Monday, 11 January 2010

Ten Excuses for playing games that never work...

Have you ever had to make excuses for playing video games? Certainly when I was younger I had to give all kinds of reasons for wanting new games, or to carry on playing rather than doing something else such as the fabled "tidying of thy room."

I'll bet anyone reading this has been in the same situation and felt the need to explain themselves. When you get older this becomes a game in itself. You start thinking: what kind of excuse can I give now I'm twice the age of the target market for this game?

10: Because if I don't the [insert bad guys here] will conquer the [insert here kingdom/planet/universe] and I'll never rescue [insert damsel in distress here] which would be really bad!

Top Ten Excuses for Playing GamesI've found that if you get into even more detail than this it's even more effective! Girlfriends and wives get exasperated with too much gaming detail and if you're lucky you'll get the "Yeah, whatever - just go play!" response. You may also get the "Yeah whatever, go do the dishes anyway!" response but it's worth a shot I always think.

In some ways it was easier when I was younger. Older games, being less sophisticated and without quick disc access made it easier to give valid excuses to carry on playing! Even if for just a bit longer. The most obvious being:

9. I can't save here! I have to get to a save point!

Which was nearly always true. In many cases, especially on the Spectrum (my first computer with games), you could never save your game and you had to start from the beginning every time you reloaded or lost. This excuse still works today for some titles where, inexplicably you can't quick save at any point. Nintendo are still buggers for this and are unlikely to change their approach for some time.

"Almost" valid excuses don't end there, there are still other ways to try to convince parents or spouse that playing games is a necessity rather than just obvious fun. One of the earliest excuses I remember is:

8. It helps my hand eye co-ordination!

Does it? Does it really? I can't say I've ever noticed any improvement in myself from playing games. In fact I often play a little game to see if I can throw a pen in the air, making it spin round and catch it. Often I do it without thinking and work colleagues have started to count how often I manage to catch the pen again. I have an embarrassingly small percentage of successful catches, so I can't help but disagree with this excuse. Of course I would never admit that to my parents back then, nor my fiancé today!

I suppose you could argue something similar, something that can be applied to nearly any game these days.

7. It's Educational!

There is actually some element of truth here. For instance, time management games help teach time management skills, hidden object games help with visualisation and shape recognition, while Grand Theft Auto 4 helps with...um...crime based skills? Okay maybe not the best example, but what almost every game does help teach is problem solving. It would be hard to argue a case against that, especially if you have kids who are asking for the latest Professor Layton game!

These kind of excuses can be pushed a bit far though. There's a threshold of acceptability where the receiver of the excuse will see right through your veil of lies. And you can't get more blatant than this...

6. It helps keep me fit!

Which is probably going to become a more common excuse in the future, especially with the popularity of the Wii balance board and the soon to be released "Project Natal" on the xbox. Both have the goal of making the human body more of the controller, Natal more so as it requires no physical contact with the controller at all.

Unfortunately it's a fact that only a balanced diet and plenty of exercise can get you fit, not a computer game. I'm sure it can help but it's not an excuse that's going to wash with many parents! It's not that parents don't understand these days, I'm sure! Many parents probably want to get their kids off the console and off to bed so they can play their own games too! In fact that leads to a whole new area of excuse creativity.

5. I want to see what all the fuss is about!

Which I have to tell you only works once or twice per game. Once your wife or girlfriend remembers the name of the game (they'll never remember what it looks like so feel free to lie about that too) you'll have to give another, more elaborate excuse for subsequent gaming time.

Luckily I have the answer here, something which I've used well to my advantage before and is almost certain to work at least once. I got the idea from a Dilbert comic (Wally is my Hero!) where they need their boss to make the right decision on a product name. The method they use is to give the boss two options, one good option and one really, really bad option. The boss obviously wants to feel important and make a management decision so they choose the good option, which is what the team wanted in the first place rather than days spent discussing it and over analysing it. Therefore I give you this:

4. Would you like to play a multiplayer game?

Which works fine as long as you suggest a multiplayer game that they would never ever want to play. Gears Of War is good for this, as is WiiPlay if you have either of them. Otherwise anything you're good at and they're not works too.

More than 90% of the time I get the response "No, it's ok - you go and play." Which is obviously the intended response and even better it's their suggestion! There's also a powerful variant of this that is worth sharing and is even more similar to the 2-choices method mentioned earlier. This is:

3. Shall we or shall I go play for a while?

Obviously if your girlfriend is a hard worker and loves cleaning the house or going out shopping you may have to think more carefully about what the task is. For me cleaning the house works very well as it's vary rarely tidy or even tidy-ish.

There's also a good suggestion for everyone co-habiting with either their wife, girlfriend or even their families. Something I've started using this year, cleverly disguised as a New Years Resolution. It would probably work even better for people immune to the previous two reasons and it's to do with scheduling! This year I don't want to let any of my commitments slip, so I devised a schedule for each evening to make sure I spent the right amount of time on each. It's worked out very well for the previous two weeks and I expect it will continue to work, but it had an interesting side effect. Here is my schedule:

Monday - iPhone programming (I'm writing more apps this year!)
Tuesday - blog and article work
Wednesday - Finish this week's review
Thursday - Wedding Planning(1hr min) and iPhone programming (1 hr min)
Friday - Decide on next review game, Date night with fiancé
Saturday - Friends/Family visits
Sunday - Day off for anything (usually more review time!)

It's not set in stone and if I ever manage to do this full time it will certainly change, but that's how it's worked generally so far! So when it came to Wednesday night, where my fiancé is usually at college I was able to say...

2. It's review/gaming night!

How can you argue with a well-defined schedule! Well, quite easily as it turns out - but at least you can play guilt free that you'll meet all your other commitments as well as having something to look forward to every week!

And that's almost it, those are all the clever and not so clever excuses I really know of. I know the last one is kind of boring and negates the point of playing games rather than doing real life important things. And I don't want to ruin the whole thing with some kind of "Internet addiction is a real thing!" warning, so I won't. Then maybe the simplest of excuses, and the most childish or stubborn of all is the greatest of excuses:

1. Because I want to!

Thank you Billie Piper...
Other more specific options exist of course; such as "Because I run a gaming blog" (hehe) and "Because I'm writing a game, I need inspiration." This means that you then have to prove it by creating and contributing to the blog, which is more work than it probably looks!

Perhaps the point here is that if we need to make excuses for games they're not as important as other things in life? Maybe we should all stop and take a look at the wonderful world we live on in all it's splendour and reflect on the beauty that surrounds us all...

...Just as soon as I've completed this level...

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