6 Jun 2011

It's All Fun & Games.

Last Friday, L.G. Smith of 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.

1. Planetarion

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.

3. Everquest

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.

So I made a Dark Elf Enchanter, called her Triksi (after my Diablo II sorceress who'd been called Trixi) and took my first tentative steps into the world of Norrath.

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?

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  1. I dig your choices! Diablo I and II were awesome.
    Thanks so much for participating in the blogfest!

  2. Wow, this was a good blogfest for you! I had no idea you were THAT into gaming. My brother is the same way. He cannot play anymore. He gets so addicted to the games that he doesn't get anything else done.

    Confession: I've never heard of or played any of these. :(

  3. i decided to not narrow down my list. bad girl here. i'd better not tell my son about the first one you listed or he'll want that one too. he already plays more games than i can keep track of.

  4. I've never heard of these games, but then again I don't know much about computer games. I would probably get hooked if I started playing since what I've seen looks pretty cool. My list goes up tomorrow.

    Tossing It Out

  5. Alex: thanks for organising it! :-) Still waiting for Diablo III ...

    L.G.: just one of my many lives =) I'd recommend you don't check them out, it might drastically reduce your writing / blogging time. :-)

    Michelle: bad girl! :-) I saw Planetarion is still going on, but with a lot less players than it used to. Still, I bet it's still as addictive as it used to be. Better not tell your son. :-)

    Arlee: I suspect you might get hooked. Many bloggers / writers / overall creative people have 'the gene' to lose themselves in a different world, and that's exactly what these 3 games offer. (It's fun, though.) :-)

  6. I too have never played online games, knowing that I will end up as one of those people sitting in the basement; unemployed, unwashed, and surviving on delivery pizza :) I do enjoy watching my nephew play though, and he adores the fact that he can talk to other teens in different countries.

  7. li: I managed to keep a minimum living standard in those days, with job, showers, but yes - not many home-cooked meals. :-)

    You're right about the social aspect of these games. This is often undervalued, but massively multiplayer online games are great learning environments for teamwork, (intercultural) communication, dealing with disappointment / winning / losing, ...

  8. OMG. This is the perfect blogfest for you, and Planetarion sounds very addictive. I must resist. I must!

    Fun & Games Blogfest

  9. I'm impressed with your honesty. Have you seen "The Guild?" It's this vlog series about gamers that's pretty funny.

  10. Planetarian sounds like a game I could get lost in. I'm too busy to play video games, but if I did, I'd play Planetarian.

  11. Sounds like you have good taste in games! I'll definitely have to try Planetarian. That sounds awesome.

  12. I'm not familiar with these games as I haven't played computer games, but I really enjoyed reading about them. Especially Everquest, love the look of your character Triksi. Very interesting post!

  13. Diablo II looks amazing. I wish I had any spare time at all in my normal life to dedicate to gaming but alas time is short!

  14. Ooo. I have to check out that first one. :D

  15. Wow, lots of comments. :-)
    First of all: I promise I'll be around to all of your blogs tomorrow. It's been a busy day at work and I'm too tired right now to be able to devote the time / focus / energy that your posts deserve.

    Ellie: resistance is wise, in this case. =)

    Angela: no worries, I left out the worst. ;-) I haven't watched 'The Guild' - yet, so I'll have to check that out. :-)

    Stephen: I can't guarantee it's still as much fun as it was in the beginning. In games, as everywhere else, the startup communities tend to be more interesting than later ones - with a lot of room for exceptions, of course.

    Teralyn: sounds like you're also into fantasy / SF :-)

    Julie: thank you. :-) Everquest was such a great game, but a bit hard to get into at first, unless you knew somebody who was already playing and who could show you around. World of Warcraft has a much gentler learning curve and much better graphics, but yes - equally addictive. :-)

    V: and it won't get much better any time soon, I bet! :-) Should I wish you great weather this week or would you rather it doesn't get too hot? :-)

    MPax: as long as you promise not to blame me afterwards :-)

  16. I have a couple of pictures of Gwydion playing Diablo II when he was 5.... bad, bad mother, but I couldn't resist! :) He absolutely loved it but I had to deinstall because he obviously couldn't follow the strategies in order to get further in the game. And I have Diablo III outstanding as pre-order with play.com since... hmmm, must be 2009? Will it ever come.... We as family are collectively waiting! Hugs, Morgy xx

  17. Wow! I have always been so intimidated by these games, but I love watching my friends play. the worlds are so intriguing, but I was always leery of the tech and of my slow reflexes. LOL Great choices! And I so admire the fact that you are dedicated gamer. Bravo!

  18. I've never played any of these, but they all sound great. It's nice to meet you. I'm a new follower from Alex's blogfest.

  19. Morgy! I think you're a great mum. A bit evil, perhaps, but by no means bad. =)

    I'm waiting for DIII as well - it really has been forever, hasn't it?

    Hugs back at you and the ever wonderful S & G! :-)

  20. Hi Melissa & Ciara. Great to meet you here. :-)

    I'm a dedicated gamer any more, but I definitely used to be. Most of my free time goes into writing and blogging now. :-)

  21. Computer games sound addicting. I've never ventured in.
    (Oh, and the airport v. alone in car question: no third option, but I could raise the stakes and attach six young children in your care to the scenario. Now, what are you gonna do?)

  22. Lol, Mary, truly evil! :-)

    I'd definitely go for the airport then - there's a higher chance of losing the kids there. }:-)

  23. I've played Diablo II - great stuff - but I must admit I shy away from MMORPGs. I know I'd love them and I'd just get sucked in ...

  24. wow! these sound amazing! i've never played any of them before though! eeks!

  25. Another Diablo fan! I was always either a Paladin or a Barbarian. I liked to run up to things and hack at them with my axe.

  26. Simon: so do I now. It was great fun, but I prefer to spend that time on other things now. :-)

    aspiring_x: on the one hand, I could recommend it to anyone, but on the other I know I shouldn't. =)

    Nicole: I preferred pointing and blasting from a distance. ;-) Actually, that's not entirely true - I loved the ice spells that worked best when I jumped in the middle and froze everything around me. Ah, the memories ... =)

  27. I'm glad I never took on RPGs because I would be like you and never sleep. Also, I need to keep writing and editing or else my publisher will be so angry.

  28. You sound like a woman with a brilliant mind and the proof is that you're a chocolate lover. Ah, thoughts of Belgian chocolate...mmm.
    Thanks for the follow.
    I'm following you back.

  29. Clarissa: they're brilliant but evil, especially in their multiplayer and online variations. The connections I made with other players were great, but that also tends to draw me in, making it harder to stay away.

    Robyn: hah! :-) Chocolate lovers unite! If I'd have a mean streak, I'd link this. Oops! ;-)

  30. Hey from one cool blog to another! Love these blog fests - I make so many new friends. So glad you loved the cats and roos - I guess as a worldwide blogger I am a bit different - not so many blogs on the Australian Bush. Great to be connected and thanks for your lovely comments.

  31. My husband plays a ton of computer games. I just liked Roller Coaster Tycoon!

  32. I am learning so much through this blogfest, like how many games I need to start playing now

  33. Wow. I can't believe the number of games out there that I've never even heard of!!!
    You just added three more to my list. I must be older than I thought. Sigh.

    Thanks for sharing!

  34. I'm not familiar with these games, but Everquest kinda got my attention. Thanks for sharing!

  35. Cheryl: great to meet you too! I'm looking forward to reading more about the kangaroos - and Libby and Simba of course. :-)

    L. Diane: great game :-)

    baygirl: me too. The list of games I need to look into (and try out) is so long now. :-)

    Bryce: likewise. It's also interesting to see how many classic board and card games got translated into other languages. My favourite was 'Operation'. (Here it's called: 'Dokter Bibber' - something like: Doctor Shivers).

    cherie: it's a bit old now, but the gameplay's always been very good. The graphics are dated, but that never mattered when it came to fun. :-)

  36. Fascinating. I'd never thought about the psychology of these games before.

  37. Rosalind: there's some fascinating research out there about what we actually learn from computer games. It's much more than we'd expect.

  38. I've never actually played many computer games, but those do sound like fun! :)

  39. Aww, how much do I love that your then future husband knew just what you'd like? Very much. :) Glad you got back to the writing though.

  40. Jemi: they really were fun. Too much, sometimes. :-)

    Nicki: Great, isn't it. =)

  41. Planetarion is hardcore!


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