We don't play games today; we live in them

 

We dont play games today; we live in them
This seemingly seamless interaction of imagination and reality is increasingly a part of our daily lives.

The lines between virtual and physical realities have become blurry. We ride in unmanned transport, drones fly overhead, and Pokémon pops up on our maps The lines between virtual and physical realities have become blurry. We ride in unmanned transport, drones fly overhead, and Pokémon pops up on our maps

By Eva Prabhakar

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Published: Sun 7 Jan 2018, 10:56 AM

Last updated: Sun 7 Jan 2018, 1:13 PM

Lara hopped onto her self-driving car and as it flew across the city, the traffic drone pulled up ahead. The hologram on its side flashed a message about an astronaut recruitment drive over the weekend. This is not a sci-fi novel or the narrative of a video game, but the reality we're rapidly creating. Today, we've moved on from mere conceptual discussions to talking about the specifics of building drones, flying cars, space settlements, and willingly ride in unmanned public transportation - the Dubai Metro - everyday. In December 2017, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum announced the UAE Astronaut Programme - the aim is to recruit four Emirati astronauts for a trip to the International Space Station (ISS), space exploration, the launch of an unmanned spacecraft to orbit Mars in 2021 (3 years away!), and eventual human settlement on Mars by 2117. Yesterday's science fiction has become our truth today.
This seemingly seamless interaction of imagination and reality is increasingly a part of our daily lives. Last year, adults and children alike could be found glued to their smartphones because of Pokémon Go, a viral gaming app, where creatures from the Pokémon universe would pop up in our world. The quest became an obsession across the globe and cultures. Earlier this year, Google Maps allowed us to virtually roam the streets of a city of choice to gain dots and avoid ghosts - play Ms. Pac Man. Suddenly, we could be in two eras at once - the real self in 2018 and the virtual self in the '80s. It is this sense of adventure across time, space, and realities that the multibillion-dollar gaming industry thrives on. 
While the '80s brought the youth into the arcades with Pac-Man, the '90s were about computers and video game consoles such as Sega and Nintendo. In the rapidly evolving gaming scene, the handheld Gameboy remained popular for almost two decades. The exponential growth of the gaming industry has taken place with the merging of online and offline worlds post the year 2000. The enthusiastic acceptance of the Wii, Xbox, and Xbox 360 has created the building blocks to the phenomenon that is a truly immersive gaming experience. 
Growing up with such 'missions to space and beyond' in the virtual world, the youth today is raring to bring these worlds out of a screen and build immersive virtual reality experiences. Abu Dhabi teen Ludovic Sampietro says, "The game that got me hooked was Secret of Mana. I love the adventure and opportunity to explore different scenarios. I want to pursue a career in designing such worlds." Echoing these thoughts, 17-year-old Abu Dhabi resident Darcy Mehdi adds, "I'm enjoying Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos. Not only do I get to explore different terrains, I get to make quick decisions and plot out my strategy. I like the flexibility of playing on my own or with others around the world depending on my mood."
This is part of what fuels the addiction to games. The simple lessons learned and skills developed during offline childhood playtime have also grown online into strategic thinking, management of resources, and playing well with others - in demand job skills today. Another reason that gaming finds its way into daily life is because of the social connections that are non-judgemental and appreciative. A player is valued because of the skill required to complete the game. Often, shy and introverted teens or those who feel social anxiety feel welcome in the gaming world. It allows them a chance to focus on a task instead of any awkward social interactions. 17-year-old Maellys Saphores says, "I enjoy spending time with my friends in this way. We started with Crash Bandicoot. It allowed healthy competition and a way to connect with each other even off-screen."
Age is no factor when it comes to gaming. 15-year-old Ahmad Al Hammadi shares, "My uncle taught me to play Dragon Ball. We had such a good time and discovered a whole different side to our relationship." It also doesn't matter if the game is in the virtual world or on a tabletop. Board games are resonating deeply with the youth - they go on missions together, trust each other's critical thinking skills, and most importantly, have fun in each other's company. It's what keeps them coming back for more. 16-year-old Mohamed Saif says, "Of course, I can spend hours playing WWE on my PlayStation with my friends. But, I enjoy hanging out with them otherwise too. We check out gaming events, co-ordinate our purchases, and love trying out different games."
Games that do well usually have no pre-defined ending levels, continue to evolve with expansion packs, and create a good balance between individual playtime and social interaction with other players. At the heart of it, whether the game relies heavily on graphics or simple memory hacks, gaming fuels the imagination. 16-year-old Julien Garat says, "Super Mario has an appeal that goes beyond generations. It's been a long standing favourite because it takes a good amount of imagination to create a different world with each level of the game."

Head to these fun locations to eat, play, and love the game

Bert's Cafe
Una Building, Street 2, The Greens
With a free library and good food, you can spend hours at this café. This can easily become your spot after school hours.
Public Café
One Lake Plaza Tower, Cluster T, Jumeirah Lake Towers
A chic interior and inexpensive food will make you play longer for sure.
Victory Games & Café
Dubai Autodrome Grandstand, Turin Road, Motor City
Iced cappuccino, delicious pastries, and motorsports to thrill you when you take a break from your game.
Tea Junction Cafe & Lounge
Behind Movenpick Hotel, Oud Metha
This spacious café with a spiral staircase and high ceiling draws you in with yummy food and lively vibe.
Tabletop Café
Gloria Hotel, Opposite Internet City Metro Station, Sheikh Zayed Road
Not really a venue, but a community of board gamers that meets every Tuesday and Saturday to take the game up a notch. If you want to play more than Monopoly, this is where you'll be spoilt for choice.
How do you imagine our constantly evolving world?
eva@khaleejtimes.com



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