Computer games are a weakness of mine. I’m not alone in this, but my penchant for self evaluation has led to connections with my own childhood imagination and my favorite computer games. I grew up during the 1970’s and 1980’s when there was very little by way of electronic technology compared with today. There were only three television networks and even the Atari game of Pong wasn’t available for homes until I was eight years old. As Jeff Foxworthy said, if the president was on TV your whole evening was shot. “He’s on every channel! We’re going to miss CHiPS!”
So most of what we did as children involved our own imaginations and creativity. Along with my brothers and sister, I invented all sorts of complicated scenarios by which we enjoyed lives in whole other worlds. Computer games I tend to gravitate towards seem to explore those same worlds today.
Take the Simcity computer game for example. It simulates building a city, as its name implies. You can design a population center according to whim. As a child and being intrigued with ancient history and far away villages; I used piles of grass after mowing our huge yard to build walled cities, towns and even nations that sprawled across our yard like a 3-D relief map.
And when you’ve got whole cities with surrounding towns, and roads connecting them all, then of course there’s going to be war. Several favorite computer games fit into this childhood fantasy like Warcraft, Civilization, and Age of Empires. All these games give control of powerful armies, resources, and enemies to conquer.
Of all computer games, my all time favorite is World of Warcraft. This MMORPG, or Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (you can see why computer gamers are so fond of acronyms), immerses you into the world created by the three Warcraft games that came before it. In my younger days, before most of us had even imagined home computers, we’d sit with friends and tell freestyle fantasy stories. It was basically Dungeons and Dragons without all the fancy dice, guide books, or anything else that cost money.
Many adults try to retrieve their youth. This might mean our looks, body shape, or whatever else. But deeper than that, I believe we miss how accessible a made-up world used to be. We long for the time when imagination and creativity was so powerful they utterly supplanted the real world.
Just merely through wanting it, the boy Darren lived adventures all over the world. He traveled the universe and explored the ocean’s deepest trenches. He was a dinosaur, a hero battling raging dragons, and a well-funded big game hunter.
Playing computer games just might be a subconscious effort on my part to be a boy again. Or maybe this could all be the meanderings of a mind fevered with so-called midlife crisis. Either way it’s good, so long as I don’t stay in the fantasy worlds.