The games I like to play, and why

More about games today. I describe myself as a gamer and I do play different types of game – as in I play Board games, computer/console games, Table top Role Playing Games (RPGs) and Live Action Role Playing Games (LARPs). There’s also different things I get from the different types of game – or even from different games within the same type. 

So board games – for me this is all about socialising. I do have a few games that can be played solo, but that’s not the point for me. It’s all about sitting round with friends, catching up, chatting whilst playing a game. I personally find it more of a social activity than watching a film or TV show together (nothing wrong with those mind), as a game can be paused for conversation and continued much easier than a film. You don’t need to constantly rewind because one of you missed something. As to the type of game I like to play – I’ll give most things ago. Good mechanics and a good theme count for a lot for me, but I’ll happily play co-operative games or more traditional ‘versus’ games. 

 A few of my current favourites at the moment are: Star Wars: Rebellion – playing out the war between the Empire and Rebellion in the Star Wars universe, it’s asymmetric warfare, with different win conditions for each side. Star Wars: Armada (yes I’m a Star Wars fan, what of it?). This is fleet combat in the Star Wars universe, I like the way bigger ships are slower to react, and how it all fits together.

 Pandemic is an old favourite – a co-operative game for 2-4 players, where there are 4 deadly diseases out in the world and you’re trying to control them/cure them. We’ve just started to play Pandemic Legacy – which is similar to Pandemic, but you play through a year once, and the game changes as you progress, details get added, things get tougher (and sometimes you destroy game components – which goes against every grain in my gamer body) – or easier if you’re doing badly.

 This is just a few, there are many more, but regardless of the type of game, as I mention above it’s all about the socialising, spending time with like-minded people, and doing something constructive with that time. I will say from a depressive’s point of view board games really help as they keep my mind active. They also keep my mind active in different ways than playing music or reading a book. One of my problems when my mood is on a downswing is that the same task or pastime can become boring very quickly (even if normally this wouldn’t be the case) – so having access to activities that exercise my mind in different ways is very beneficial to my mental health.

 

And so on to computer games. For me computer games have always sat in the middle for why I play them. Sometimes it’s just as a stress reliever, logging on and playing a First Person Shooter (FPS) like Halo and Call of Duty is just mindless fun. I’m pushing my reaction times, and thinking about the best approaches to levels, but not really engaging a lot of my brain – that’s not the point. Then there’s computer RPG’s like the Mass Effect series, I love these games, and can and have spent hours on them. They’re an attempt to get some of the RPG enjoyment when I can’t get a game (which is a lot of the time), but they do fall short – all of the responses are scripted, so although you may get caught by surprise, there’s never that same interaction you get with other players in an RPG. My personal favourites though tend to be strategy games – particularly X-Com and currently X-Com 2. These kind of build in 2 of the things I’m looking for. The strategy aspect of the game exercises a part of my mind that work really doesn’t at the moment. And the fact that you have named troops (who you can customise and name) also gives it a bit of a role play feel as well – although again without the interaction with real people.

 Actually X-Com 2 has just taken on a new twist for me in the last week or so. I decided to go back to it after a break, and having seen a friend do the same I asked on Facebook if any of my friends wanted soldiers named after them. Lots did, and I did a couple of after mission reports which also seemed to go down well, so I continued doing the reports. Getting comments from friends on what was happening to ‘them’ in the game. Next someone asked me about streaming and now I am. So my game of X-Com has directly involved friends some of whom watch me playing it, or watch the recordings later. It’s put it in a whole different place for me – more like some kind of living computer game rather than anything else. However it’s got me much more involved with the game than ever before, and actually does have interaction with other people – albeit not first-hand.

 

LARPs – these are fairly new for me. H and I did our first two LARPS at a Convention a few years back, since then we’ve both done 1 whole day LARP, a whole LARP convention and one or two more at other conventions. I’m surprised it took me so long to get into LARPs really – it ticks a lot of my interests and I used to do amateur dramatics including a lot of improvisation, which is basically what a LARP is. There are different types of LARP – some involve foam weapons, or laser weapons and running around outdoors – sounds like it could be fun but I’m not there yet. The ones I prefer are often called ‘Theatre Style’ LARPs, and concentrate on character interaction, rather than physical altercations, and can explore many weird and wonderful things. As I said they’re a lot like improv drama, and you generally have goals for your own character, which may be helped or hindered by the other players depending on their goals. I get a lot out of these games – I get to be someone else for a while, which is always great. Lots of interaction with other people, without danger of putting myself out there personally (which I still find incredibly difficult at times). Of course sometimes the themes will be triggers for me and my depression – but it doesn’t seem to matter, maybe because I’m not being me. And in the aftermath I can look at those triggers and maybe it gives me a handle on them for my actual life. The funny thing about this is that I am actually putting myself out there – not as the character but by being there and in the socials before and after games – but that illusion of it not being me makes it a lot easier so that’s all to the good.
Last, but not least, Role Playing Games. Over the years I’ve played many different games, from many different genres, with many different approaches to rules. I’ve enjoyed, if not every game I’ve played, at least most system types. However in more recent years I’ve found myself drifting away from the more dice heavy, traditional style games, towards what’s often called the ‘Indie’ end of the market. ‘Indie’ is actually something of a misnomer, as technically it means independently published, and therefore can include quite dice/system heavy games. The games I prefer these days are fairly or completely dice light (on the whole). They tend more towards the drama of a situation and collaborative story, rather than the more traditional Games Master describing the world/telling the story and the players reacting. In many way these games are more like LARPs – we just tend to stay sitting down.

 So given that, what games do I like? The answer is quite a few, but I’ll pick some of my current favourites out – this changes all the time.

 Ribbon Drive – this is a game about exploring relationships during a road trip. It’s powered by music, and that’s almost all the rules there are (at least the way we play it). It’s about using a road trip, and the conversations you have to decide your future. Absolutely superb game that I’m always creating new playlists for. Just can’t see myself getting bored by this game.

 Grey Ranks – not a game to play often due to content. It’s about Child Soldiers in the Warsaw uprising of WW2. It will not end well, the game is set up so it won’t end well. This can be a heavy game, but deeply moving and satisfying. It’s not unusual to get tears during a game of this, and I fully appreciate it’s not for everyone. I personally get a lot out of it.

 Sanctuary – a game written by a friend, exploring relationships between a group of people who survived an apocalypse (you determine what in play) and trying to reach the titular Sanctuary. Along the way you will build friendships, betray your group, and all bar one of you will never find Sanctuary. I still get a lot out of this game, even though I’ve had characters follow some quite mentally challenging paths (depression and suicide in one case).

 There’s more, there’s lots more, but those three are currently my favourites (I think). 

 Now you may think – some of those themes and ways of playing could be quite triggering, and you’re right. They can be. You can be playing a Ribbon Drive game and have a song come up that harks back to the darkest of times. Depression, suicide and the like are not unlikely to come up in those types of games as well. However it is a game not real life, and for me that’s one distinction. The other is that I’m now in such a place mentally, that I can hit one of these triggers – hear that song from the darkest of times, and say to myself. 

 ‘Yes you hit that point. Yes that was a bad time, one you don’t want to go back to. But, and this is the important part, – I’m still here. I got through these things and am in a better place than I ever thought possible back then. And things can continue to get better.’

 That’s one hell of a powerful message to be able to give myself – and although I play these sort of games because I enjoy them I really don’t mind getting that out of them as well.

 So that’s some of the games I play and why I play them, thanks for reading all.

 Stay safe.

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Author: wraithben

I'm Ben, early 40's and work as a Real Time Analyst in a call centre in the South West of England. In my spare time amongst other things I like to game - computer games, board games and most of all RPG's and Theatre Style LARPS. I also suffer from Chronic Depression.

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