existence.
The game is set in a Science Fiction world, where each player owns a planet and has to mine nearby asteroids for resources. In between scanning for asteroids, you build a fleet to defend your home base or attack other players and steal their asteroids. In short: it's all about space battles!
Planetarion was the first online game of this type and scale I encountered, and I played it like a maniac. I hardly ever slept more than 4 hours a night, and I worried more about my planet's well-being than my own.
I remember seeing coffee mugs for sale with texts like: 'Not now. My planet is under attack.' or 'I need to cancel this meeting; I've got incoming.' I could relate ...
I was most fascinated by the social and communication side of the game, the alliance politics and the negotiations, but I also loved organising alliance battles and calculating the defences needed to stand up against an attack.
However, after playing Planetarion for about a year, I needed to get my life back, so I quit the game and promised myself never to play anything like it again.
2. Diablo II
Diablo II is - or better, was - a popular computer game, in which you played a character that ventured through a dark fantasy world.
In the original game you could choose to impersonate an Amazon, Barbarian, Necromancer, Paladin or Sorceress; in the expansion, 'Lord of Destruction', an Assassin and Druid were added to your character choices. I preferred both Amazon and Sorceress.
As your hero ventured through the world, he or she had to chop up (or blast away) monsters in order to find armour, weapons and magical items.
What I most liked about Diablo II was its story line, atmosphere and the overall feeling of empowerment while playing. The game presented its players with tough challenges and - especially in the dungeons - we needed to proceed with an interesting mix of caution, courage and stubborn determination, which felt every bit as real as emotions in the outside world.
Everquest was the game I broke my post-Planetarion promise for. I had managed to stay away from massively multiplayer online games, so when one of my best friends at the time - now my husband - recommended it to me as a 'game I would like', I knew he was right, so I tried to stay away. Tried.
After a few months I gave in when another friend showed me the game's website where I could read up on the different races and classes that populated the world. Once I had discovered 'the Enchanter', I was hooked.
I spent every free moment playing, levelled up in no time, joined a guild and in a matter of months I got to the level I needed to join the higher-end guild my friend was in: Xanadu.
In Everquest I discovered that I am not a casual gamer - and never will be. When I like a game, I need to give it my all. If I can't do that, I'd rather not play at all. Come to think of it, that's true for most aspects of my life.
I played Everquest for about 3 years and my character ended up as one of the top 5 enchanters on the PVP server. (PVP = player-versus-player, i.e. a server where players can attack other players as well, not just computer-generated monsters.)
When I could no longer play the game the way I wanted to, I quit, once more promising myself never to play anything like it again.
So far I have managed to keep that promise. It's been easy, really, because once I had more free time and a more relaxed mind, I realised how much I missed writing, and how it's even more rewarding to create my own worlds and story lines.
Which are your favourite games?