Ask the Expert

How to Find Your Inner Gamer

The digital game industry is booming, with consumer spending up 30 percent compared with last year. “Now that we’re all on screens, I think it’s taken some of the stigma away,” says Flanagan, an expert on the history, psychology, and design of games of all kinds. “Not all of us live in a beautiful place where we can go hiking every day, for example, or not even every week. A lot of us don’t have access to all the activities we like, but we do have these opportunities to experience new things and explore and find a new vibrant world and be surprised.” Here’s her take on why and how you might consider joining the ranks of online gamers this winter.

Gain Control
“Gaming is actually a way to dream of new worlds and to have agency. In this time of uncertainty, a game is a complete-able thing. You can have a goal and reach it. There’s a lot of fuzziness in this era: canceled events, postponed projects. All of that stuff makes us feel very anxious, and we have so much uncertainty. Games have resolutions. You can get points, and you can measure your progress. You can connect with friends. I can’t say enough about that urge to get lost in a world where there are answers and you have a role. From a psychological perspective, it’s deeply important.”

Network
“Talk to your friends about what they play. If you’re in an older generation, ask what your grandkids are playing and if you could join them. Ask game fans what they love about a game and ask them to show you. You will be surprised at what’s out there. We’ve even translated board games into digital games. So you can actually go to Tabletop Simulator and play board games with your friends virtually. Steam is a distribution platform for games. It’s kind of like Amazon Prime video, but you own them and can play on any computer.”

Check Out Twitch
“Another thing that people are doing a lot of, myself included, is watching others play games on the streaming platform Twitch. I have a game company called Resonym and we have a Twitch channel: twitch.tv/resonym. We have streamings two or three times a week, when we play games and talk to each other on video, and then our fans come and talk to us. Watching other people play games is wild, actually. It’s social, like hanging out at a pub, where you watch someone play darts but you’re having a beer. It’s a nice, very inclusive community.”

Try Some of My Favorites
“The Animal Crossing series is cute. It’s a charming little village of animals—and you chat with them and water plants—and there are various little pursuits that you can follow. Wingspan is a board game that takes on birdwatching, and Azul is just beautiful—good for escaping mentally.”  

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