Child's Play

I have donated to this charity numerous times, and will continue to do so. I urge anyone who reads this to do likewise, every dollar helps.
(shameless C&P from the Child's Play website)

Since 2003, over 100,000 gamers worldwide have banded together through Child’s Play, a community based charity grown and nurtured from the game culture and industry. Over 5 million dollars in donations of toys, games, books and cash for sick kids in children’s hospitals across North America and the world have been collected since our inception.

This year, we have continued expanding across the country and the globe. With almost 70 partner hospitals and more arriving every month, you can be sure to find one from the map above that needs your help! You can choose to purchase requested items from their online retailer wish lists, or make a cash donation that helps out Child’s Play hospitals everywhere. Any items purchased through Amazon will be shipped directly to your hospital of choice, so please be sure to select their shipping address rather than your own.

When gamers give back, it makes a difference!


Videogames Appreciation -- Why We Game 1

Recently I stumbled upon a posting on NeoGAF by GDJustin, a fairly respected poster (at least that's the impression my lurking gets me), who hit his 10,000th post in October. For his 10,000th post he "wanted to do something... different. Something special. This is dedicated to all the [Neo]GAF members & lurkers out there that actually make the games the rest of us play, praise, deride, and discuss. My hat is off to all of you. This is a long topic, but please read it. Consider it your gift to me, for achieving 10K posts :)"

I was completely taken in by his post, it expressed all the reasons I play videogames and table top RPGs, and also the driving force behind me starting my own game company. So I present his post, reproduced here in full (though I have picked a couple better images, same subject matter though for the changed images).


About a year ago I was conversing with someone when the topic of my work came up. I mentioned I work in the video game business, for a company that publishes websites focused on games. They asked if I was a big fan of video games in general and I said yes, absolutely. But then they asked me something that caught me off guard:

"Why do you like games so much? What is it about them that is so attractive to you?"

I didn't have a good answer for them, at the time. In the following months I've continued to turn this question over in my mind, and I still don't have a very good answer, to be honest. But that isn't going to stop me from trying, here in this topic.

The best answer I've been able to come up with is that the medium of video games, unlike any other, presents people with a sense of endless possibility. As an adult, the majority of my life is mundane. Enjoyable and fulfilling, but... mundane, nonetheless. Things simply don't happen in the "real world" to spark one's imagination.

Actually... that isn't 100% true. Things DO happen in the real world to spark the imagination. It's just that, in the end, that spark will end up being extinguished, rather than nurtured and encouraged. A perfect example:

The other day during a typical Wikipedia crawl, I landed on a piece on the Great Lakes: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Lakes. I read that Lake Superior is over 1300 feet deep. 1300!

"Jesus, that's amazing!" I thought to myself. "There could be ANYTHING down there, at the bottom!"

But the truth is... there's nothing down there. Because that's how the real world operates.

But in a game, a mysterious, deep lake is always worth exploring. There will always be something there, waiting to be discovered.

It might be a dangerous eel in need of a teeth cleaning:

Or an entire underwater dungeon might be waiting to be explored:

Or there might just be no further reward than some treasure:

I think a lot of people "grow out" of games when they reach adulthood because they don't need video games anymore to feel powerful or in control of the world around them. When you're a kid, saving the world, being NFL champ, defeating the Nazis... it's pretty obvious why games are attractive.

But when you're older and have kids of your own, have real responsibility at work and are just better able to shape the world around you... there's less drive to drop into the world of Albion and wander around, rescuing strangers.

My theory is that those of us that didn't grow out of games into adulthood (ie those of you here on GAF and working in the industry)... we're the ones that didn't lose that spark of imagination. When we hear about some incredibly deep lake, or deep-space discovery, or recorded ocean sounds of unknown origin, our brains light up and we think "wow!" But... the real world lets us down in that regard, in ways that games almost never do.

I know oftentimes on GAF we can be cynical. Yes the Eely Mouth bossfight in Mario Sunshine had wonky camera issues. Yes raiding that underwater dungeon in WoW can be a pain because travel time takes so long. Yes treasure hunting in Wind Waker can be pointless. But I think deep down we all derive a certain amount of thrill from these and other set-ups... because in games, you really, truly don't know what is going to be inside that lake or around that next corner.

In some ways, that explanation is a little bit of a cop out. Several of my favorite games of all-time feature no exploratory elements of any kind.

In those cases, instead of having robust game worlds to explore, they all have robust game systems to explore. It really isn't that different. Experimenting with a level in Monkey Ball or Advance Wars... ferreting out the perfect way to exploit the stage layout and game systems to achieve my goals... that type of game exploration isn't too far removed from crossing an overworld in Zelda or an RPG.

It's always a little sad when you finally do wrap your head around all of a deep game's systems... a subtle shift happens. It ceases being about possibility ("this game is so deep!") and becomes more about exposing all the game systems' bare parts and how they fit together, and exploiting them to accomplish your goals as quickly and easily as possible.

It's no surprise, then, that the most acclaimed and beloved games of all time (and the bulk of my top 10) are games that allow the player to explore game worlds AND game systems... both intertwined in a beautiful mix of genius design:

Video Games have the ability to surprise, engage, absorb, and challenge individuals in a way that nothing else in the world can. Time spent with games is not time wasted.

It's a cliche, but I don't know a better way to put it: when you pop in a game cart (or disk), you're transported to another world. I have a tiny stack of misc. DS games on my desk, and I marveled the other day at how this little 2-inch stack contained untold-number of challenges, mysteries, stages, battles, characters... entire worlds.

My time spent in dracula's castle, in Midgar, in Ironforge, Brinstar, Hyrule, on Halo rings, tropical islands... this has not been time wasted. These experiences have enriched my life, not detracted from it.

So to all of you that create these worlds and these game systems in the pursuit of putting a little bit of adventure back into people's lives... in the pursuit of ensuring that spark of imagination isn't extinguished by the boring and unsurprising "real world" but is instead rewarded... my hat is off to you. You have all accomplished something monumental. Something important.

NeoGAF Video Games Appreciation Topic -- http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=372111