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Casual Play as Therapy


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#1 G_Player

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Posted 14 January 2018 - 04:17 PM

One of the recurring themes I read about on these forums is about casual play in an mmorpg.

I agree.

Sure, we want action, adventure, the excitement of discovery, a sense of challenge, a feeling of accomplishment. But more importantly, we want… no need… a game to fire-up to escape the madness of our world, a place where we can relax and just go fishing, or wander around with no particular destination in mind (not all who wander are lost), just sit and chat with friends, or be alone with naught but our thoughts.

We need an mmorpg that provides not only the best play experience, but one that also equally addresses our emotional needs. We need places that are artistically as beautiful as possible, with the sound of a gentle wind and birdsong, and safe from threat. Places we can go to share with friends, or relax alone.

Many of us are getting a bit long in the tooth and want to slow down and actually enjoy the view, or stop and smell the flowers, or (in my case) hug a few trees.

Life can be brutal and short. Some of us have seen that, some of us experienced that, we all could use healing because of it.

An mmorpg that acknowledges and makes a sensitive effort to gently address this can go a long way to healing the invisible hurts of this sometimes cruel reality.
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#2 DirtyHarry50

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Posted 14 January 2018 - 09:31 PM

That was really nice to read. Thatís what it meant to me post-raiding in EverQuest wherever I went. I enjoyed playing WoW that way.

What I find now is that I can get a similar fix in other genres and itís a very refreshing change for me because I really over did it with MMO games, thus my negative comments about their flaws but all games and genres tend to have their good and not so good points I guess. Although itís an entirely different kind of game and an old one besides that looks its age, I hung in through the first part of FFVII on my PS4 and now I love it.

Somehow the old becomes endearing when you find yourself up in the middle of the night and realize you just played this game for eight hours straight because you got lost in its world, characters, story, music and gameplay. Featuring a turn based combat system thatís fun, there is no pressure and so you get that same kind of goofing off in a virtual world feeling that a well made MMO can deliver to those who appreciate playing in what I have learned to consider a sane way to enjoy it.
“The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” — Bertrand Russell

#3 ipickert55

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Posted 14 January 2018 - 10:01 PM

This is the entire reason I play video games, to escape from the real world. I would've gone crazy a long time ago if it weren't for games.
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#4 the Battle Cat

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Posted 15 January 2018 - 11:12 AM

View PostG_Player, on 14 January 2018 - 04:17 PM, said:

Sure, we want action, adventure, the excitement of discovery, a sense of challenge, a feeling of accomplishment. But more importantly, we want… no need… a game to fire-up to escape the madness of our world, a place where we can relax and just go fishing, or wander around with no particular destination in mind (not all who wander are lost), just sit and chat with friends, or be alone with naught but our thoughts.

I used to suffer from PTSD in spades, every night was a succession of nightmares till morning.  This went on for almost 20 years until a friend at work introduced me to Doom.  Very shortly after I started playing, my nightmares slowed to about 1 a week, then one a month, and now I can't remember the last time I had a Vietnam nightmare.  When I quit playing, they would come back, so I kept my gaming at a high level.  The more violent the game the better the therapy.  The place where I can relax and just go fishing and wandering about, for me, is Skyrim which I consider my mountain hiking simulator.
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#5 G_Player

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Posted 15 January 2018 - 12:37 PM

is there a version of Skyrim for Mac? or do you have to use Bootcamp or Wine?
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#6 the Battle Cat

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Posted 15 January 2018 - 02:16 PM

Sorry, not for Mac.  It would have made an excellent Mac game too.
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#7 Camper-Hunter

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Posted 15 January 2018 - 02:39 PM

View Postipickert55, on 14 January 2018 - 10:01 PM, said:

This is the entire reason I play video games, to escape from the real world.

What about "Virtual Valerie" (old school) or "Virtual Sex with [favorite porn star]"? Does that work to escape the real world? :P

#8 G_Player

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Posted 15 January 2018 - 03:27 PM

We know that the human species are complex creatures, because we are one. Game developers have yet to embrace this.

Developers build their worlds to appeal to the "thrill seeking" side of our nature and completely ignore how reality, past and present, effects us in so many ways. After all, it's just a game, right?

No it isn't. Many developers tout how theirs as a "living breathing world". I'd even bet they'd be pretty offended if you called their years of hard work, "a game".

I cannot tell you how many times I have sat and listened to people who were struggling with real problems (some of them very scary). And the main reason they were there playing was they needed to escape from reality, if even for only a few hours.

It was extremely difficult to sit and listen and to provide some small bit of comfort and empathy in dark hours of grief, or give as wise a counseling as I could to souls in desperate need, while other players ran around us, or stopped and listened-in, or actually interrupted us with horribly rude comments.

I posted in the forums and begged the developers to design beautiful places scattered around the world so that people that were hurting emotionally would have a place to go to contemplate or relax or just "be".

"What's the first thing you want to do when you get home after a long and difficult day?" The answer is, of course, relax and unwind, decompress!

Picture in your mind the most beautiful place you have ever been. The smell of the forest. The sunshine on your skin. A gentle breeze upon your face. The joyous sound of songbirds. Crickets and insects buzzing about. The colours of the sky at sunset. The stars coming out and wheeling overhead. Recall how you felt being there, how you were re-energized, how it seemed to fill every fiber of your being with a sense of awe, completeness, healing, and love.

My pleas were quickly buried by new suggestions.

Can the experience be reproduced in a game world?

No, not completely.

But with today's advanced graphics cards and APIs, they can come pretty damn close. And there's no reason not to, provided game developers realize this and build into their world places that address the more complex needs in us all.
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#9 Matt Diamond

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Posted 15 January 2018 - 10:01 PM

It's a nice vision.

Certainly there are single-player games that try to scratch that itch. I remember an old one which was vector graphics and generated new levels every day- can't remember the name. Recently I saw a cool-looking underwater game where you'd restore ecological balance somehow to an area and then could enjoy hanging out (Windows only though). Some adventure games, between the puzzles, had some scenery and moments of zen.

I'm struggling to think of an MMORPG that qualifies. Certainly there are some that foremost communities- Second Life, the old MUDs, some Minecraft servers. But none seem quite what you were describing.

It's also interesting (to me) that you seek therapy in the MMORPG much as someone might do by going into a park or other wilderness. But with like minded people around. Whereas tBC needed catharsis in the form of FPS games. His need at least is being met by the current market. :-)

I wonder if Richard Moss has some thoughts on this topic. He has one podcast about reinventing play as adults(included shows about an international hide and seek tourney for adults, and an interview with Cyan about The Manhole.) His other podcast is called the Life and Times of Video Games. I'll forward him a link to this discussion; if nothing else it might give him ideas for future shows.
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#10 G_Player

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Posted 16 January 2018 - 01:42 AM

Yes Matt,

Deep somewhere in my memory, I vaguely recall a single-player game called Zen Garden if I'm not mistaken. The object was to clean up/build an existing area, rake the gravel, and then sit and enjoy the view. But its been so many years ago.

My observations has been in mmorpg worlds created by game developers. The emphasis has always been on high stake battles, adrenaline-pumping action, frenetic fire fights, death and destruction, and the race to be the biggest and baddest dealer of such carnage. Only when reaching end game do many people stop and ask, "Is that it? Is that all there is?"

And many of them miss what is really important; each other.

A few games promoted social interaction and teamwork to build loyal communities. Pubs, taverns, and guilds served as places to meet up and enjoy each others' company.

But real life events that impact players' lives cannot be anticipated nor programmed for. That is way beyond the original scope of providing fun and excitement. But we all know all too often life isn't fun. People do enter a game world with real, and sometimes serious, hurts. Some need a shoulder, some near an ear, others just need a place to go where they can find peace and quiet, some need to cry.

A pub, tavern, or guildhall is never the place to seek out.

Secret/hidden places can be artistically created to be as beautiful as a team of designers and artists can unleash their full talents upon. The purpose of these places is nothing more than to BE a place of refreshment and peace. Even the hardiest fighters and heroes occasionally need alone time. Or a few elves gather to share a grief and support each other. Or the human at the base of a waterfall whose only care is to drown a few worms and soak in the calm.

These places need do nothing at all, except simply exist for the pleasure and enjoyment of others, and a safe place for quiet conversations or contemplation.

There is a major advantage to the developers making these places.

By quietly visiting, disguised as either a gentle animal or kindly NPC, much can be gleaned about how characters feel about the world, and by simply listening the players themselves can inspire many many new ideas.
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#11 G_Player

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Posted 16 January 2018 - 03:17 AM

Here's an encounter to illustrate.

There was a particularly lovely spot that I often visited alone, filled with vert plants, tall trees, diverse flowering plants, butterflies of wondrous colors, and a small stream wound its way gently through.

On this occasion I happened to be dressed all in white and holding a staff. There was a teleport stone nearby which was mainly used as a way point to other locations, not necessarily to where I was. But more often than not, the stone lay silent and unused.

After a time a young man appeared, took a few steps from the stone, looked about, and then quickly returned to the stone and popped away. This he repeated many times over the next five minutes or so. Sometimes wandering out a bit further but always when he returned he'd stop to stare at me, then quickly pop away again.

Curious, (as elves tend to be) I watched his comings and goings which didn't seem to have purpose. When next he appeared and stood looking at me, I addressed him.

(keep in mind that I, as an elf, try my best to always speak in a sort of middle english, for immersion's sake. Sometimes I use words fallen out of common usage long go. It lends an air of ancient mystery of days long past, a connection to something very old, and I always remained in-character)

"Greetings, M'lord. Thou seemeth unsure of the path before thee. Doth thou seek a thing which is found not?"

He stood silently, struck to the spot where he was standing.

"Come," I said, "take pause here next to me. No harm shall I do upon thee."

He came over and we both sat next to the stream.

We spoke about the teleporting stone and I explained how to best use it. But he also had other questions about game mechanics and troubles with a few quests.

After about 20 minutes or so he was encouraged to try again, but he was so enchanted in the kindly way I responded to his needs he wanted to know if I was part of the environment (an actual part of the game) or a GM.

"I know not what a GM is, m'lord. I hath ne'er beheld such. Yet glad am I to lend thee aid and good counsel. Freely seek me if thou hath need again.", I replied.

As he left I could see that he was completely enthralled by the magical encounter and the elf in all white who gave him help.

And what made it all happen was this teeny silvan environment created by a group of very talented artists.

Imagine what could be done with a whole valley.
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#12 nick68k

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Posted 16 January 2018 - 10:06 AM

View PostG_Player, on 15 January 2018 - 12:37 PM, said:

is there a version of Skyrim for Mac? or do you have to use Bootcamp or Wine?

It played just fine under a W7 Bootcamp on a 2011-ish low-end iMac, but it's been several years since I tried it. I guess it still works.

Anyway, good thread. This is why I focus heavily on RPGs; escapism and a strong dislike of twitch gaming. I'm old, dammit (although not as old as some of the specimens on this forum!). Music and ambient audio is an especially important aspect of immersion in these games for me, hence my love for Icewind Dale and the Baldur's Gate series.
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#13 DirtyHarry50

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Posted 16 January 2018 - 02:17 PM

View PostG_Player, on 16 January 2018 - 03:17 AM, said:

Here's an encounter to illustrate.

There was a particularly lovely spot that I often visited alone, filled with vert plants, tall trees, diverse flowering plants, butterflies of wondrous colors, and a small stream wound its way gently through.

On this occasion I happened to be dressed all in white and holding a staff. There was a teleport stone nearby which was mainly used as a way point to other locations, not necessarily to where I was. But more often than not, the stone lay silent and unused.

After a time a young man appeared, took a few steps from the stone, looked about, and then quickly returned to the stone and popped away. This he repeated many times over the next five minutes or so. Sometimes wandering out a bit further but always when he returned he'd stop to stare at me, then quickly pop away again.

Curious, (as elves tend to be) I watched his comings and goings which didn't seem to have purpose. When next he appeared and stood looking at me, I addressed him.

(keep in mind that I, as an elf, try my best to always speak in a sort of middle english, for immersion's sake. Sometimes I use words fallen out of common usage long go. It lends an air of ancient mystery of days long past, a connection to something very old, and I always remained in-character)

"Greetings, M'lord. Thou seemeth unsure of the path before thee. Doth thou seek a thing which is found not?"

He stood silently, struck to the spot where he was standing.

"Come," I said, "take pause here next to me. No harm shall I do upon thee."

He came over and we both sat next to the stream.

We spoke about the teleporting stone and I explained how to best use it. But he also had other questions about game mechanics and troubles with a few quests.

After about 20 minutes or so he was encouraged to try again, but he was so enchanted in the kindly way I responded to his needs he wanted to know if I was part of the environment (an actual part of the game) or a GM.

"I know not what a GM is, m'lord. I hath ne'er beheld such. Yet glad am I to lend thee aid and good counsel. Freely seek me if thou hath need again.", I replied.

As he left I could see that he was completely enthralled by the magical encounter and the elf in all white who gave him help.

And what made it all happen was this teeny silvan environment created by a group of very talented artists.

Imagine what could be done with a whole valley.

My very first experience in the world of Norrath was quite like this and I can still fondly recall it, coming upon a gnome seated by himself and pleased to meet a new adventurer. It was pure magic.

Iíve had many one on one encounters while exploring, fishing, etc. and they are some of the best experiences in those settings. Iíve also invested time counseling and building up some young people Iíve met along the way in areas that pertained to their real lives. They thought I gave them a lot but I let them know they gave me more.

Gaming has brought a great deal of good to my life that extends well beyond enjoying the games themselves which I certainly do. For deeply personal reasons that I would not get into here, itís been very good therapy for me. As just one example, it led me here to a great group of people who I am grateful to have come to know over time. If we ever lose this forum, I hope weíll figure out a replacement somehow.
“The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” — Bertrand Russell

#14 the Battle Cat

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Posted 16 January 2018 - 04:30 PM

View PostDirtyHarry50, on 16 January 2018 - 02:17 PM, said:

As just one example, it led me here to a great group of people who I am grateful to have come to know over time. If we ever lose this forum, I hope we'll figure out a replacement somehow.

This is the best group of people I've ever hung with.  It's changed my life for the good being around you guys.  Many thanks.
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#15 Matt Diamond

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Posted 16 January 2018 - 07:32 PM

Quote

I’ve had many one on one encounters while exploring, fishing, etc. and they are some of the best experiences in those settings. I’ve also invested time counseling and building up some young people I’ve met along the way in areas that pertained to their real lives. They thought I gave them a lot but I let them know they gave me more.

I only tried a dial-up MUD once or twice, but I definitely got a taste of the social aspect. In my case two high-level players teleported me, clearly a newbie who hadn't mastered the commands yet, into a room they'd made and asked me to settle a bet. Then they just watched me wander a bit before losing interest.

Text-based MUDs lacked the sensory impact G_Player yearns for, but if a person had a good turn of phrase and you were the kind of person who gets lost in a good book, I think that feelings of immersion could and did happen.
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#16 Atticus

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Posted 17 January 2018 - 11:35 AM

Wait, tBC posts "this is the best group of people I've ever hung with" and no snarky retorts??? Sad. Fake News!

In any event, reminds me of my first online game/MMO experience--was also Everquest/Norrath.'Twas years and years ago when I was doing a lot of freelance journalism during the dot com boom/bust (back when start-ups were paying suspicious characters like me to write 500-word pieces at $1 per word...(yes, even I took a Caribbean vacation that year)).

In any event, I contacted an EQ fan and scheduled a time to meet in-game. When I logged in, a group of players was already waiting for me--some standing, some sitting in a semi-circle, with Norrath spread out behind them. As we began to chat about the game, my mind was blown--Here I was, in a virtual world, having a discussion with players from all over the real world. Pretty cool stuff, and made me realize the power of online gaming and the Internet in general.
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