Computer gaming

As well as board games (see earlier blog) I’ve also taken an unhealthy interest in computer games along the way, and seen some of the things we could only dream about as teenagers come to fruition. This includes brilliant strategy games like Panzer General, Heroes of Might & Magic and of course, Civilization. This is not to do down first-person shooters like Call of Duty, which are astonishing examples of turning ‘commandos in the creek with a stick gun’ into something you can do in your own home.

There also brilliant fantasy computer games like Diablo and MMOGs like World of Warcraft. To me these are great fun, but ultimately just D&D taken out of your imagination and put on the screen. Seems to me there’s a bit of an issue for the imaginations of the players there, but that’s another blog entirely.

When I saw Panzer General for the first time my eyes nearly fell out of my head, and when I got it for Christmas (I was 27 or something at the time) I spent 48 hours straight, minus about six hours for sleeping, playing the whole campaign from start to finish. Due to a rather un-ergonomic desk set up, I then discovered that my entire neck and right shoulder had seized up and I could barely move.

Several visits to the physio and, I kid you not, two weeks off work (while working as a contractor on an hourly rate, ouch!), I finally got some movement back in my arm, and what was the first thing I did? Played Panzer General! Yay!

This is just one of many SERIOUSLY ADDICTIVE computer games. Civilization is just as bad, especially Civ 2, which got the combinations exactly right. Even when it’s 4am on Sunday morning (or worse, 1am on Monday night) you just have to press ‘End turn’ one more time to see what will happen next.

Apart from some early fooling around with an Apple II and some pretty rudimentary dungeon games on the Mac Plus, I wasn’t exposed to computer games in earnest until I got a PC and started playing SimCity and Railroad Tycoon. I knew I was in serious trouble when I spent three hours one Saturday re-coding a DOS boot disk over and over again (re-booting every time in between) to get enough RAM into the upper-memory block to make a new game run.

These days you just install Steam, download a game and off you go, until it crashes anyway (some things never change). I wonder whether playing computer games from a young age increases addictive behaviours; frankly, I can’t see how it couldn’t, and I’ve observed it in some of my nephews, who at age 14 will play a game like Mount & Blade all day and all night with pauses only for food and toilet breaks.
I can relate, I’d do it too if I had the time…

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