Friday, May 6, 2005

Friday Night Diversion: Nerdasaurus Rex


On Air America this morning, an interview addressed pop culture, and mentioned video games and their influence. This compelled me to recall a subject that I had thought about years ago (pre-blog). That is, the valuable life-lessons to be learned from computer games.

The games I'm talking about here are CRPG's - Computer Role-Playing Games - of the Fantasy/Sci-Fi genres. Yes, I was, and hope to always be, a nerd. These games take the form of Dungeons and Dragons-style roleplay. If any of you remember these names, then you'll know where I am coming from: D&D (and other SSI offshoots), Ultima, Wizardry, Might & Magic, Starflight, Wasteland... far too many to count here. Some of you may have enough experience points to recognize that I am listing some old games here, too. That's because the first-person splatterfests that came after don't really apply here.

"Now, SheaNC," you ask incredulously, "what valuable life-lessons could one possibly glean from these ridiculous games?"

How about Resource Management: CRPG's inevitably involve the acquisition and management of resources. The more valuable the resource, the more difficult it is to obtain. Sometimes you can simply find what you need. For the better things, though, you need to earn them by performing tasks of some sort. What you acquire results from your own actions. The value you place on those acquisitions may depend on their necessity to your survival, or on your own greed. But, as in life, things are not only gained, they are also lost. Which leads us to...

Sacrifice: Often a player must make sacrifices; choices necessary to advance in the game or even to survive without advancing. You often have to choose between two different but equally, vitally important pieces of equipment (say, armour or a weapon). Or, when creating your virtual self at the beginning of the game, and often as you advance through it, you must choose more or less characteristics such as brute strength versus intelligence or agility. Everything is valuable in it's own way, but you can't have it all. Unless you have no qualms about...

Cheating: Yes, there are ways to cheat in order to acquire points, money, objects, or whatever. Let your concience be your guide. In the end, it is not as satisfying as acquiring those things honestly. Does the end justify the means? Only you can decide, but I only say that because I believe morality is subjective.

There are other lessons to be learned in these games. Organization skills (did you remember to make a map?). Committment (I swore I would finish this level without cheat codes!). Loyalty (should I kill this NPC and take his stuff, after he's helped me this far?). Trust (should I believe this old shopkeeper, or is he crazy?). Integrity (I promised I would return the magic elixir!), and so on.

So play on, proud and noble Nerd brethren! The half-elf cleric's life you save may be your own.

P.S. - extra hit points to anyone who played CRPG's on one of these.

7 comments:

Charone said...

Aw, yeah. We just got rid of a Commodore 64, software included.

SheaNC said...

I loved my old commodore. The VW Beetle of computers!

Frenchie said...

I played offshoots of these games with my children but I never looked at the learning side of things. I was too busy trying to multi-task..hit, kick, throw, toss, fire, duck, grunt all at the same time. LOL

Vavoom said...

Actually, I just played an RPG this weekend. I agree with you wholeheartedly. They are very entertaining and certainly help train the strategic mind.

Anonymous said...

I'll do you one better. I played games on a Vic-20!

Jake.

romablog said...

I rocked an amiga but I played a little commie64 in my day.

I have to say- that is the COOLEST cover art I've seen in awhile.

SheaNC said...

That game, Wasteland, is a totally cool classic. It looks really dated now (it's an old dos game), but it still has fans (the ones who haven't died of old age, anyway).