I visited my dad’s office today. I went there to give him his phone that he left at home on a dresser and to get lunch courtesy of a certain billionaire. Now, at the Facebook offices they have three Xbox 360s and a menagerie of games in a lounge area. I brought along my flash drive which is the current home of my Xbox Live career, all four years of it. I have a plan for the future involving the Mass Effect game series. I have played all three games and I am a fan to put it lightly. I threw in ME1 into the console and looked at my save data. My plan is that when I finally get around to buying an Xbox 360 of my own I will also buy Mass Effect 1, its DLC and all the DLC for Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3. And I will sit down and play each game, all the DLC, from end to end. For anyone who is familiar with these games, this is an ambitious task.
I decided against starting this project today while I was sitting on that couch; where I had to move every few minutes to make sure the lights don’t turn off automatically.* I did however look at the time stamps on my two careers. The game kindly keeps a running tab on the amount of time spent on each career. And my combined total of most recent and current ME careers is approximately 100 hours. And I know I can add at least 25 to 30 more to that total from old careers that I have deleted or were on my old Xbox Live Gamertag. And I can reasonably estimate that I have spent at least triple that amount on Mass Effect 2 through my innumerable playthroughs and careers. And I have about 40 hours on Mass Effect 3, about 25 in the campaign and about 15 from the multiplayer demo. I was reminded while reflecting on these numbers of an article I read on Cracked.com. Now the part I remembered was that first part, that spending a day watching sports is arbitrarily acceptable but spending a day playing a video game isn’t. These aren’t absolutely true, but generally I would bet that spending a Sunday watching football is considered far more acceptable to most people than playing video games all day Sunday. Anyway I don’t think if I told people that I’ve spent hundreds of hours over the course of the past 4-5 years dedicated to a video game series, it would not be well received and possibly invite ridicule. Keyword there is I think.
But I don’t think that video games are somehow a lesser form of entertainment, unlike some walking gaping maws masquerading as a homo sapiens.† I think the fact that I have spent so much time on just one video game series is a testament to the skill of the men and women who made it. And not just the programmers who executed everything but the writers and artists who crafted the story and created the world the game is set. And a testament to the loyalty, dedication and love of the series. It was the story lines and the characters that kept my attention for so long. There are many games that have equal or even better gameplay, but none can compare to the writing in these games. Unfortunately with the release of Mass Effect 3, it seems most of the players of the game revealed themselves to be ingrates and simpletons by insisting that the ending had to be spoon-fed to them. I sincerely hope BioWare does nothing and never releases the extended ending.
But I am straying. I don’t think I should or will feel ashamed that I have spent so much time playing a game. Who is to judge that this form of entertainment is lesser than another. Would anyone think I was wasting my time by spending the same amount of time reading books? I probably do more thinking and get more involved playing a game than I ever will while reading a book. I see them are just variants of a theme: entertaining myself. Reading a book, watching TV or a movie, or playing a game. In the end they all have the same goal, for me to have some fun. My preference is a game. And I’m not going to feel bad about it.‡
*: I sincerely hope I am using a semicolon correctly. If not, oh well I tried.
†: Note, the walking agnatha in question maintains they are not art, which is fine; arguing whether or not something is art is something only navel gazers and lotus eaters concern themselves with. I just don’t like things, with or without mandibles, judging things they have no knowledge of.
‡: Not that I think that many people want me to feel bad about it.