Sunday, February 6, 2011

Gaming in the Unlikliest of Places

Hello, my name is Ryan Aguirre, and I am a hardcore passionate gamer.

No, not in the way you’re expecting… sure, I have a Nintendo 64, a Wii, and a PS2 in my dorm room (all three of which have gathered a considerable amount of dust over the past 3 and a half years), but the games – or, rather, the game – I play does not get plugged in, nor does it require a disk of a cartridge. The game is slow – VERY slow – whose start and end are exactly a year apart. Much like a game of roulette, I have no control over the outcome; sure, I analyze it strategically and put pieces together, but the game I play is not a science. It is complex, difficult, and frustrating, and nothing in the world drives me crazier. And yet, I can’t stop.

The game I play is called Academy Awards Predicting, in which I follow trends in past awards years, film press and publicity, critics reviews (and their subsequent awards), guild awards, and everything in between to accurately predict the nominees and winners of the Academy Awards. I get no financial prizes, and my inevitable reward is my satisfaction at being able to claim my film prowess.

I understand that it is a unique interest (and by interest, I mean obsession) that parallels many video games in that the longer you play, the stronger you become. I have been playing this game quite religiously for the past 12 years (and have the archival documents to prove it) and have “leveled-up,” so to say, quite a bit. Nomination-wise, I tend to average about a 32/40 in the big categories (Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting, and Screenplays) and about an 80% overall. Winners are even easier to predict.

“Leveling-up,” in this case, is still very tricky and still takes a huge amount of time. 12 years, in fact, and still growing. It certainly hasn’t been easy…. On the way, I managed to memorize all 82 Best Picture winners and well as some significant (though ultimately useless) facts (one of the most important facts is exhibited in the chart above, showing the importance of release date). Basically I’ve devoted my life to this obsession – hobby, maybe? – in which I literally read blogs, write reports, watch clips, and study for my own personal amusement, not unlike a sports fan or a business analyst.

And yet, to me, this is play: reading and studying. WHAT? Yes. That is right. Just as one must defeat the dragon to obtain the sword to save the princess (that’s a thing, right?), I use box office trends, read reviews, and study the history of guild awards (and their effectiveness) to determine that The King’s Speech is going to win Best Picture (which it will). Indeed, this is work for me. But it is also play, this is MY game, the game that I put my blood sweat and tears into. I often (and by often, I mean ALWAYS get frustrated (like I said, this is not a science. And The Social Network is the Best Picture of the Year. But I digress.), but just like a video game, the reward is in testing yourself, seeing how you do and getting better and better as time progresses. I’m an “awardie” like some people are “gamers”. We go hardcore. We put in our best efforts. We get frustrated when we die, but at the end of the day, we beat the game and move on to another one, using what we learned from the last.

Our discussion of work vs. play really helped me to realize that this sick obsession I have is indeed the form of play I use in my life… Play seems to lurk in places we don’t necessarily look for them, places we right off because they are weird or dumb or pointless or because they require studying. Just because I’m not plugging anything in or holding a controller, just because the bulk of my gaming occurs on Microsoft Word, doesn’t mean it is any less of a game. It requires skill and strategy, there are winners and losers; it is a quest and there is a storyline. At the end of the day, play frustrates me but makes me happier than I can put into words; at the end of the day, maybe that’s what play is.

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