Through the lens of gaming.

Well a game has been released recently called GTA 5, for those of you who have spent the last decade living under a rock, in the game you play as a criminal, some kind of street hoodlum and work your way to the top by committing crimes of varying degrees of darkness.

Why would anyone play this? especially since the 4th game in the series was devoid of any sense of parody or ironic self awareness. People spend £45 to play a game of cops and robbers where they are always the robber, even worse they want the experience to be ‘realistic’. Now I was thinking that this is indicative of a materialistic world where people secretly want to knock someone over the head to get money so they can buy what they want. Good old fashioned mammon. I hate it.

Recently I was given some money, very generously, in a will. It left me feeling very strange. Here is me, who wants people to spend time with one another building and seeking meaning to our turbulent and short lives, being given a big wad of cash by someone who spent their life trying to control their surroundings and found that when they came to the end of their life they had a wad of cash they had no better idea of what to do with than to give to me. Perhaps that’s one of the many reasons I hate Monopoly so much.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve spent some of it already, its nice not to be worrying about the bills for a couple of months. I even treated myself to a board game called Eclipse, which is a space 4X game (explore, expand, exploit and oh dear exterminate) that can be played in a manageable length of time. Its interesting that German games, Settlers of Catan for example, often eschew combat. Nothing like losing a world war to douse the appetite for conflict I suppose.  (much to my chagrin, I’ve lost my copy of Catan, I have a terrible feeling it literally floated down a river…) 

So what are the computer games I like? oh dear indeed. All of the games on my PC are power fantasies. In CIV4 and GalCiv I like building all the wonders I guess, but combat is a big part of these games too, and these are some of the least warmongering games I own. Total War, Age of Empires and Command & Conquer are my stalwarts, not that I’m particularly good at any of them. But there is no doubt I am seeking a type of power that my real life is devoid of.

Relatively recently a game was released called Minecraft, where apart from fighting off random skeletons and exploding shrubbery (don’t ask me…) there is no objective, but to build things. I wish I could say I rushed out and got it. I really didn’t. I guess I like my gaming with lots of mindless minions and evil cackles of glee as my troops walk into enemy cities and trash them. I wonder what that says about me? Maybe I should be a bit more wary of suggesting America solve the Syrian conflict by bombing Assad back to the stone age, especially since Assad’s opponents are becoming increasingly unpalatable by the second.

American movies are often about finding that moral sweet spot where violence can be justified, why? because actually they just want the entertainment of violence without that sick feeling it gives normal people, how different is modern society from ancient Rome and its gladiators? I wonder what a spiritual computer game would look like?

So anyway I’m taking suggestions for more good board games… I’ve already got Carcassone, and I’m not sure I want to buy Catan all over again (I suppose I could get the star trek version but it makes the robber a Klingon cruiser… it would have been better if you could play as the Klingons, Romulans, Cardassians and Federation, make the robber, I dunno, the Tribbles or something. Instead you can only play as the Federation who are dullsville…)

As it is I already own Cosmic Encounter and Eclipse, so I’ve got the space empire building niche covered I guess. Dixit is very good, very different, but I’m not sure I’d want to buy it. Any other suggestions? I’m particularly interested in shorter games that can be played by people of the non geek variety, but enjoyed by those of that persuasion (that would be me).  Also avoid word games… I’m dyslexic so they become tiresome very quickly. In fact I’m so hard to please you might be wasting your time.

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