I like video games, but I’m not a gamer

If someone asks me if I’m a gamer, I’d say no. And it’s true, I don’t play video games. Or at least, not the sorts of games that are most associated with someone you would call a gamer. I play cute little iOS games like The Simpsons Tapped Out or Monsters Ate My Condo or Plants vs. Zombies. The last time I played a game on the PC was Diablo III — I played all the way until Hell and then stopped mid-way because it got too difficult. The last game I played on my Xbox 360 was Dance Central, and I was quite terrible even though I enjoyed it.

So it’s not true that I don’t play video games. I used to play World of Warcraft almost every day for four straight years. I have both a Nintendo DS and a PS Vita. I like Mario Kart and SSX and Sonic and Lumines and Katamari Damacy. I liked Doom and Quake back in the day, and I have a special place in my heart for Lucas Arts titles like The Secret of Monkey Island and the Day of the Tentacle. I’ve played every single Sam & Max game in existence and I love city-building titles like Sim City and Civilization. And of course I’m familiar with arcade classics like Pac-Man, Pitfall, Asteroids, and Space Invaders.

But I’m still not a gamer. Because I don’t play Halo or Call of Duty or Metal Gear Solid. I’m not interested in GTA or Counter-Strike or Ninja Assassin. I’ve never played Final Fantasy in my life.

It’s difficult to explain why. I could say that I hate dying in games, which is true, but that doesn’t explain why dying in Diablo 3 is okay, but dying in Halo isn’t. I could say that I hate war games, which is also true, but that doesn’t explain why I like old-school FPS games like Doom but Call of Duty gives me the heebie jeebies. I suppose I also don’t care for realism in games, preferring animations and puzzles over how many ways you can customize someone’s eyebrows. Still, I’m not sure why the look of a game would affect me that much.

My excuse, however insufficient it may be, is that I like video games to be fun. If I’m so deeply immersed in someone else’s creation that I feel genuine emotion like fear or sadness or stress, it’s difficult for me to have fun. I like mindless killing games like Diablo because there’s no emotional connection. It’s the same with Left 4 Dead — just pick the weapon and blast through them all. I don’t want to be involved in some epic tale of redemption. I don’t want to go on a tactical mission to take revenge for the death of my family. I don’t want to have some deep mysterious past that explains why I’m such a murderous monster. I don’t want to be a superhero. I don’t want the game to scold me if I make a mistake. I play games to have fun, not to be stressed out.

There are obviously exceptions to the rule, here. I do after all love adventure games, and those are all about story. However, most of them are filled with humor and are less about fighting and more about puzzle-solving. I also enjoy MMOs, which have their fair share of stressful moments. But perhaps it’s because they’re with other people, that the tension is muted and spread out.

Like I said, it’s not a very good set of reasons why I don’t play those games. Maybe I should at least try them out to see if I like them before I decide. But the fact that they turn me off in the first place is probably not a great sign.

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