20 September 2013

On Card Games and eSports: A Love-Hate Story

The Geek & Sundry channel on YouTube hosts a lot of pretty cool web shows. (Currently ongoing shows of note include the hilarious sci-fi animation Outlands, and Co-Optitude, where Felicia Day and her brother Ryon play retro video games). They recently premiered a new show called Spellslingers where people play Magic: The Gathering. It seems like a fun enough way to kill 20 minutes, even if you're not really into the game (though obviously knowing the basics makes it easier to follow).

I played a little Magic back in the 90s. Still have some cards around somewhere, though I never had a huge collection. I haven't played it in years, and honestly I didn't play much even back in the early days. Never really got, like, really into it.

Still, watching a show like Spellslingers, I can't help thinking that this all looks pretty cool. It's kinda similar to when I watch certain eSports. Like earlier this year I happened to catch a live stream of the final of some League of Legends tournament. I'd never played any MOBA game, so I actually got inspired enough to download Heroes of Newerth, 'cause it was free and worked in GNU/Linux. I think I managed to just about play through the tutorial before I remembered why I don't, in fact, play these sort of games.

Mostly because they're #¤%&ing boring, that's why.

No disrespect meant towards people who like those type of games. But competitive gaming just isn't my thing. Even casually, for fun.

When I play video games, I prefer games that tell great stories and/or provide interesting, and varied, challenges suited to my own skills.

When I play with other people, I prefer roleplaying games, where people work together rather than against each other and each session is something new, because they are actually stories more than they are games.

Games like Magic: The Gathering (and really any card games, miniature games, board games etc.) or League of Legends (and any eSports) are based on repeating the same basic formula, ad infinitum. They're about mastering the variables within that restricted formula. And I can see how that can appeal to some people. But I've always been a big picture person more than a detail person, and a game that's all about the details will soon bore me.

Oh yeah, and there's also the fact that I'm crap at any games that require actual skill. And I really hate to lose. It makes me feel all... talentless and inadequate.

So, in summation, some things can be fascinating as concepts and phenomena, even fun to watch, in limited doses, but not necessarily something I'd personally want to be involved in. Over the years I've been forced to realise that, even though I think of myself as a gamer, a not insignificant portion of gaming culture actually belongs to this category. A part of me is a little sorry I can't find more joy in these things. But in the end I think it's more important to find the things that you do enjoy and focus on them.

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