The Gamer’s Conscience 10.27.03

‘Patience is a virtue,’ they say.

Granted, I can’t really recall who initially brought that phrase to life, but I’m almost sure that they had a really hard time putting that wise doctrine into practice. The more I toss it back and forth in my head, the more I wonder of the circumstances behind its origin. What exactly crafted the moment when some random-yet-noteworthy gentleman of yore who was so down on his luck at that given moment, that his optimism rescued him from utter disappointment and boredom?

I’m lost to the answer, but I’m sure as hell confident that that dude didn’t walk the Earth saturated with game consoles. A world where impending release dates are distant, yet bring untold anxiety for those who religiously await the next chance to experience something new and groundbreaking- like Halo, Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution, or Road Runner’s Death Valley Rally. And when that day comes, that shrink-wrap surrounding that DVD case or cardboard box is quickly minced into nothingness as you pop that new game in without hesitation, just waiting to make use of this new and great game that you’ve just come across- that sweet, sweet moment of bliss where, in that instance, that game is wholly new. That’s the sweet spot of owning a new video game, and just one of the many mental trials of being a ‘gamer.’

So after reading this response from the RPG responses back in September!

To answer your question, if you are spending only 2-4 hours a week on games then you are spending WAY less time than the average gamer playing…and certainly much less than the average RPG gamer.

!I began to wonder, as I frequently do. The question I pose this time around is this: I have a whole nine unopened video games on my shelf, some sitting there for over a year; does that mean that I’m any less of a gamer? Just because I don’t put in as many hours as some others do, does that make me less worthy to game? And if there does exist a ‘gamer’s quota’ of hours played in relation to gaming stature, where does my student schedule I fit in?

Earlier this year, I spent an entire column trying to make sense of how the life of a healthy, socially-adjusted gamer can be reconciled with the existence of a great big obligation that most call “real life.” Mainly, my seemingly endless tenure as a student appears to have something to do my supposed inability to keep a healthy gaming lifestyle afloat. In a sense, this could be linked to the question I earlier posed about the irreconcilability of life and the RPG, yet it now has a broader scope. Rather than how to maintain a balance between productivity and the all time-consuming RPG, replace the second variable with ‘video gaming’ and you’ve just opened up a can of worms.

Back to the RPG column, where I made the realistic approximation that I played games roughly 2-4 hours a week, to which I received the aforementioned critique. At first, I was somewhat taken aback, as I figured that this was indeed a realistic quantity for gaming around a busy schedule. But if I am indeed in the minority, then what’s the qualifying marker to become what is so elusive to me? To become the average gamer?

To tell you all the honest truth, I find it almost remarkable that there’s any time left for gaming at all. Take my current grind as an example: a student at the undergraduate level, trying to keep a marketable GPA up alongside coherent compositions on historical and political subjects, which take up a whole lot of time. 12 quarter units = full time at my institution, and the classes put up the workload to validate that claim. I go effectively from 8AM to 3:15PM, Tuesdays and Thursdays, and have enough homework to fill up at least two other weekdays with reading and writing- not to mention the necessary reinforcement for learning a foreign language. Hell- this might look something like your schedule as a student, in which case you either make concessions towards the acquisition of that “proof of purchase” (read: degree), or this argument has no application on you whatsoever. In that case, you’re missing happy hour.

Or, you might work all day- possibly longer- in order to bring home a healthy subsistence; an activity that might leave you so drained that you couldn’t hold down the button to make poor ol’ Sonic rush across any given green scenery. Despite my current status as a wannabe academic, I too have felt the pain of the working man. On some days, that pain made my gaming thumb numb, making simple gaming tasks as E.Honda’s Hundred Hand Slap or getting my Turino to break 60 MPH in Gran Turismo 3. Once again, a slave to the clock one can be, waiting for temporary reprieve.

One reason the requirement might appear longer is, be it an element of psychology or an insistent gnawing fact, that games today are just damned longer than they used to me. No whizzing through Super Mario Bros or Bionic Commando in a short hour or less. Today’s games take time. Lots of damned, precious time. Any opus by SquareEnix is bound to take you around 3 days straight to complete, as well as other comparable games from the genre. Even quasi-mindless hack-n-slash pieces like Onimusha take more than a leisurely evening to get through. Maybe it’s because I’m just simply older, but the hours per week needed to be an average gamer might have expanded beyond my means. Oh, the horror!

But then, after typing all of this madness, I thought about what gaming I’ve been able to enjoy recently in that time span. Regardless that games like Gunvalkyrie and Devil May Cry sill sit in their shrink-wrapped slumber, the gaming love ain’t in short supply. After a tedious 2 years, I finally got Xenogears out of the way- an accomplishment akin some of my friends passing drug tests. Not only that, but the Blood Omen series rocked my socks off for 3 straight months; months which gave me some sense of closure to Kain’s place in the Legacy of Kain series, just in time for the series’ latest entry, Defiance, in November. The obsession of the moment is Zone of the Enders, which will no doubt take a little bit of time. But aside from that, there’s time for one-off sessions of Street Fighter Alpha 3 and the Vs mode of Halo at a friend’s house.

So, maybe after all there is hope for me and others like me- the “working gamer,” if you will. That is, to maintain my status as a ‘gamer’ on a rationing of 2-4 hours a week isn’t as bad as it was first made out to be. Yeah- I’m definitely satisfied with the amount of gaming I can get into that 2-4 hours. Remember- just because it’s low on the hour count doesn’t mean that it’s that much less potent than 8-10 or 20-40 hours of gaming. Every gaming minute is sweet as honey off the comb, relished for what it brings. After all of this, I guess I can safely type that my practice of rationing hours as “the working gamer” affirms my status as an ‘average gamer.’ Now, I can rest easy.

And what of the seemingly irrelevant proverb that started this edition of the Conscience, you ask? Well, I guess when it comes to rationing hours of short but sweet gaming, patience is not only a virtue, but is indeed it’s own reward.

Making the most of what you’ve got- that’s the Gamer’s Conscience.

That’ll do it for this week. As for the rest of 411 Games, get ready for some awesome reviews on the Gamecube version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the new Buffy game, and both- count em’ BOTH Demikids games! All of that, alongside beautiful commentary and “fair and balanced” news. And just as sure as your NES blinks on and off when you try to start a game of The Adventure of Link, feedback is always welcome.

Until next time!