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Playing With Yourself: Playing In My Mind

6:00 PM on 02.26.2009 // Daxelman

[Editor's note: Daxelman tells us about his active imagination for his Playing With Yourself Monthly Musing piece. -- CTZ]

Playing with myself. Where can I start with this? Do I start with my first real gaming experience that started me down the path, which I am currently still traversing towards this day. Or do I just sit down and talk about how single-player games and play times have affected my entire life all together?

Oh, and before we get started, I do play by myself regularly. Not in that way, you sick bastards.

Ever since I started gaming more than ten years ago, I’ve always valued the time I spent playing alone. Whether it was cruising around Paradise City like recently, or cruising around the Mario Circuit in Mario Kart 64, the first game I truly owned. I can remember back when I first got my N64 and Mario Kart, I spent somewhere around two weeks playing with anyone that didn’t have better things to do. When they did, I made sure that getting their ass kicked by me was more important. After that two week period, the hammer came down, and I found myself alone more at times. This began what was the first time I actually went through the all of the Cups by myself.

This is when I realized two things. I couldn’t blame my losses on my friends and I was making announcer voice-overs to the races I had.

When I realized this, I found myself playing more and more by myself. I was fascinated with what I could do to make these otherwise somewhat quiet gaming sessions more enjoyable. From making witty commentary, to crowd noises, to even doing mid-race interviews with the “Pit-Stop crew” of my character. I began to actually create an audience within my own mind while playing Mario Kart. This started me on the craving for a more robust single-player experience.

Now, Crash Bandicoot isn’t what I’d call a more robust single-player experience, but hell, what came with the free PlayStation a year after receiving my Nintendo64 was robust enough shit for me (curses that I can’t find that damn disk today, would have given my PS3 more use that it could handle). Crash was my second 3D platformer and I’ll be damned if I won’t say it was my most “leave me alone, I’m trying to collect fruit” game I’ve ever played.

That game isolated me from my friends, my family, my nap time, Arthur, Sesame Street, and Pokémon. The real kicker is I’d still have those imaginary audience moments like I would in Mario Kart, only these moments branched out into other forms of having alone time, such as making up what would later be known as “fan fiction” stories for that damned Bandicoot. I acted it out all by myself, in my mind, with full blown actions and everything. I even gave Crash a voice, which was an Australian accent.

Fast forward to now, and I still kind of have these out-of-mind moments where I let my mind wander on the game I’m playing. I’ll invent new universes, new characters, and complete detailed back stories for the most absurd characters, areas, or even weapons. I remember playing Luminous Ark, and just one day, going out and creating a brand new faction with its own motives, weapons, battle style, dress style, and even accents and language -- even though the game never called for, used, or even mentioned some of these concepts. Gaming by myself has really allowed me to expand my imagination, and no matter how shallow or weak the story might be, or even if the story is a strong or engaging experience, or if the game itself has no story, I can always make another one for it, one that more fits my flow of thinking. Or hell, something I think the game would need. I could probably make a whole separate side story to Mario Kart: Double Dash. As a matter of fact, I tried once, but I can’t find the old Word file.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, my single-player experience has given birth to a more active imagination than I can wish to have at the moment. Solo gaming experiences from Pokémon Blue (Red was for babies and Charizard-blokes), to Wind Waker (quite possibly the best single-player game I’ve ever touched). Playing by myself allowed me to make a world for myself, something pretty hard to do when playing a multiplayer game.

And trust me, it helped a lot while I was going through Middle School.

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