Back View of a Person Wearing Red Hat
Image: Roy Smoothe / Pexels

Soapbox features enable our individual writers and contributors to voice their opinions on hot topics and random stuff they've been chewing over. Today, Nathan considers how his analytical mind and love of data influence his recreation time...

I’m the oldest of four brothers. Over the past four years we’ve used video games as a means for connecting with each other. But not in the way you might expect. We haven't been playing games together. Instead, we have an annual tradition of holding a weeks-long discussion and debate about games, game music, and most recently, to crown our collective favorite game ever.

Our yearly debates have been a convenient way to connect. They’ve also provided me with a unique learning experience. I’ve noticed, more clearly than ever, how my personality is reflected in how I experience gaming, the hobby that I’ve maintained for basically my entire life.

30-Day Challenges

Our annual tradition began as a COVID lockdown activity. I came across a “30-Day Video Game Music Challenge” chart on the web and thought it would be fun to fill it out. The chart has 30 video game music categories, one for each day, including “Title Screen Music”, “Credits Music”, and everything in between.

30-Day Music Challenge
30-Day Video Game Music Challenge — Image: ResetEra

The raw data wasn’t enough for me - I had to discover the stories behind the data.

As I filled it out, I wondered how my brothers would answer those same questions, and how their answers would differ from my own. We grew up in the same house, after all.

Everyone agreed to the challenge and we took a week or two to prep. I started a texting thread and at 8am each day we collectively answered that day's question. Answers came in the form of a link to a YouTube video of our song choice, along with a brief explanation.

Crunching the Numbers

Naturally, I captured everything in a spreadsheet.

Survey results for the 30-Day Video Game Music Challenge
Survey results for the 30-Day Video Game Music Challenge — Image: Nathan Lockard

I say, “naturally” but this was the first indication that my approach to gaming differed from that of my brothers. All four of us enjoyed listening to each other’s song choice, but I was the only one who looked for trends in our answers. I wanted to dissect and analyze. The raw data wasn’t enough for me - I had to discover the stories behind the data.

Which of us was the most nostalgic? What console appeared the most often? Which franchises were overrepresented?

These were questions that demanded my attention and required my analysis. My brothers humored me as I shared my musings, but it was clear that they weren’t as “into it” as I was. My approach was different.

Charts for the 30-Day Video Game Music Challenge
"I had as much fun with the planning and number crunching as I have when I’m actually playing games." — Image: Nathan Lockard

Leading the Way

During round one, we relied on that pre-made “game music” challenge. The following year, in 2021, I decided to get creative by crafting my own 30-day challenge. This time, each question would be answered with the name of a game.

The categories included “The first video game you remember playing”, “An underrated game”, “Favorite or memorable boss fight” (I'll never forget the first time I killed Hitler in Bionic Commando!), and “A game that would make a good movie”. And so on.

Once again, I sent out the daily survey and tallied up the results in my trusty spreadsheet. I was the ringleader, the organizer, and the driving force behind this second round of the Lockard Brothers’ challenge.

I kept the tradition going in 2022 (Essential Movies) and again in 2023, when I forged my magnum opus, the “Lockard Bros. Best. Game. Ever” tournament bracket.

The Bracket

This was our most intricate challenge yet. Compiling a list of games for the bracket required hours upon hours, and that’s not even mentioning how much work went into the construction of the bracket itself.

The full bracket sported 208 games spread across two smaller brackets (retro and modern), 189 head-to-head matchups, 15 play-in brackets, and a top-eight, double-elimination playoff bracket to cap it all off. Maybe I overdid it. Clearly, I was thinking about video games far more than I was playing them.

Best Game Ever Madness
Best Game Ever Madness — Image: Nathan Lockard

The tourney was a lot of work to set up, and running it wasn’t a picnic either.

Here’s a pro tip for anyone interested in running a tournament bracket: make sure you have an odd number of voters. My three brothers and I arrived at a 2-to-2 stalemate 36 times in our bracket. That’s almost one in every five matchups.

This exposed my second personality trait - I’m kind of bossy. I acted as the arbiter in these 2-to-2 votes. Maybe it’s a consequence of being the oldest (birth order, and all that), but I made sure that each deadlock was amicably resolved. Every 2-to-2 became 2-plus-to-2. And somehow, we’re still friends.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, Super Mario World came out on top.

Personality Types

My brothers and I haven’t held the 2024 edition just yet. Frankly, crowning the best game ever will be a tough act to follow. If you’ve got any ideas, I’m all ears.

Even if last year’s challenge turns out to be the final one, the damage is done: I’m now keenly aware that my personality is laid bare in my gaming habits.

I had as much fun with the planning and number crunching of these gaming-related challenges as I have when I’m actually playing games. Maybe more.

I'm a software architect by trade. Another consequence of my structured, analytical personality. What can I say? I love to organize and analyze. And not just in my code repositories. I like to make lists, inventory my collections, and hunt for the best sales.

Is it any wonder, then, that I’m a sucker for tactical strategy games? Or that I always try to 100% every game I play? Heck, I probably spend as much time cataloging and curating my physical and digital video game collections as I do playing them. Clearly, it’s my mindset (which has been abundantly exposed in the annual challenges) that drives all of these behaviors and preferences.

My personal favourite hub world/overworld music

At this point you might be wondering where I'm going with this. Either that or you're living out that DiCaprio meme, frantically pointing at the screen while yelling, “That's me!” Either way, I hope you’re thinking about how your own personality and passions are reflected in your approach to gaming.

As Socrates said, “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.” I know more about myself because of a few 30-day challenges. Here’s hoping that some wisdom is on its way.

Do you find your personal or professional proclivities affecting the way you enjoy video games? Is the effect always a positive one? Let us know in the comments.