This is a guest post
Anyway, I’m told that some people not only read it, but liked it, and I’ve been asked to write a sort of follow up or companion piece, so if you have no interest in games and gaming, you might as well stop reading now.
If anyone’s left, this is for you.
One of the topics I touched upon was games sparking interests; in my own case, it was a game about ancient Egypt (It was called Exhumed, on the Sega Saturn), and even though it was a fairly basic shooter, with aliens..Egyptian based aliens…with dog heads and wearing mini kilts…weird.
Anyway, the game was mostly based in a place named Karnak (pictured), which, in history was a religious and administrative center of huge wealth and importance, with goods, people and money flowing in constantly. History does not record if there were any dog headed aliens present, but somehow I doubt it.
I didn’t know anything about Karnak when I first played the game; had only ever heard the name, and had little to no interest in ancient Egypt outside of old hammer house of horror mummy films. Which is probably where I heard the name, now I come to think about it.
I looked at old photos of the ruins of Karnak, and tried to square them with the games’ view of the place. Futile, I know, game programmers are allowed quite a bit of artistic licence, but I tried. The real life Karnak, in it’s prime,would have looked far better than the game had me believe. No lakes of molten lava, for one thing.. although I do admit to a twinge of disappointment at that, lakes of molten lava are cool, in a very hot way. The real place was very imposing, as befitting a major center of religious business and trade, hugely long galleries, filled with highly and brightly decorated pillars, statues and temples everywhere…you know the sort of thing. It was still ruled over by the Pharaoh, but the priests were in day to day charge, and, as the years went by, their power and wealth grew,as did their feeling of self importance. So much so, they began to think that they were the ones ruling,and should even be worshipped, as the Pharaoh himself was.
Pharaoh wasn’t impressed. Unsurprisingly.
If you’re interested in what happened, look it up, you have the internet. Enjoy it, it’s a marvellous thing.
Egyptian culture’ wasn’t the only culture I learned a little about through games. There’s been Norse mythology, Chinese and Japanese culture and legend, ancient British myth and a whole slew of others. How much of it is based on fact,(and how loosely) varies, but there’s a nugget of truth in every myth, as Heinrich Schliemann, the man who discovered Troy, might tell you. If he hadn’t died in 1890.
There aren’t many games around like those any more, which is, I think, a shame. Being interested in shooting the head off a zombie at 1000 yards, or putting in a record lap at Brands Hatch is cool, but games have the capacity to inspire other interests, too.
I’ve heard of people who’ve gotten into motor racing, due to games played in childhood, and are doing very well at it. People who have chosen their careers based on just one game that captured their imagination. I think one became a historian, another joined the police. Must’ve been very different games.
It would be interesting, I think, to know how many peoples’ future lives and interests were influenced by games, because games do have an influence. No, not in the tabloid “Gamer ate my baby while shooting my cat!” sort of way, but genuine, lasting influence.
There could be kids gaming now, today,who, in 20 or 30 years will be involved in the space program, because of a game they played when they were ten which lit a spark in them, or they might be inspired to make games themselves, and maybe light a spark in another mind. And another. And another.
All it takes is a spark.
Games are great, I’ve always thought so, for a variety of reasons: the fun, the adrenaline rush. I’ve shouted in triumph,and screamed in fear. I’ve punched the air, and smashed controllers on the floor. I’ve laughed, I’ve gasped, and once, I even cried. I’ve made ethical choices, I’ve been the hero, I’ve been the villain.
But mostly, I’ve learned.
I’ve learned that games can be both simple escapism and inspiration, fun and infuriating, complex, multi layered and rich and can open up whole new worlds to you. Or shine a light on an ancient one.
They can even be beneficial, they can improve reflexes, hand eye coordination, can hone problem solving skills and promote lateral thinking.
They can be important.
Don’t let anyone tell you differently.
My name is still Graham. I am still a gamer.
Insert coin, Player One.
The Shepway Vox Team
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