I am notoriously a bad gamer. The other day I plunked down my $8, or $8,000 in unemployment currency, and bought Splinter Cell: Conviction. I knew I would never finish it. I never finish games.
But unlike my other hobbies like playing guitar, doing yoga, or anything that I eventually gave up on, I never did manage to give up gaming. Playing Splinter Cell: Conviction made me realize it’s not me. It’s gaming.
More than anything else, a good game is never discouraging. Instead it teases you, frustrates you, and at the end of the day it leaves you yearning for more. So you die, and you fail, but instead of giving up and calling it a day, you end up telling yourself “One more try. One more turn.”
That’s how I’ve always gamed. Same with Angry Birds. Same with Uncharted 2. Same with Monster Hunter Tri. Same with Civilization IV. Gaming to me has never been a success on first try; like learning to walk it encourages you to get back up and try again.
A good game isn’t about finishing the story. That’s a book, or a movie if you’re lazy. Instead it’s about being in the moment. It forces you to immerse yourself in another person’s situation and presents opportunities to think on your feet, way better than any WWJD bracelets ever can impose on you. That’s why the premise for Donkey Kong Country Returns is shorter than a 140-character tweet (mind control jerks stole Donkey Kong’s bananas), and why Batman Arkham Asylum will never be remembered for its final boss (it’s Joker, imagine that).
All of these reasons are why I game. I get to live outside of myself, get thrown in situations, and be encouraged to try and try again until I succeed. Only gaming can make critical thinking (and dying) this much fun.