I’ve talked about my love/hate relationship with video games before. I tend to get addicted and slip into a self-destructive cycle where I put off important responsibilities and make excuses just to play some more. I did that quite a bit during my freshman year of college with Duke Nuke ‘Em 3D. I played so much that while walking down the hallway at school I’d look for sniper positions and think about kicking in a vent and crawling through the passage. Similar things would happen when we played GoldenEye on the Nintendo 64.
I’ve mostly left video games behind to avoid this addictive behavior, but every now and then I give in and have a little fun. Like last month when I went back to my childhood game of Pirates!
It all started, oddly enough, with the Earthquake in Haiti. As I was looking at a map of Haiti, I suddenly remembered the exact coastline of the country thanks to hours spent playing the Commodore 64 strategy classic, Pirates! You played the role of a pirate in the game (duh) commanding your ship as you sailed across the Caribbean. Much of the Caribbean became familiar to me, including the coastline of Haiti and that rare enclave of French colonies (including Leogane, which is a little odd because that’s where my church’s sister parish is based).
My brother and I would play the game for hours on end. We’d actually wake up early on Saturday just to play. The game didn’t include a map (or we lost it), so my brother and I would pull out an encyclopedia to help guide our expeditions.
I’ve tried to find that game on many occasions—it’s been re-envisioned a number of times as Sid Meier’s Pirates! for the PC and the Xbox—but last month I struck gold and found a version for the Mac. They’ve updated the graphics and some of the gameplay, but it’s basically the same game I played more than 20 years ago (meaning horribly lame by today’s standards).
Of course I bought the game and have been conquering the Caribbean ever since. I did have an addictive bought of game playing for the first week or two, but it nicely coincided with being sick, so it worked out. Lately I’ve played a little more sparingly (probably because I’m growing a little tired of it).
Most of what I enjoy is the familiarity and nostalgia of the game, but I also like the strategy and free-form feel of the game (I should never, ever play World of Warcraft—I’d be so addicted). It’s fun to hunt down a notorious pirate or build up your crew so you can sack Havana (oh yeah, I totally sacked Havana—the Spanish put a price on my head).
It’s fun, if completely frivolous, to go back and relive the pirating days of my youth.
If only I could find a way to play video games that actually accomplished something. Not just a little beneficial education (which Pirates! managed to do—if only Caribbean geography was useful in my daily activities), but game play that did some good in the real world. Harnass all that nerdery and addiction for some real world good.