Why I play Sci- Fi FPS Games and Mods

I’m a little older than the average gamer, not the oldest I know but still at an age where my contemporaries consider my hobby as childish. A typical Monday morning conversation could be:

THEM: “So, what did you do this weekend?”
ME: “I worked on my website”.
THEM: “Oh, I didn’t know you had a website, what’s it about?”
ME: “FPS Computer Games”.
THEM: “You still play games at your age, I would have thought you would have grown out of that by now”.

For those non-native English speakers the last sentence is rude because it assumes that playing games is a childish hobby.
When one person found out about my site he said he thought it would have been about myself, “that”, he said “would be more interesting than computer games!” I’m not sure if that was a compliment or an insult. As far as I’m concerned computer games are more interesting than my life.

Other times I find myself almost having to defend my choice of hobby; this often becomes frustrating and occasionally annoying. So I have decided to write my explanation in the hope of clarifying my points and also to encourage my older, more experienced readers to share their thoughts.

I love stories

I always have and always will. Now all children enjoy stories and depending on their environment may or may not read through choice. I came to reading late; my first book I read out of curiosity not assignment was at 14 years old. From that moment onwards I have read about a book a week. Stories can take many forms; books, plays, movies and oral are some of the obvious ones but games have begun to creep into this list. Children are spending more and more time in front of a computer and the computer offers us wonderful opportunities in the way stories are told.
For me an FPS game is simply an interactive story. Of course I am talking about Single Player games not multiplayer fragfests! Wanting to know and share the experience of the character is what drives me on. Current games are only starting to explore the potential of this storytelling medium.

The hand-to-eye co-ordination

The sports I played as a young man were all that required a racket or bat; tennis, squash, badminton or table tennis. These sports needed good hand-to-eye co-ordination. Physical fitness were important but skill was often more important. FPS games in some small way simulate that type of action and skill. “Why don’t you play tennis games then?” has often been asked. Well, I suppose I want something different. The question could be asked about paintball. There are a number of reasons but the two most obvious ones are convenience and teams. There is nowhere local for me to play and I prefer games where I play on my own.

Being part of a community

This reason isn’t exclusive to playing games but it is part of the reason. I have very few friends that I spend time with for a number of reasons, but plenty of gaming acquaintances. Of course there is a huge difference and I both fully accept and realize that but I like being part of the gaming community. The mix of age and culture is possibly unique and it’s something that may have wide repercussions in sociological development. I would never have the opportunity to mix with the people I do under normal circumstances. These are of course wider Internet related issues but they seem to apply to gaming than most other topics. Not judging a person purely by their age is a good thing and gaming is one of the few examples where people can interact without those limits.

Science Fiction

The link to FPS gaming is quite thin here but the point still stands. Where better to satisfy my desire for Sci- Fi than FPS games? The genre is replete with them. Amazing weapons, aliens and locations, enough to stretch my imagination to breaking point. Every few months a new game is announced that promises incredible graphics, opera-like stories and never-before seen gameplay elements! OK, often the reality is very different from the marketing spiel but you get the picture. Another point is the continual release of new maps and mods that brings me nicely onto my next point.

Creation

These games often are supplied with editors that allow users to create the aforementioned maps and mods. Whilst I never released any maps to the public that doesn’t mean I haven’t created any. Mapping is another form of art, spending months on a sculpture is not much difference to creating a map. The sooner people realize this the better. There’s little doubt that my mapping efforts are not masterpieces but the process is as important as the results. I enjoy creating something, even if nobody ever sees it. (Please don’t ask me to release them because I won’t!)

The Hero!

I have this little theory that people read books partly because their lives aren’t that interesting. Well I don’t have any hesitation in admitting my real life is pretty boring and playing these games allows me to be a hero for a while. This is very closely connected to the story section but not entirely the same. Some stories don’t have one clear hero; they are more about a collection of people and their interaction. Well, I want to be a hero! There, I’ve said it! Games provide me with that opportunity.

Conclusion

Hopefully I’ve explained my thoughts clearly and precisely. There may be other reasons I play but can’t currently think of them, if I do I’ll add them. Perhaps you disagree with some of my points? Well all I can say is that this piece is about me, not necessarily the average gamer. These reasons don’t even have to be age related. They are simply my reasons.

I want to spend 2006 thinking and writing about the increasing average age of gamers and related issues. For example: are there any games specifically developed for over forty or fifty year olds? How are they different from other games? Should games have specific age targets? Expect a few more post on this subject.

I’m very interested to hear your thoughts and comments, especially your reasons for playing games. Have I missed any?

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16 Comments

  1. Kartones

    Well… first of all, each person it’s a whole world itself. What one likes others may hate.
    I’m a bit like you. Although I’m nearing 25, I’ve been playing videogames since I got one handheld (a pirates one, followed by the mythical Zelda with double-screen), and I’ve seen games grow with me since the original Space invaders (on an AMSTRAD PC/W) to DooM III or F.E.A.R. actually.

    In my childhood I was not a lonely person, but I usually chose to stay playing videogames at home instead of going out to play soccer. I’ve gone out to parties (and still do very often) but also I sometimes spend a whole saturday night playing Doom III with lights turned off, or WoW with some online friends.

    To me, playing a game it’s living a story, an alternate reality, in which I’m not “another software developer” and I become a rude space marine, a mighty monster hunter, a part of a marvelous RPG story set in a fantasy world, a zombie-killer, and so.

    Games like DooM or Wolf3D have left “something” in my memory.
    Games like Final Fantasy X or Silent Hill 2 (the sad finale of the 5 that you can get) almost made me cry.
    Games like Gran Turismo or Quake 1 in LAN-parties have given me so much hours of fun with friends equal to others playing soccer with their friends.

    I like videogames too because I’m a little pessimistic, and each day I only see in the TV or newspapers sad news. I’m sad to see how we’re destroying our world, so sometimes I want to get “out of it”, and videogames allow me to disconnect some time from real world to anothers where all “killing” it’s irreal and innofensive.

    Lastly, I play games like a scientist may look things with a microscope, to analyze them, to learn from them, how they’re made and how they function.I would like to make games as a hobby, I know how difficult is this sector, even more in spain (I’m spanish ^^), so I play them and try to wonder “how they made that shader effect” or “how could I design an AI to act like that enemy soldier”. I would love to make a game and see the face of some childs playing it, being so happy I am when I play them 🙂

  2. wallis

    Ignorant *****, man. Through computers I can experience ANY media of art or entertainment I could ever want. With just as large a community. Men who can’t understand attractions to games are men who can’t understand nor enjoy violence on any level. Even on the basic level games appeal, look at football (soccer) and rugby or U.S.A. football. These sports are the most popular sports in the world and revolve around a bunch of guys having a scrap over a ball. As PCgamer put it, “games are the pinnacle of our civilisations media, combing art, technology and interaction all in one. Neither books, movies or music can claim this”

    I play games for violence, to do something society says I can’t do even though I’m programmed and built to do it. I play games to do things that I’ll never do in real life. Can that sad git claim that he has drove along in a goliath tank into enemy base while being attacked by french, japanese, british and polish warriors, whilst crashing into a scorpian tank and use it for cover for your now vulnerable tank. Or can he just boast that he has created an amazing power point presentation to impress his boss.

  3. Killer

    Phillip, I’m older than you and I’m surprised you get quizzed about your choice of hobby. My friends/acquaintances have never asked me that. Of course, unlike you, I usually have a twitch around my eye and my left hand never strays far from the gun holstered on my hip.

    Now seriously, many of my friends are older gamers and most of their wives/girlfriends don’t mind them playing because it keeps them home (and away from younger chicks) and limits the amount they would otherwise have drank or smoked at a bar. The same for LAN parties, because their wives/girlfriends again know what they’re up to and even prepare the main grub.

    Everyone has varying amounts of goof-off time, whether it’s socializing with friends, attending sporting events, casual reading (fiction), watching TV, etc. Once your main priority for the day (education, work, parenting, etc.) gets done, the type of pastime you engage in is irrelevant as long as it makes you happy and isn’t hurting anyone else.

  4. Michael

    I have often wondered if I am the oldest avid gamer at 70 and counting. Your explanation of your interests so closely matches mine that I suspect that it represents a common thread. Even the sports you mention are exactly those that I enjoy.

    Generally, friends and family look upon my hobby as harmless but somewhat strange and I know of no other players of my generation. However I have been enticing some into at least trying, with modest results.

  5. I’ll try and address each commentor’s points in order.

    Kartones:
    You make an interesting point in your first paragraph about the games growing with you. This is perhaps another minor reason to continue playing, to see how games improve. Another point is that it is easier for us to play the original games because we still have an emotional attachment that newer players don’t have.

    Your “Rude space marine” is my “hero” both have the feeling of being somebody we are not normally.

    It’s interesting that to “get out”FUN. It wasn’t a mistake it’s just that I don’t associate fun with SP FPS games. For me SP games take on a more serious role, like reading a book. It’s not fun but something else, whatever word I use doesn’t really matter. All that matters is that it’s serious. Unreal Tournament or TrackMania are FUN because I can start and stop at any time, with SP games I’m completely engrossed and dislike playing for less than two or three hours at a time. Perhaps you don’t agree” That’s one of the most frustrating things about user made maps, they normally only last a short period of time.

    Wallis:
    “Men who can’t understand attractions to games are men who can’t understand nor enjoy violence on any level.” That’s a very interesting statement. As much as I want to disagree with it I have to admit that, for me at least, there is some truth in it. Violence can take many forms and I suppose that shooting something has to count as violence.

    I didn’t really touch on the “to do something society says I can’t do” because with Sci- Fi there is the element of never being able to do it anyway. You touch upon a point that I don’t know if it has been mentioned much within the gaming community – keeping history alive and interesting. Teenagers probably know quite a lot about the Second World War simply from playing these games, a lot more than they would learn in a classroom. It’s important to acknowledge that history can be taught through these types of games. I know fewer females are interested in fighting on the beaches of Normandy but there are other game genres that may interest them.

    Killer:
    Are you sure you are older than me” It’s not so much my friends, all three of them, but my acquaintances and work colleagues that I have to explain or justify my hobby to. Our friends tend to accept us as we are, faults and all, but others judge us in a different way.
    I would hate to think that my girlfriend accepts my gaming simply because it keeps me away from the more salubrious pastimes but I take your point. Your final sentence is spot-on. I wish more people would accept that.

    Michael
    You could possibly be the most senior gamer I have heard of but I’m sure there are many others. I believe a few regulars over at Ten Four Forums are either close to or entering their retirement.

    One wonders how the type of sports people play as youngsters mould each generation. For example, you mention that the sports I played are similar to the ones you played, whereas nowadays children/youngsters have a greater choice, surfing, basketball, snowboarding etc etc. Will that affect the types of computer games they play as adults? Of course, it’s much more complicated that that it might have a small influence.

    In my response to Wallis” comment I made a point about keeping history alive. I’m curious to know whether people who have first-hand experience of the Second World War are interested in playing those types of games. I presume you were between ten and twenty at the time of the end of the Second World War, meaning it’s unlikely you actually fought, although not impossible! I certainly don’t mean to pry into your private life but it is a question that I have thought about many times.

    Games developers no doubt use historians and records, both official and unofficial, when creating these games but do they involve people who were actually there? I don’t know. Of course the number of survivors is getting smaller and smaller, so that task might be quite hard.

  6. Michael

    I was rather young during the WWII, although old enough to be aware of its impacts. Like all youngsters of the era, I followed the battles and exploits with great interest. The newspapers, which were the primary source of information at the time, often displayed battle maps not unlike those one now finds in WWII RTS games.

    It is true that I enjoy WWII games, particularly the Combat Mission, Blitzkrieg, and Medal of Honor series. I think it is very likely that my early experiences contribute to this interest. As to whether game developers involve actual participants in their developments, I know that some do. The credits for Combat Mission, for example, demonstrate this.

  7. Jerry

    Wow. I thought I was the oldest gamer but Michael has 3 years on me. I have 2 friends around my age and myself who play sp games all the time and 2 who would if they had computers. No one thinks I should do something better with my time.
    In an earlier chat with Phillip,he said maybe he would try to organize a match of some kind for old timers. That would be pretty cool.

  8. migandi

    Well I am 44 so perhaps I am oldest?, and like Phillip I like doing my website and playing and making mods, most people seem impresssed when I say I make games as a hobby.
    I like FPS shooters but prefer RPG,s mainly cause they are more in depth and have better story elements.
    Neverwinter nights and Morrowind give you more gameplay for your buck.

    My Mod getting old now! http://www.migandi.org.uk/mods/R.I.P/rip.htm

    http://www.migandi.org.uk

  9. powerdog

    My name’s Mike (age 60). I’ve been lurking around the PlanetPhillip site for about a year now. I cannot tell you how so perfectly this site’s content matches my gaming interests and sensibilities: FPS, SciFi, intelligent, civil.

    It was fun giving this subject some thought, something I wouldn’t have done had not PP posted it up. Here’s what rang true for me:

    Competition
    It seems to me that guys can’t help themselves: we like to compete. Compete for grades, girls, the biggest piece of the pie, or who gets to the checkout line first. But competing is different than winning. it’s because of this difference that I find myself not enjoying on-line games where wining is everything. Where winning is all, the end justifies the means: state-of-the-art gaming machines, cheats, bullying, and often a general lack of class. However, when your enjoyment derives from competing, then it’s the journey—and not necessarily the goal—that’s the object. Which is the case for me as I find myself trying to outsmart good, unpredictable AI, solve puzzles… and ultimately outsmart the game developers—or visa versa.

    Suspend disbelief
    The hallmark of a good story (books, movies) is the willing suspension of disbelief by the reader/audience. Wherever the writer chooses to travel, you the reader/audience follow along willingly. This plays nicely into a man’s innate need to be a part of something larger than himself (especially in our jobs). Whether it be on the manufacturing line building a car, or designing the next vehicle to Mars. We had a part in making it happen, and we take satisfaction in that. Games offer up something similar: a hero, a just cause, a dystopian future or some exotic planet. But games do more: you step (plunge) into a game because it’s interactive, and if it’s an FPS your experience tends to be quite visceral. It all serves wonderfully to suspend our disbelief and suck our very being into an interactive story so very much larger than ourselves.

    Focus
    I believe the most fulfilling experiences involve total focus. Intense sports, fast driving, sailing, things that do not allow distraction. During and after the focused event is a feeling of attenuated aliveness. And the more dangerous the activity, the more heightened and satisfying this feeling of aliveness. This is where interactive games (especially FPS games) really shine. Who has not pushed back from a mission (or their demise), looked up at the clock and said to themselves: “Uh-oh! I was supposed to ______ an hour ago.” You were so immersed in your own cyber-world, so focused, so alive!

    Add it all up, and we’re kicking kister!

  10. AI

    Hey Powerdog glad to see someone my own age haha I’m also “60” Maybe we can make this a senior site???? Well I’m glad to see some older gamers out there!! Can’t let all the young “wippersnappers” have all the fun!! my first computer was an Apple2c in 1984 but I started in 1982 on some IBM’s at my job. gone on to bigger and better ever since! I love the FPS’s also, (SP’s only) and have regretted to have not learned how to map!

  11. powerdog

    Well hello AI. Good to meet a fellow anachronism: i.e., what are we old fogies doing playing SP FPSs? Sad to say, I’m a late bloomer: wasn’t introduced to gaming until ” MechWarrior 3. I loved MW and all the follow-ons, but really wanted something more interesting. Blundered onto Deus Ex and my love affair with gaming was complete—(though I couldn’t get through DE-IW as the UI sucked, and then there was this crashing problem). Been searching for a DE-like game ever since. Anyway, just finished Soldier of Fortune II – Double Helix (Gold) which was extreme fun as the AI were smart as hell!

  12. AI

    Like I said my 1st computer was a Apple 2c, I didn’t get it to play games on but my kids soon figured that one out!! They used it so much that I had to replace the 5 1/4 drive. I foud it was fun to play on and graduated from Wavy Navy to Asteroids among others! By then the games had me hooked. I went to Wards and bought my first PC, then realy went nuts, it had Windows 3.1 and a 129mb HDD 8megs ram, WOW it was so hot!!!! Got Duke3d, Doom, and the list goes on and on (I still got ’em all). So I’ve gone from computer to computer, game to game and I’ve enjoyed the diversion to this point in my life —> It’s not time to quite yet!!! I tried MW but didn’t care for it, but now the comuter I just built has put a different light on the games now!!! HL2 plays very good now, I realy have little problems anymore!! PD when did you start gamming?? When I discovered this site, “WOW” what a gold mine! Phillip ya done good!!

  13. I think it is a really cool hobby to be interested in computer games, and not just to play them, but to put all that effort into making a website about them. My friend Graeme is 35 and yet we still have a good old game of hl2 dm or call of duty 2 now and again. Some people have commented that playing soley single player games makes you a loner. Well, I think this is complete rubbish, as this website, an entire community of single player gamers proves them wrong. Playing wide ranges of games from doom to F.E.A.R is also an excellent way of seeing how technology has improved over time.

    Keep up the good work Phillip!

  14. Ade

    Well, I’m 22 but I’m always criticized for playing or watching a long list of boys” games and sports (me being a girl). My first computer was in 2000 with a modest configuration. And I remember playing night after night all summer long Doom 2. I knew then that FPS games were my favorite, and when someone introduced me to HL and 5 mods, I was hooked. CS is fun, but as a single player you’re much more motivated, you get deeper into a mission and, very important, a story, not just “aim for the head”. For me, violence is a must, a need that can be satisfied safely and without consequences in front of the PC. But I’m not in it just for that. Deus Ex was quite appealing due to its missions of espionage and possibility to reach a gold using stealth, brain and restraint of one’s trigger happy nature. Not to mention Half-Life’s replayability derived from a complete and successful formula. I love this type of games and this site will always give me a warm fuzzy feeling. I hope I will always find time to play SP FPSs. And no matter what new games come out and what new systems I will acquire, HL will take up most of my time dedicated to games. I can’t wait to grow old with such a habbit.
    I don’t think playing single player makes you a loner. Not more than a multiplayer played at home, instead of in a game room. Or any other indoor solitaire activity, computer related or not. Playing is just another way of spending time, satisfying certain needs, getting away from the real world and keeping some reflexes alive. And, why not, having fun. Oh, and for those accused of lack of concentration, proving people wrong. (Not my case :P)

  15. bkadar

    well, ten years went by fast.

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