The ZX Spectrum, though the one pictured is a step up from the original 48K version

The ZX Spectrum, though the one pictured is a step up from the original 48K version

Let’s go all the way back to the beginning. Since I was very young, I’ve been enamoured by videogames. Even the earliest ones I played on the ZX Spectrum had an allure of bright colours and weird sounds. But the biggest thing for me about them was the challenge. And believe me, games back then were hard – they relied upon memorisation and split second timing. There were some good ones and some awful ones, especially with the delay between controls and on-screen action.

Then when we got a NES at home, I was once again in love. From the original Super Mario Bros all the way through, there was a time when I actually completed most of my games for two reasons; I spent a lot of time playing them and learning how to best them and because I was poor, so the games came few and far between.

Community of gamers

I regularly pulverise everyone on 4-player, even if they're all on the same team against me!

I regularly pulverise everyone on 4-player, even if they’re all on the same team against me!

When we moved down to Cornwall (where I currently am), there were a few people with NES’s. We could swap games, go around each other’s houses and really take advantage of that second controller. Despite the fact that relatively few games supported 2 player simultaneously (let alone 4-player), we still managed to pass on the controller (either that or one was happy to watch the other play for quite a length of time).

Like I said though, I was poor growing up, and it took an absolute age to upgrade. We jumped from the NES to the N64. I’d played the N64 around friends houses and had many a 4-player match of Goldeneye. It was love at first farsight with Perfect Dark – it was more than a sequel to Goldeneye, it was pushing the core game to the edge of what I expect of videogames – especially with how many players you could have in a deathmatch.

Heck I carried on with Nintendo consoles ever since then, as well as quite heavily dabbling in every PlayStation console and the Xbox 360. But something changed. It felt like it happened slowly, and to this day I can’t quite put my finger on it.

I tracked the development of the Conduit and bought it on launch. However, I seemed to drop it after one afternoon, despite it being a fairly okay game.

I tracked the development of the Conduit and bought it on launch. However, I seemed to drop it after one afternoon, despite it being a fairly okay game.

Unskippable cut-scenes

I became more interested in videogames culture than the videogames themselves. Maybe I was getting bored with them. Maybe I had less time for them. Maybe I simply couldn’t afford them anymore. Each maybe in my head was rebutted with “but that’s not true because X”. For the past couple of years I’ve been in this rut where I comb the internet for videogame news, follow games until release, buy them and play them for an afternoon and put them back down. Either that or let Emily play through them whilst I half watch – half comb the internet for new things.

I’ve also noticed that this seems to coincide with me feeling blue. I’ve always felt the lowest when I’m not playing videogames – whether truely through not having the time or whether it’s simple apathy towards playing them.

Self-therapy

Hyrule Warriors - one game that has had me coming back for more - a refreshing feeling.

Hyrule Warriors – one game that has had me coming back for more – a refreshing feeling.

There’s been various theories around why videogames are bad. Some other theories about why videogames are good. I have to say, if I feel better playing them they must be good, right? I mean there were really large stints where I simply didn’t play and just indulged in gaming culture – and that was when I felt the bluest. Instead, this past year or so, I’ve actually been able to get back into putting more time into videogames, especially with Hyrule Warriors. But recently I’ve slipped and have been feeling it. It seems I’d been using videogames all this time for my own personal therapy, and why not? I’m not addicted to them. People don’t just slip out of addiction for months or years at a time – they have to work at getting out. I feel like I have to work at getting back in.

Levelling up

Even though I've played over and over, this game compels me to get to the next level.

Even though I’ve played over and over, this game compels me to get to the next level.

Videogames have changed the world – and it’s a good thing. Mostly. While there are those that spend their entire lives in a videogame, endlessly grinding up and pounding “newbs”, there’s also those that actually feel like they’re achieving something. And maybe that’s the point. In games, you can achieve stuff – whether it be upgrading your powers, collecting everything or simply completing the story. We like – no, need – to feel like our efforts amount to something.

Real life is full of disappointments – whether it be doing repetitive pointless tasks you don’t see the end of, relationships that never go beyond what they currently are, having to do things you don’t like in order to continue to do things you don’t want to, paralysed by a lack of belief that you could do something else or simply getting out of the situation in order to improve your life. Afterall, if you’re working so hard at a long shot to do something you like doing, and feel like you have no time to play videogames, is it any wonder you don’t feel like your life is actually moving?

So, what’s the solution? Make time for videogames? Brighten your outlook on life? When you’re bouncing between numbness and sadness, is there anything you can do?

Dawn of a new day?

The latest CGNG poster designed by myself. Extensive use of Photoshop.

The latest CGNG poster designed by myself. Extensive use of Photoshop.

I want to end this on a positive note, because half of this has been thoroughly depressing. Well, the solution I thought of going for is mixing blue and black – to mix work with pleasure – and that’s partly why I’m invested in Hex so much. It’s work I (most of the time) don’t mind doing, with a hobby that dates back to before I was even 8. Does it work? Well, not all the time. It sometimes keeps me from having the time to play videogames – and that’s something I feel I really need to do in order to keep my mood up.

On the plus side, Hex has allowed me to develop my graphics skills (I’m the one behind most of the graphics you see on the site, including those buttons down the side, I’m also the one responsible for most of the images for Nerds Assemble and Cornwall Graphic Novel Group posters).

It all comes down to the triangle that is work, time and videogames. I just have to find a balance (and refuse the work and time if necessary). After all, what’s the point in anything if you’re miserable? At least videogames cheer me up and make me feel like I’m having an effect on a world – even if it’s only my own.