Video games can be immersive, exciting and packed with wish-fulfillment. In many ways they offer a temporary fantasy that eclipses the drudgery of real life. I spent years playing realistic and violent games, finding the action to be most compelling. But I have recently lost most interest in this type of game. I’ve found something better that doesn’t require twin thumbsticks and an HDMI cable.
I played my first video game when I was four: Bomber on the BBC Microcomputer. At age eight, I received my first video game console, an Atari 2600. I followed this with a Nintendo NES, SNES and Virtual Boy (yes, really), a Sony Playstation and later an Xbox 360. I also played games on PC.
I enjoyed platform games, flight sims, real-time strategy and RPGs, but I got my action fix from first-person shooter games like Doom, Quake, Call of Duty and Far Cry. This type of game tests a player’s reflexes, observation, hand-eye coordination and tactical ability. They get a player’s adrenaline flowing and help the brain produce lots of lovely endorphins and dopamine.
The action is more fluid and elaborate than that delivered by crudely animated 3D models
A few months ago, I stopped playing these games. I was just getting into Far Cry 3 and Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, and then I lost interest. These games stopped making me feel good. I’d found something else that would give me a tougher challenge, more intense action and a bigger rush.
I began training in the Nippon Kempo martial art, a full-contact mixed combat sport from Japan played in traditional Japanese body armour. It continues to be harder than any video game. My opponents are stronger than in any multiplayer deathmatch. The action is more fluid and elaborate than that delivered by crudely animated 3D models. And despite the scrapes and bruises, I feel better at the end of a session than I do from defeating the Reapers in Mass Effect or escaping Hell in Doom.
In the conflict between video games and real life, reality has delivered a massive upset in the action category. Practicing Nippon Kempo has shown me how dull “realistic” action games really are.