It always comes as a huge shock to my students when I say that I love to game, and then follow it up with a little bit of street cred in the form of actually knowing what I’m talking about. This goes a very long way towards helping them “get” the concept of discourse communities – I find that Swales‘ essay is a little intimidating for them, whereas a discussion of me preferring to be a necromancer Khajiit who shoots fireballs out of her paws is a little more accessible. And, of course, my cool factor goes up a bit, too. I would be lying if I said that wasn’t entertaining for me (teaching is so much a performative profession, and I guess I could be a stand up comedian – the pay is much better).
Students will sometimes suggest games I should play, and two students one semester suggested I should play the Dark Souls series – a series well known for its high difficulty and truly massive frustration factor. I bought the games immediately, played them for a while, and wished I could go back and retroactively fail those students. Those games are HARD. I am too old and do not have the life expectancy to get through one, much less three, of those things.
I tell my students that my favorite game of all time is Bioshock: Infinite – for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is the awesome story. It’s a beautiful game, it’s smart, it’s not too hard, not too easy, and the characters are so great and relatable (this is going a ways, too, to say that – one character is missing a digit, living in a giant statue in the sky, guarded by a massive songbird, and can move herself and others through rips in the time space continuum, so not exactly your bog standard young person). The music is great, too, and I have to say it really made this scene positively one of my favorites in the game, even though there’s no fighting, shooting, or anything else for the player to do other than just watching and hoping. And did I mention how beautiful this game is?
I also love Skyrim, where I start out in all games swearing I will play differently this time, and then wind up at level 78 as a thief who runs all the factions in Skyrim as well as the mage’s college, and has an entire room full of cheese wheels.
And, of course, there’s the ever popular Red Dead Redemption 2, which I have played through the end, cried like an utter fool at the death of my horse, was mildly put out by Arthur’s passing, and just really wanted to immediately begin again and never rescue Micah from that jail cell. That’s another game that has a beautiful setting, and is open world, meaning you can turn it into a fishing game if you like, or a racing game, or, if you are a glutton for punishment and hate yourself and all that is good in the world, you can play the main quest. And again – I love it for the story, for the characters, and at the same time for the ability to do what I want with those characters. I finally was able to name my horse Chester Pennyfarthing, which I had been dying to do since it was possible to ride a horse in a video game ever.
But recently I have been fascinated by zombies and zombie games. Quite a while back, my son gifted me a game called 7 Days to Die, which the Gamestop employee described as “Minecraft with zombies.” It is indeed that. I love this game so much. It looks horrible, the developers have abandoned the PS4 version, so it’s perpetually in terrible beta state, essentially, and it’s repetitive as hell.
But oh my goodness, the fun we have had with this game. It’s one of the few side-by-side/couch co-op games we have found that both of us enjoy. My husband does a lot of the building, while I spend a great deal of time speeding around on my scooter and running over deer for dinner. We have taken to charging the zombies at full speed (on foot) and blasting away at them at the last minute, then running through the ensuing blood and guts carnage.
I know – it sounds horrible, doesn’t it?
But I’m sorry – I have to have some way to shake off the awfulness that has been life during the Trump administration, and this sure does help. Also, we have decided that I get the shotgun if the zombie apocalypse happens. I’m fascinated by our culture’s fascination with zombies, but there’s a part of me that really does get it.
This game allows me some control, in an absolutely uncontrollable world. It makes the bad guys easy to see (they’re the ones who are already dead). Survival isn’t difficult (even as you are being chased by a horde of the undead) and there’s no lack of resources…unlike real life.
I probably spend too much time with all my games, but I multitask – I also cuddle Straxi while I play, so it’s even more of a recharging time for me. I think I hear my shotgun calling.