What Makes Gaming So Appealling?

Why do you play? How long did you play that game this time? You should get a better hobby! These are some comments made by people that are not so much into gaming. I get this sometimes. This blog post is trying to explain what it is in gaming that keeps drawing our attention and some reasons why it is an enjoyable activity and why do we spend so much time playing games.

Playing video games has been popular since the first known video game. I am talking about a certain game here. It was called “Tennis for Two”. It was introduced in 1958. Here’s the link to Wikipedia if you want to go read some more facts about this game. As a game it was as simple and basic as can be. Let’s think about this for a while. In 1958 video games were something new. There must have been something very interesting here for a human being. What games have that draw our attention? What makes us want to play more and more and until we are exhausted and tired?

One thing is our natural rewarding system. When something positive happens on the screen or when we accomplish something very meaningful our nerve system gives us a small dose of dopamine. This dose becomes larger when a person uses some sort of drug. This leads to a kind of a malfunction with this system and makes us depressed for a short period of time. This is how this natural system that has been built to our brains functions. So achieving our goal in a game gives us a reward.

I have also one point about collecting games. Why do we want more and more all the time. You know how this is. You get many great games. You are satisfied for some time but eventually you want more. You buy more games. And this, let’s give it a name that is somewhat related to programming, “loop”, keeps repeating. This has something to do with our human beings natural behavior. We are collectors by nature. That’s how human beings started their path. They were hunters and they also collected things they found from their surroundings.

These points can be true. They might be true and they might explain something. This however doesn’t take away all the things that make you or me enjoy playing video games. I have my reasons why I keep playing. It gives something for me. For me it is a way to get loose from the stress I get from studying or working. Is gaming expensive? I would say no because it isn’t as expensive as some common hobbies like ice hockey for example is. It isn’t as healthy if you think about the matter. Is it childish? I think today gaming is becoming more and more a hobby for a person of any age. There are already some very old people that play video games. I think today games have a very diverse content and they make people more active and this makes our entertainment more challenging for the growing audience.

So there are things that can explain this phenomenon. It still doesn’t take away things a player has learned while playing. I for example gained lots of skills in a foreign language that was actually English. Gaming is lots of fun. Collecting games can draw you away from using drugs or alcohol. We have our reasons to behaving how we do. Gaming is a hobby for lots of people. They have a reason to play. And I think we can learn a lot about human nature also by playing the games that inspire us and keep uplifting our minds. So, let’s keep on playing!

 

There’s Something About Space Shooters

There is a genre of video games that is called “shoot-em-ups” or “shmups” for short. These shooter types of games have been in my mind since I was a child. I am not sure where I picked up these memories. It was probably from some arcade, restaurant, bar or some other place that I spotted a game or few that were about space, shooting and monsters. The game I have in my mind, or the memory of it, takes place in some space related environment. There are blinking dragons and a flying star fleet ship that is shooting that thing.

Of course this isn’t any real game. It was some unknown game that I had seen somewhere. It is however true that there were games like this, space shoot-em-ups, in the end of the 80s in arcades (for example). When the hottest gaming device was Sega Mega Drive they marketed the gaming console with a promise that it would bring arcades to living rooms of our homes. Maybe the graphics weren’t as impressive but they were something at that time. They were a bit more detailed than those NES games we had seen some years earlier. And the sound that was generated was better in pure quality also.

The screenshot that is related to thisĀ  blog post is taken from a game that is called Gynoug. I’m not sure if it is qualified as a space shoot-em-up but it for sure is a shoot-em-up. This game represents the genre. Playing this game can give some view about the it. It is often said that Mega Drive games are hard to play and that they repeat themselves a lot. I am mentioning also the fact that there was no way for the player to save the game and this caused the game usually to be very repetitive. I can understand this better when I think about what kind of a deal it was to design and program a game in 1990s. So the game development methods weren’t as advanced as nowadays. Maybe someone should desing more new games for Mega Drive today?

The influence these games gave to the whole industry of game development is undeniable. The key to success inside space shoot-em-ups is to move to correct direction at correct time and shooting all of time and accurately. I can already see how programmers coded the behavior of the monster you are shooting. Often you can recognize the pattern. Then you move according to where you see you have the position that enables you to not get hit by a missile or any other particle that is headed at you. This can be fun. Nowadays you do see the limitations of the games designed in the past. Althought there is a lot to learn from these games. I definitely recommend you to play some shooter game like this. This game can be Zero Wing, M.U.S.H.A. or Gynoug but there are also other good ones.

Why aren’t these games getting released?

How long did you wait for Half Life three? Why didn’t Bully 2 ever happen? What’s going on with the next Silent Hill? In these lines of text I am taking my vision to next level as I write about games that were so waited but actually never got out…

Bully was a very good game that was released for PS2, Xbox and PC. It was later also playable on Xbox 360 and Xbox One. We are currently moving to an era of PS5 and Xbox Series X. So we’re talking about an older game right here. It’s kind of sad that it didn’t ever happen.

Why are the games pulled back? Is it because they would be a disappoinment somehow? Maybe the sales would be too little? Or maybe the development team just got tired of the whole idea and decided to trash it. Where does a fan of specific series or game stand in this settlement? Does it mean a damn thing for the businesses or big multinational companies? Maybe we all should learn to create games so we could make the games we really want…

Making games, I mean good ones, is pretty hard. That’s one reason that every idea doesn’t end up being released. I think thought that good ideas can be further developed and they can manage to be popular games to be released. And maybe they become something that appeals to the masses and brings home some cash…

Let’s do some math…

Playing can be very time consuming. I started wondering how many hours have I actually spent playing. How much of my time, or even my life, I have spent enjoying video games. Would it be months? Or years? Why don’t we do some calculations on this.

How many hours is there in a month? One month has 30 days which have 24 hours each. So there is 720 hours in one month. One year has 365 times 24 hours. That means one year has 8760 hours. We can approach this problem by thinking how many games have you completed so we can calculate an approximation of how many months or even years you, the player, has spent playing.

To complete a modern role playing game would require maybe 100 hours. For a shorter action game it would mean that it takes about 15 hours to complete. These games are much shorter than RPGs. Driving games would take propably about 15 hours also. Games like Fallout 4, Final Fantasy series’s games and other games like this take a bit longer to complete.

I think we shouldn’t try to calculate precisely the amount of hours but we can figure out an estimation. In one full month I would play Final Fantasy VII about seven times through. That’s a whole lot of playing. In one year I could play again Final Fantasy VII thorugh over 85 times. This would be a ridiculous amount of time to spend playing.

So the time I have spent playing, in my lifetime, might be somewhere between maybe months or even one year. But I don’t think many gamers come close to maybe two or three years. So these calculations can give you an idea of how much of your time you have actually spent playing in total. There however are much more boring and not so improving things you can spend your time. Playing games is a big part of my life. But you got to remember that there are more important things in life also…

Why would you want to play on a CRT TV?

I haven’t always been a retro collector and/or player. When I started gaming I was playing the newest games and consoles. This was what gaming was like back in the days. If you mentioned 80s consoles or games you would be talking about how bad they looked compared to the latest released games. It was later when players came back to these older games that brought nostalgia and memories to their minds.

I remember getting my new original Xbox in 2006. Back then it was usual to have a “tube television” or CRT TV if you want to use that term. I played for some years with this setup and I only had one gaming console that was this Xbox. It was 2011 when I started getting into PS3. This was the point when I switched from tube to nowadays so common “table television”. So I played lots of PS3. Later I purchased a PS4.

I started getting into retro consoles maybe in 2016. I was given a PS2. I wanted to get into it also. I haven’t been playing lots of PS2s games. I kind of missed that gaming device for some reason. I started to develop an idea of this living room space that would have several retro consoles in it. So I started gathering older game consoles. I bought another Xbox, PSOne and Xbox 360. I also brought Mega Drive from my parents house to my own living room. Later I also purchased a console that was called Retro Trio. It had the capability to be able to play original games of Mega Drve, SNES and NES. I also got an adapter so I could play also Master System games. I also bought PS Classic since it was finally so cheap to buy.

I had a large collection of different kinds of devices and games. I played them on table television that had a 32 inch screen. I never went back to CRT. I gave my old television to my parents and they decided to get rid of all these old televisions. My old TV had a screen that was 27 inches. I got rid of it. Now when I think about I’m not sure if it was the right decision. I have had these feelings of regret also earlier when I realized what my PlayStation and all of its games included would have been worth today. My regret of selling my PlayStation is actually another story.

Why would someone still want to use tube TV? The first thing that comes to mind is playing games like Duck Hunt in which you can use a light gun to play. There were these kinds of games released to multiple game devices like Mega Drive, NES and PS1 just to name a few. There are although many other reasons also. You can think about how games were developed to function on these kinds of televisions. Some retro gamers say that retro games look better on tube TVs. One thing of course is that the price of CRT televison is much lower than a price of a newer and technically more advanced television. Old TVs are also good for watching old video tapes. You don’t need an SCART-to-HDMI adapter because your console can be hooked up directly to a TV that has RCA and/or SCART connectivity. I actually remember that I had to hook up my Mega Drive with a cable that was connected to the TV from its antennas connection. And, oh yeah, you had to tune the channel to be correct one. This is a thing of the past since today you only need to set the right HDMI channel for your console to co-operate with your display device.

There are many reasons for and against getting your hands on older television. I am not so excited about this. I am actually really wondering why would someone invest time and money in getting an older television and this is the reason why I wrote this article. I hope it gives you some ideas if you are thinking about buying a CRT TV or if you are wondering this same question that has been in my mind lately. I don’t judge anyone for making retro purchases. I actually think it’s cool that there are different kinds of views to retro gaming. And I actually newer played so much these games where shoot different objects with a light gun back when I was a kid. I can imagine someone getting a good load of nostalgia if that would be the case.

Making games is big business

Right now video games are more popular than ever. PlayStation 4 has now sold more than 110 million copies. Nintendo Switch has sold more copies than Nintendo Entertainment System. Switch and PS4 haven’t been around so long. Switch was released in 2017 and PS4 in 2013. Let’s think about this. NES was released in 1983 and the most popular and the most sold gaming console ever PS2 was released in 2000. So PS4 has been around only 7 years and Switch only 3 years. What will these figures be after 15 years? You don’t have to be any genius to figure out what’s going on. Games are popular. Making games, and selling them, is big business.

I sincerely hope that big game companies keep bringing more quality in form of good games to growing group of gamers. Making a HD remake is sometimes okay but where are the new innovations? I don’t meen big changes, such as virtual reality, but those small things that made video games of late 90s and early 2000s so great. Game developers would have to take time to experiment with a gaming console and find its limitations and opportunities. That would be a way to win my hearth back.

I have already said this. I don’t care how excited you are about PS5. I am not going to be one of the first ones to buy it. I bought PS4 back in 2014 and I was a bit disappointed in it. That just tells about me as a person a lot. It tells us about my history in gaming. I started messing around with video games well before I even bought my first console. That’s just where I’m form and that also tells a lot about in which direction I’m headed.

I am a bit worried. At the same time I am hoping the best. I keep buying PS4 titles for twenty euros and I have now about five or so games that I haven’t even opened up. I haven’t played them. I haven’t even installed them. Why did I buy them? I don’t know the right answer. I just hope we get some very good games in the future. I have to also get to my retro games at times to get the idea of what a perfect, or at least good, game is and why. And what gaming means to me…Well, there’s a lot to think about there…

The picture is a screenshot that I took from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_best-selling_game_consoles

Can you see inside the game?

There are many different views to video games. In my opinion by playing them you learn different things about the world itself but you also learn how games are played, structured and what are the rules inside it. You can also take a psychological view of what the game is trying tell you. What is the plot and what are the developers main points or what is the games message. You can also analyze the game – what are the rules and how do you proceed in this game. Some games ask for the player to make decisions that effect to what happens and how do other characters react to this. When I think about this one particular game comes to mind. That’s the first Fallout.

Some players are happy to just play and play and keep playing and enjoying these video games without learning things about the world around us. I think that’s okay. Not everyone has to be a scientist or go to university. It’s just my own habit and my personality that drives me to think about things a little bit deeper. At times I find myself reading books, skimming through texts that I find online and just having a conversation with someone at social media for example. I enjoy this a lot. I think your brain is your greatest weapon and it is even greater than a loaded handgun.

There is also a technical view to gaming and games. After I spent years learning programming I found how the logical part of games is constructed. I am happy that I graduated and even though I didn’t finally get a job as a programmer I learned many interesting facts about computers and technology. That was combined to my earlier experiences about playing video games. Now, I am not a hardcore coder. I know the basics. Still this little knowledge opens a door to understanding a lot about video games.

You basically have content that reacts to users actions. You get points by doing something. As Sonic you collect rings. As Mario you jump on enemies. These points are actually variables. When Mario jumps, or we can say that you push the button, this action triggers a function that defines how high the jump is and usually it also records how long did you press the button and did you press any other directional buttons. When Mario lands on an enemy there is another function triggered. Have you ever wondered how on earth can a game save of for example Fallout 4 fit in to so small space? This is because for the game to be saved you only need some statistical information, some variables, that have all the necessary information inside them. So it all makes sense, finally.

There are many ways to analyze games. You can view them as entertainment, learning tool, hobby, profession (maybe), subject of any kind of science and so on. You can also think what goes on in the game and what is the atmosphere like. If you want to learn more about games and maybe willing to learn how to make games I can tell you that you should first start programming some way. You can try to get to some good school to learn things out. That’s the route that I took. After you have learned basics you can advance to a tool, usually a framework, that you can build your game on. Good tools to learn are Unity, Stencyl and Phaser. And remember that programming is only the logic part of games. To make a game you need also to create all the 3D models, story, textures and music with some sound effects. It takes a lot to make a full game. Some just have what it takes and…well, some just don’t. Try to be patient. If your first game, or the prototype of your first game is awful, don’t give up. Just keep thinking, designing and learning. That’s also how you can grow as a person.

Differences between serious and casual gaming

What really is casual gaming? Does it refer to playing at easier difficulty level? Does it mean not playing so many hours daily or weekly? In this article I try to explain this matter. There are many things that are or seem to be more important than playing. But sometimes you can combine playing with writing an essay or getting to spend some free time. We can go even further – what if you could also create new games and use your knowledge to your advance?

In my thoughts casual gaming means passing some time that you just seem to have to something that you don’t fully want to do. You are just spending time or even wasting time because you might be bored or you are waiting for something to happen for example waiting for the oven to warm so you can bake some pizza in it. This means that you are not so passionate about the actual game and all the difficulties and experiences inside the game are not the thing that you are interested in.

Let’s for a moment think about serious gaming. You are obsessed with the game you are playing. You want to find every piece of equipment, turn over every rock you find and reveal all the secrets that the game has. You are willing to receive everything that specific game has to offer. You are deeply inside this games world. You want to focus on the main character and side characters also. You seem to understand the story.

Studying is a lot like learning a new game. Some people try to figure what things are the most essential and learn them and even memorize some phrases or images or something that they find important. But if you want to learn things more deeply you want to understand why things are the way they are. You want to fully understand the matter you are trying to learn. Not just some phrases that some expert thinks are important. You want to understand what the game is. You want to know everything about it. So this basically is the difference. Casual gaming is a way to pass some time. Serious gaming is when you want to understand what you are doing inside the game.

As I’ve learned some programming as I was studying I came to understand games more deeply also. It opened some doors for me. My role would not be an artist or 3D modeller or graphical or texture designer. I would be the creator of games logic. That’s what game programmers do. They design the logic. You need a key from that room that opens a door to that next room. And so on. You can build on it.

This text is just one post in my blog. It appears to me that I have touched something important here and we can propably think about these matters in some other posts also. Some things like how can you get so much valuable information from games and how can you even make gaming from your hobby to a profession. I’d like to write more about game designing and eSports. I think there are many valuable things here and that gaming can be more than a simple way to pass time and it can bring you valuable things.

Gaming can be a low budget hobby

Do you think gaming is expensive? My goal in this article is to convince you that you really can have a hobby like this and not have so large budget. In my opinion buying games and concoles isn’t as expensive as you would first think. We go through here some points how you can significantly save money while still having a nice relationship with your dear gaming hobby.

You can save a decent sum of money by going to flee markets. I bought my PSOne, for example, for fifteen euros. Before this self-containment caused by korona-virus I regularly visited some large flee markets here in Finland. I usually went through every single table and it took me about half an hour. There was hundreds of self-service tables. I felt excited every time I went through these. You never know what you will find. It is a blessing but I think that’s also a bit of a problem since you don’t know beforehand how much you will spend and what you will find. I recommend to prepare financially. Sometimes you don’t find anything but next time you might find PS1, some big box PC games and some other stuff that you only dreamed about when you were just making your way to local flee market. Typical products you can find almost every time is some PS3 or Xbox 360 game for five euros.

Flee markets provide a cheap way to purchase games and consoles.
You just don’t know for sure what you’ll find. If you are searching for a specific game or console and you know just what you are looking for there is an option. You can check your favourite small-time gaming store. I prefer online shopping but you can always (if there wouldn’t be this korona situation) visit the strore. You can also make your order and just pay and pick it up from the store. You can find many old games and you can also trade your old games, duplicates or the ones you don’t play so much.

The latest is always the most expensive. If you can’t afford PS4 Pro or newest Xbox you can always buy PS3 if you just want a console. PS3 has good quality. I know this because I’ve had this console for over ten years. You can also use your PC or buy a used one. Doing this reduces your gaming expenses greatly. Also remember to keep up with any discounts that you can find. One example that comes to mind was PlaStation Classic. It’s price tag was 130 euros. Since it flopped badly you could buy one for 40 euros. That’s the actual point of keeping up with the lowest prices.

Some advice about roms and emulators. It isn’t right to copy games and not pay for them. But I also think that if you have some game as hard copy you can confidently play it also on emulator. Same advice I have for consoles. If you don’t own the console don’t play it. If you have broken console? Then you can play it. These are just my own opinions and the law might say something different. To play safe don’t copy games at all especially if you don’t have a hard copy.

What makes gaming so addictive?

There are many things that you can have an addiction on. Drugs, such as nicotine, coffeine or heroin, are addictive. But there can be more behind an addiction than just pure chemistry. Fast learning and seeking of reward are some things that are present as you play a video game. Basically what happens as you are playing is that you just concentrate on the game. If we analyze what is happening physically is that you are just pressing the buttons at right time. The controller takes your input and forms a reaction based on your actions.

This is very different from working in real life. In real life you are dealing with your senses and reacting on what you see and hear or feel. Think about it. It is very different to for example carve a piece of wood with a real knife than to do that in a game. How this effects a young person who is growing up and is just beginning to form to become an adult is actually very interesting. There are different phases in growing up and it seems there is something very special about this part of it. I’m talking about persons that are aged between 14 to 16.

How did I became addicted in gaming? Do I play too much? Should I limit the time I spend on playing these games? These are good questions and in my opinion need to be given a thought. We as adults can analyze this but I think a child that is very addicted to some game might not just get the picture. Today there is already limitations created to control what kind of content is presented to for example persons under the age of 16.

You have to have some vision inside gaming to set limits to these young players. And maybe they are themselves somewhat responsible for how they spend their time. Gaming industry should have some responsibility in this matter also. I think they have so much resources that they can have a real research about these issues. All in all I think that we all, gamers and non-gamers, specialists and hobbyists, should have a good conversation as things are not so one sided.

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