My gaming blue

Finishing a really great game can sometimes lead to mixed emotions. While games can be appreciated more than once the realisation that a compelling chapter of your gaming life is over is still a hard one.

For every part of my life, there has been a great game running in parallel to my daytime. While I struggle on with the difficulties of the day there is always a game to lighten my evenings. When that game is over it leads to what I can only explain as my gaming blue.

How and why

I’m sure this isn’t a phenomenon unique to me. Sometimes the influence of a game can be so overreaching, so powerful that I find myself unable to move onto the other games in my gaming pile, it relates almost directly the mood created. The inability to wean myself from the environment the game has created for me leads to an almost pining need to continue exploring that world, making it difficult to move to the next game, sometimes days will pass before I can pick up another title in my “to-play” pile.

It isn’t always a reflection of the tone of the ending of the game , it’s not a sulking reaction to a soppy ending, or a jubilant stop. Happy ending or sad it seems to relate almost exactly to how deeply goal-driven the game is, how elaborate the world, how satisfying the combat is. Thinking back to those happy moments in my working day spent carefully planning my next gaming session, exacting the progress to be made – that stops temporarily, and its hard to pick that momentum back up.

A rollercoaster ride

If this happens I normally take it as measure of the games success. It doesn’t happen very often. Generally even with a great game the focus is to finish to move to the next one, to seize the moment of the current experience and chain another, maybe trying a different genre after the steady saturation of the last. A game that stops me in my tracks is rare, almost every game provokes enjoyment or moments of reflection. Few pull me out of my strong desire to play with such force.

The length of time spent on each game is certainly a factor. If weeks have been committed to a particular game, or days spent familiarising myself with the tiny little details no other game has; it becomes difficult to move onto something else. Our growing replay culture extends this feeling encouraging us to continue an enjoyable experience at the expense of our other, newer games.

Moving onto the next game

The most recent example I can think of is Mass Effect 2 – without discussing the detail of why (the reasons of which have been discussed in my post on video game spoilers) The profoundness of Mass Effect’s story, world and character detail has made me reluctant to pick up another title out of sheer awe, but similarly reluctant to start another game of similar size and scope, I have a particular sort of dread about rebounding to another game to fill the void created by such an entertaining, enthralling classic.

I’m interested to hear about your moments of quiet reflection after a game has ended, which titles have most inspired your moments of gaming pause?


How to be a greener gamer

As a gamer my hobby poses a conundrum. I describe myself as green but I also partake in one of the most ungreen and consumer-focused hobbies I can imagine. So I started to try and think up some small practical steps myself and others could take to start to improve this aspect of our hobby.

Gaming is my last big luxury – the one thing up to now I’ve not compromised on. But that needs to change, and here are some of the first steps you can take.

Try to reduce your energy use

Use only what you need

Do you really need your entire console collection plugged into the mains? Be more selective about what you’re going to play on and unplug what you’re not using. Standby modes on consoles and TVs quickly sap up power – as does leaving games on pause while you go AFK. (It also causes damage to your DVD drive too) so avoid both at all costs.

You’re probably already using socket adapters to plug in multiple consoles, so set them up a little smarter, make them easy to reach and completely unplug everything at the mains when you stop playing. Even devices that are plugged in and not on still take power from the grid. If you need to leave your router plugged in 24/7 choose an energy efficient one and stick it in it’s own dedicated socket so that’s no longer an excuse for you not unplugging consoles and TVs. Even turning your router off when you’re out or on holiday will make a massive difference and give your device a break.

Use LCD screens rather than plasma

Of the three main TV options, that old CRT screen you’re using for your retro games is definitely not the helping. But when it finally bites the dust opt for an LCD TV over a plasma as it uses slightly less energy, and should cost you less money to run in the long-term. Read more about the LCD or Plasma debate.

When HD gaming, try to go for a smaller screen where possible – but if that’s not an option at the very least choose a highly-graded energy efficient TV which should also save you money!

Use green electricity

Gaming simply isn’t a green hobby because of the amount of electricity we use to fuel it, and more often than not your gaming habit is being powered by fossil fuels and other brown sources of energy. By using a renewable energy provider for your electricity you help to remove the biggest energy problem surrounding our hobby and actively do something to help stop climate change.

Make sure you choose a tariff that’s actually green, not one provided by a big energy company that’s not actually improving the situation. An ideal green energy tariff should be creating new sources of green energy rather than buying up clean energy generated by everyone else. Read the small print for each energy provider and make an informed choice!

Use rechargable batteries

Most handhelds use rechargeable batteries these days. But even then don’t forget to remove a fully-charged device from the mains to save power and prevent battery damage. You should also try to use rechargable batteries for your controllers, wireless guitars and other devices. Rechargeable batteries have come on leaps and bounds in recent years and should last you almost as long as regular batteries if you follow the instructions – and all it takes is a little preparation.

If you’re still using normal batteries – did you know you can recycle them rather than send them to landfill? Ask your local council for your nearest battery recycle bin.

Buy greener electronics

Of the three current gen consoles, the Wii tops the board as the greenest using the least amount of energy with the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 lagging behind in second and last place respectively. Read more about the energy use of game consoles.

If you’d rather not choose between the three main consoles. Make sure that you choose energy efficient TVs and other devices such as DVD players and monitors for your next purchase. Remember using devices that do multiple things use up using more energy than the equivalent standalone product. e.g. watching a DVD or Blu Ray movie on your console rather than a seperate DVD or Blu Ray player.

Recycle and repair

Make your games last longer

If your discs no longer work clean them with an anti-static cloth and some cleaning fluid (for a cheaper option use some stuff you can find easily around the house – furniture polish should do the trick!) For those really scratched, unplayable discs try taking them to be professionally fixed using a disc cleaning service at a local gamestore. The kits you buy in the shops just don’t compare, as industry machines remove the scratched layer off of the disc, making it playable again. Old retro cartridges can be saved in much the same way using cleaning alcohol and cotton buds.

Your current gen systems should still be under warranty, so you’re already making the most of this year-long period. If you must buy a console try to get a second hand one – and even if you opt for a brand new console avoid repair bills by picking out the ones with the newer chipsets. These are more energy efficient and less likely to break down. Find out how to tell a Jasper chipset Xbox 360 from the rest

Buy second hand

As gamers we already buy a lot of our consoles and games secondhand but there are other benefits to doing so. By buying a game second hand you don’t have any of the wasteful packaging that arrives with the game first time around, and the same is true for second hand consoles. You’re reusing the product that someone has already bought meaning the need for more to be produced is reduced!

Dispose of your electronics responsibly

When consoles and games are beyond repair or you simply don’t want them anymore, give them to friends or sell them on. Even broken consoles can be scavenged for parts, and empty game cases or manuals used by those who are missing them. Most public disposal areas have designated areas for electronics – and this is where your consoles should end up rather than in landfill, that way all the harmful chemicals used to make the consoles are disposed of safely in accordance with EU or other international regulations.

Remember that it’s not a case of out of sight out of mind – even if you give things to someone else, are you sure that they’ll dispose of the stuff you’ve given them responsibly too?

Reuse game stuff

And that means everything that you receive through buying games. Cases, leaflets, console boxes, cables – the lot. The excessive packaging for every peripherial can be reused as packing material, storage materials or a helpful part for someone else. Everything that you’re able to reuse again should be leaving the bare minimum for the bin.

Change the way we play games

Take the campaign to the console manufacturers

The process of making consoles and games also uses a lot of power, and on top of that minute amounts of toxic chemicals go into the plastics and metals that compose a console shell and motherboard if you disagree with this (and I hope you do) – take it up with Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft using the Greenpeace site.

Spread the word

Hopefully some of this blog post has given you some food for thought, if it has let other gamers know what they do to improve matters and suggest new ideas, as my post is by no means authoritative. With more and more of the world becoming aware of the threat of climate change gaming runs the risk of falling behind with our part of what we need to do – and that’s going to reflect badly on our community.

If someone challenges you about the impact of your gaming you should be able to list some of the actions that you’re doing to try and improve things, can you honestly admit to that now – and if not, is there something about your gaming behaviour that you can change?


Is enjoying games still a stigma?

Do you mention video games as one of your hobbies? Perhaps more of us should – numerous present gen consoles are becoming some of the best-selling game devices of all time, helping those who wouldn’t normally play games to become engaged and willing to try them.

But what about the rest of us who do this full-time so to speak? The people to whom the DS is a five year old console.

A personal example

The analogy of the DS is a good one. I remember queueing for the original Nintendo DS back in 2005 at a midnight launch. I also remember that some clubbers were trying to walk home after a short night out. They thought we too were queueing for a nightclub, and started to chat to those of us waiting there.

After explaining that we were waiting for the new Nintendo console, they came in and bought one rather than moving on to their intended venue. I can only assume based on our brief chat they were former gamers as children – remembering their nostalgia for Nintendo long since past.

A family from Katamari Damacy.

Fast forward four years and this is apparent everyhwere – a growing population of casual gamers have realised the enjoyment that can be taken from gaming as adults. The positives are starting to vastly outweigh any negative connotations for these new, but now more informed new gamers.

There is no denying that video games have become more of a mainsteam pastime of late – but even so my personal experience with being a vocal video games supporter has been largely negative. This is usually due to the following:

  • Games critique doesn’t have the same level of respect afforded to film appreciation, or TV.
  • Gamers are not properly represented our respective parliaments and institutions, and this leads to distrust and scepticism, largely fuelled by..
  • The media. Our specialist press is deemed as niche, and the mainstream press focusses on violent games, big releases, and feel good stories.
  • We all know the old idiom of games being for kids, we’re all living, breathing examples of the opposite.

There is another way

Many gamers I know are quite ashamed – or made to feel ashamed by what they enjoy, despite the joy it gives them. There are good reasons for this largely related to gaming’s infancy, and like anything young it’s open to exploitation. There’s a really nice metaphor for this too in Left 4 Dead – for those who haven’t played it features some really intriguing in-game graffiti.

Graffiti from Left 4 Dead, the largest of which reads: We are the real monsters.

This is what being a gamer often feels like to me; a continual conversation. Only the voices outside of the industry are the largest and loudest. Gamers may deal with a huge amount of prejudice for what they enjoy, but we do so because the experience of playing games can be profoundly positive and personal. The greater interaction playing them involves, over say a movie or TV programme means we feel obliged to speak up for their merits.

Is your gaming a closely guarded secret or a badge of honour? Personally, I’m long past the need for reassurance or acceptance from others, but part of me hopes others are too.