Endo's Game

Endo's Game
I'll Take A Side of Dragon Quest With That!

Tom Endo | 13 May 2009 19:30
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The other day I played Dragon Quest V with the sole purpose of going to sleep. As videogame lullabys come, only Animal Crossing and Electroplankton can really give it a run for its money. This was the first time I had played a game for this purpose (as a sleep aid) and in that moment, about five minutes before my eyelids got really heavy, I realized the way I play videogames has fundamentally changed.

There was a time in my life when playing videogames was a kind of sacred ritual. The room had to be dark, the sound loud and outside distractions far away. Now I play games surrounded by distractions: the TV is on, I'm on the phone talking to my brother, alt+tabbing between a game and websites is a way of life. This past evening was no different. I sat playing Aquaria while my girlfriend watched The Real Housewives of New York scream at each other on TV. We talked about the program while my mer-person flitted about the game's caverns. Tiring of that after a half hour or so, I logged onto World of Warcraft to talk smack at a few guild mates before logging back off to watch Chelsea Lately.

This is the way I prefer to consume videogames as of late, within the context of a larger and ever flowing stream of media. The days of descending into a darkened basement temple to partake in a videogame ceremony are rapidly coming to close, and not only because I no longer have a basement. Videogames are so ubiquitous in daily life, and the choices so many, that they've become commonplace, almost as disposable as a magazine. Now I don't want this to conjure up images of me, Scrooge McDuck like, swimming through a pool of videogames. Although it does, at times, feel like that.

There was a point in the mid nineties when Electronics Boutique and Babbage's, back before they merged into the mighty Gamestop, really felt like boutiques with a few people milling about and bored sales clerks willing to talk the day away. It was wise to actually reserve games because they really did sell out, and true triple-A titles were more like a biannual event. Now they are dens of nerd iniquity, overflowing with carefully chosen product and a phalanx of cashiers doing everything they can to handle the droves. XBLA, PCs, the iPhone and the used games market offer endless choices at prices everyone can afford.

In this environment, gaming isn't an event anymore and there's no defined way to play that forces me to treat them that way. It's unlike the movies where, despite the enormous amount of films available from home viewing, we all still corral ourselves into a darkened public space and stay quiet for two hours. Console games are kind of the last vestiges of the idea that games deserve a special time and place, separate from all our other activities. Yet, with this generation that notion is also quickly crumbling.

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