I'm starting to read Constellation Games by Leonard Richardson, the Book of Honor for next weekend's Potlatch. The protagonist is a designer, player, and reviewer of, and generally obsessed with, computer games, and my first thought is, uh-oh, I'm going to be totally out of my depth here. The question which I wish the following self-description to pose is, just how out of it am I?
I am not a game-playing person by nature. Even in the days of board games and card games, I rarely indulged. As a child I sometimes played a version of Monopoly that ignored most of the rules. I know the rules of chess, but have no strategy. I was inveigled into a Dungeons & Dragons game when that was new, but quit after a few weeks from sheer boredom. Bruce Pelz once drafted me into a mah jong game, and wasn't that a terrifying experience. I was also once taught how to play hearts, but promptly forgot. Poker is completely beyond me. I used to read the bridge column in the paper in sheer fascination at how something using only ordinary words could be so utterly incomprehensible. The only card game I know is Klondike solitaire, at which I occasionally win, which apparently makes me better at it than many people who complain that they never do.
As for video games, I've occasionally watched my nephews play the kind of game involving driving a car at top speed through a surrealistic cityscape, but I've never tried it myself. For a while in grad school I hung out with friends at a video parlor, where I played console games like Pacman. But that was 35 years ago. Slightly more recently I had a frustrating session with the HHGG video game, at which I repeatedly got killed before even getting off the planet, and spent an even more frustrating half hour with some piece of crap called Myst. The only video games I actually play are: 1) a couple forms of solitaire; 2) Minesweeper, at which I've developed a variant in which you clear out all the empty squares without marking any of the mines, which all flash on when you finish (I win at this about 19 times out of 20); 3) Tetris, at which it's not possible to win, but I get up to level 9 about half the time.
I don't even know if these count as "computer games", as the term is generally understood, at all.