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Game On

Computer games are some of the most reluctantly-given Christmas presents — seen by parents as pointless at best and potentially dangerous at worst. Here one gamer tells you why they’re wrong.

About ten years ago I borrowed a PC game off my mate, a little thing call Alien V Predator 2. No, not the disgraceful, disgusting abomination of a film, but the best selling FPS sequel. God it was good.

With my first go on it, and my parents out, I decided to pick the Colonial Marines. Awesome – lights off and speakers on max. First few minutes weren’t a problem, all was quiet.

My squad landed on an exo-planet and started to investigate. The motion sensor pulsed away harmlessly, all clear. We entered the complex; I gave the corridor a scan and proceeded. Suddenly a body drops out of an air-duct and I jump in my seat as a door slams shut breaking me off from my squad. I’m stuck in a lab; still the motion scanner reassuringly purrs all clear.

I enter the inner section of the lab. Beep. Beep. Beep. “Fuck this!” Lights on and speakers down. Far too intense and scary and in the warmth of my bedroom light I let my heart calm down before it bursts out of my chest (pun, very much, intended).

Raging pulse

That’s an experience no other medium can give you. Sat there, crapping yourself that this little bundle of pixels you’re controlling gets hunted by the shit scariest Alien every devised by man. Of course watching films you can feel the tension, the anxiety but you can’t participate in it! You’re not sat there with clammy hands and a raging pulse. Gaming allows you that extra interaction, that little bit more care because after all it’s you, in some form, in the game.

Sports games also give you the chance to do things you couldn’t even get near in real life. Take FIFA or PES, you get the chance to play as your beloved club and win the league! Hell, you can even play in a World Cup final and lift the famous trophy. OK it’s not the real thing, but it is by far the closest you will ever get in your life. What about playing as Tiger Woods – no not in that way – and winning The Open at St. Andrews? A whole world of glory is available to you that isn’t possible with anything else in life.

If you want a more immersive story telling experience, then the Role Playing Game (RPG) genre is the daddy! Not only do you have the epic storytelling and gorgeously crafted cut-scenes but you can also build and level-up your character to whatever means suit your ends.

In Bioware’s Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR), for example, you have the choice to be a Jedi or a Sith and the choice alters what cut-scenes and story arcs you unlock. It’s clever and interesting and offers the chance of re-playability. And in a £30 game which takes 30-35 hours to play and you can do it twice, that’s incredible value for money!

Just one more

It’s not just RPG’s that allow you to build and attain your goals. LittleBigPlanet allows you to build whole levels and share them with other users, and you can play theirs too.

In one football game, you build and manage your team from division two to become the kings of Europe — scout players, chose tactics, manage the youth system as well as play as the team you create. One night you’ll be there, controller in hand, blood shot eyes and an unrelenting need to sleep but your brain soothingly coerces you with the little sentence of “Just one more game?” And you do. And it’ll feel it’s worth it.

So which of the above reasons are you going to chose as your reason to play games? Immersion? Value? The endless possibilities? The story telling? Whatever your reason, we all need some level of escapism to relax and unwind or simply to take your mind off your worries for a short amount of time. So pick up that controller and vanquish the Jedi then go win that Master League.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article or in the comments below, are not those held by CALM or its Trustees unless stated, and liability cannot be accepted for such comments. We encourage friendly and constructive debate, but please don't share personal contact details when commenting and exercise caution when considering any advice offered by others. We don’t allow abusive, offensive or inappropriate comments or comments that could be interpreted as libellous, defamatory or commercial and we will remove these without warning as and when we find them.

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