BY MARK PARVIN: Not that long ago, I was a serial gamer. I would move from one to the next, never getting to grips with any of them.
Some of the time it was because the game was rubbish. But, usually, it was because I got stuck somewhere, became frustrated, gave up, and moved on to something else.
Back in the day, it was do or die: I stuck my coin in the slot, played until I ran out of lives, and then either played again or wandered the arcade in search of another game. It was also the same at home. The games were more simple, and they only lasted a short time: I would have a go, have enough, and load another one.
That’s all in contrast to the massive worlds we now have to play through today. The average PC or console game lasts many hours and – like any relationship – there has to be commitment and dedication if we want to make it last. Staying with the same character for a long time can lose its initial appeal, and our eyes can start to wander to new and possibly more exciting games.
And that was me; either getting bored or giving up when things got tough.
It was lockdown that brought me to my senses. I realised that what I was doing wasn’t a particularly healthy – or cheap – way to game. As I had more time to play, I thought it offered me an excellent chance to change my ways. So I dedicated myself to just a couple of games.
But what was I going to choose? They had to be games I would enjoy being with. Otherwise, I’m only going to become bitter and twisted over time, and go back to my old philandering ways.
I decided to get some advice. I contacted my old friend, and best man, Jamie. He was a lifelong gamer who I first met as a customer in my computer shop back in the 80s. We hit it off straight away and have been friends ever since. If anyone knew what I liked in games, it was Jamie.
After explaining to him about the state of my gaming relationships, he told me that there was only one game for me – Red Dead Redemption II.
I had never played the first Red Dead for my sins, but the second instalment was now available for the PC. I put my trust in Jamie’s advice and went for it. Thankfully, he wasn’t wrong. I have now played through about a quarter of the game, and I’m still going strong.
What I love about Red Dead II is that it is like playing an interactive movie. You go along with the flow, have the odd shoot out or task, but nothing is ever too difficult. Even if you hit a challenging part, you have the option to skip it if the game sees you aren’t doing well. I also mention it’s like a movie because the graphics are so beautiful. When we first discussed it, Jamie said that he would go off and wander around, just looking at the scenery. I thought he was joking, but I have now wasted plenty of time standing next to a river watching the water flow by, or on a high ledge looking out across a valley.
It’s a game I can dip in and out of as I see fit. The characters, story and varied quests, keep me coming back for more. It’s true that “Interactive movie” is a term used a lot over the years for games, but this comes as close to it as I have ever seen. Simply amazing.
With all this talk of devotion, you may wonder why I’ve chosen two games to play. Well, the PC lives in my office, and I spend most of my working days in there when I’m at home. To ensure my wife sees me from time-to-time, I bought a Nintendo Switch: we can be together, I can still enjoy gaming, and she can watch something boring on TV.
My choice of game for the Switch was easy; it had to be Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I am a big fan of Zelda and have been since the SNES days. It was also a game I had already played and given up on; I could not defeat the Waterblight Ganon boss and lost my enthusiasm to continue.
However, with my passion re-ignited after playing Read Dead II, I started Zelda from the beginning again. This time, dedication won through. After many an hour and lots of cursing, I have defeated two of the bosses and am ready for more.
What I have learnt is that perseverance is the key in this game. I make sure I cook often, store plenty of food and try to have the best weapons available. I’m also happy to leave any area I find too tricky, gather my strength and come back. As I explore, complete trials and defeat bosses, my abilities increase and things become a little easier.
Okay, so that is likely stating the obvious. But it was my downfall: I didn’t have the patience to get through the rough times and enjoy the rewards. I could argue that I behave the same in the real world. Now I have persisted with these games, maybe I could use what I have learnt in other areas of my life.
Video games often get a bad rap, but I think we can gain so much more from them than just entertainment.