This issue of
Citylife

Playing Games

A new year is upon us. Time for the annual vows of self-improvement. Unfortunately the majority of us do not have statistics on our side and will fail in our resolutions over the coming months. Mostly because we tend to set unrealistic goals such as promising to attempt some form of exercise, take up a new hobby, save money, make a new friend and generally become a better person.

Now for all of you who know in your heart of hearts that those little promises made at the beginning of January will crumble to nothing, take solace in the fact that the vast majority of your fellow humans will fare little better. Around 90 per cent of us will fail in fact. Yes, at least you are not alone with your inexorable feelings of despondency, dejection and all-round wretched melancholy.

Well not me. So keen was I to get on with the promise I intended to make on the first day of this month I started way back in December. And I must admit I’m doing extremely well. I am sticking to my regimen, there has been marked improvement in my performance and my increasing levels of success give me a real sensation of achievement.

I’ve taken up gaming.

Now, I am aware that there are some who might not see a concerted decision to spend hours on end jiggling my joystick in front of a computer screen as worthy of a resolution to become a better person. However, I have done my usual minimum amount of research for this piece and studies indicate that far from being a mindless waste of time the playing of games can improve cognitive ability, boost the capacity for problem solving and enhance memory and attention span. Of course this is controversial, but games also stimulate the pleasure parts of the brain. I would argue that now more than ever anything that offers a bit of pleasure is surely a good thing.

Those who side with the belief that computer games has led to sinking standards and behaviour should remember that in the 19th Century the novel was widely criticised for filling brains with nonsense and leading readers down a path of sin and moral turpitude. Rock ‘n’ Roll was supposed to be the death of respectable society in the ’50s and the birth of television surely heralded the end of all that was fine and decent. Computer games can’t be as bad as all that, right?

I first met Lara Croft back in the late ’90s. We lost touch early in the new millennium. I know that general prudence dictates it is unwise return to past relationships but, hang it all, we can’t have changed that much, and we certainly had some good times back in the day. A few clicks of the mouse later and there she was. Crikey! I may not have changed much, but Lara looks amazing. She has certainly lost a few pixels. I am pleased to say that at time of writing we are getting on splendidly. Every now and then she slips into her old habits of not doing what she is told, but it is perhaps a sign of our growing maturity that we can both admit that I am perhaps partly to blame. I’ve only drowned her half-a-dozen times.

Now that I’m a committed ‘gamer’ I suppose I should take the next step and create my own. How hard can that be? I am currently working on Chiang Mai Tuk Tuk Driver: Moat Wars, a title that PlayStation and Nintendo are sure to be tripping over themselves to acquire. The concept is simple. A player chooses to drive a tuk tuk, a songteaw or a motorbike and try and make it around the moat without dying. Points will of course be given for stopping without warning to pick up passengers, successfully avoiding Chinese tourists and managing to wai a temple while using a smartphone on a bend. Bonus points can be earned by navigating police checkpoints, hitting backpackers and smacking mobile phones out of other drivers’ hands. I am also working on a real-time title called Temple Monk: From Novice to Abbot, and a horror concept entitle Kad Suan Kaew: Mall of Dreams.

So if, like me, you are not married, have no spawn needing your attention and sometimes find yourself wondering if you might be missing out on life, I recommend popping over to the mall and perusing a few of the hundreds of games titles on offer. None of us need to be slimmer, fitter, healthier, in a functioning relationship or a generally better person this month, but I reckon we could all do with a bit more alternative reality. The reality we are all living through is far too worrisome.

Happy New Year, one and all.