Confessions of a Closet Gamer

This summer, I am facilitating a book study of Reality is Broken, Jane McGonigal’s passionate look at the importance of games in our lives and how they can help us change the world. I am going to encourage participants to write their own gaming autobiography and thought I should try a draft of my own. I have written about playing games before when I first got involved in a computer game. I compared the experience of learning to play pinochle with my grandfather to learning to play the computer game, one of the first I had really gotten hooked on. Oh, I had played digital games on my computer and various devices: solitaire, word games, sudoku, a few levels of Angry Birds and Abduction. But I found I could put them aside: they really were time killers as I was riding the ferry or had a few minutes before a meeting.

The game that has turned me into a “gamer” is called Royal Envoy. I’ve come to learn that it falls under the category of time management game. The goal is to complete the tasks on each level. These involve making materials, building homes, beautifying neighborhoods, and accumulating money. I really like playing it. In fact, I have been through the levels at least three times as I’ve played it on my iPad, then my old Air and am now finishing the bonus levels on my new Air. And, actually, it’s probably more than that because at least twice I’ve gone back and played the levels again in Expert Mode. At this point, I am trying to dole out the bonus levels one or two a day as once they are done, I will probably be done with the game. I could run through the Expert Levels one more time on the new Air, I suppose, but I feel like it is time to find a new game. I have a few in mind that are recommended by other Royal Envoy fans.

Why is this a confession? Mostly because I think carry the bias that game playing is about killing time not using time to make myself happier and healthier. And, I find myself somewhat “addicted” as I move through the levels, especially as I repeat them and see new ways to accomplish the tasks. Just one level becomes three or four or more if I’m on a run. I am always a little embarrassed when my husband happens upon me playing a level in the middle of the day. But, I also find that the familiar challenge helps refocus and redirect when I’m stuck on a problem or moving from one job to another. I have yet to spend 35 hours a week playing but I probably get in the hour a day that McGonigal is recommending.

There’s another piece to my gaming profile: I am not particularly interested in competing against other people. I am definitely competitive when it comes to pinochle but that’s bred to the bone. I do have a friendly Trivial Pursuit competition with an old friend. We are very well matched and I would guess the slate is pretty even although we don’t keep formal track. That’s how friendly it is. And when I was a kid and we played monopoly, I hated to see my mother losing so would slip her money under the table or miscount to land on her properties. So, it’s no surprise that I prefer games where I compete against myself. And I am most engaged with thinking and strategy games rather than shoot-em-ups. In my childhood I preferred logic problems to word finds or crosswords, puzzling out the clues to eliminate various elements and combinations.
So, there you have it: my life as a gamer. And now, if you don’t mind, I have some bonus levels to play before bed 😉

The book study is being sponsored by the Virginia Society for Technology in Education. The kick off will be in Second Life on July 9 and then there will be three more meetings in SL along with discussions in VSTEOnline! It’s free and open to everyone…you can participate in either or both parts of the study.

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