Many people have belittled the idea of video games while embracing other forms of media. Sadly video games have gotten a bad rap for a long time and been considered a media for only the childish and immature.
This is not the case, through video games comes a new media that can allow a person to become more immersed into the story than ever before and it is a media that should be at least be tried by everyone.
In science fiction there are many different versions of the idea of people experiencing a novel first hand or being part of a movie. This can be seen in Star Trek: The Next Generation with the holodeck.
People experience first hand another world and story than their own in a safe and controlled environment (for the most part). This is the dream for the future. To have interactive stories.
Like any form of escapism games are not all good, like anything people can use them to escape their life too much and not deal with what they need to. This is true with every form of escapism though. Now games are more so because they are interactive.
With all this being said this form of media warrants at least a brief look from most who have not experienced it. Especially with today’s games being far more advanced than some of the older games that were made even a decade ago.
New Way To Tell A Story
This is the new media, like it or not. This was the logical course of entertainment, first came movies that allowed people to see others dreams. Now comes games where not only can people see what the creators intended but they can also, somewhat experience it.
When a video game does immersion well a person feels like they are right there along the ride with the main character. Some games do this better than others while others drop the ball.
One such game is the Mass Effect series. Forgetting about the ending of the third that did not allow your actions to carry any weight. This series gave you so much choice in how you do things that even today seasoned players of the game are finding new and varied ways to go about the story.
Games like this allow you to feel the weight of your actions and feel more like you are the person of the story and not just an onlooker.
There is more though through video games a person can feel more when it comes to the story beats. Take the game The Last Of Us for the PS3 and PS4. This game as a movie would have been a very mundane and played out story.
The main character is a grizzled man who has seen the worst of life and now he is tasked with protecting a teen age girl. He resists connecting with her because he has lost his daughter when the big zombie outbreak happened and so he is cold and distant from her.
As the game progresses though he starts to warm up to her and regard her as a daughter. There are interactive moments that drive the feelings of this game home and make you really feel for these characters. That and subtle things really add to the world. Like the girl she will explore an environment without you like climbing up on a box to look into a window and commenting on what she sees inside.
When you play this game you feel what the main character feels you want to protect the little girl because you want to see her flourish. This all leads to a very intense and emotional ending that puts you on the edge of your seat.
This story as a movie would be a bog standard movie that would not really make an impact on the box office at all, but as a game it is an experience that I will never forget and will impact my life forever. The game made me feel more than any movie has ever done. I felt fear, sadness, joy, and anger during parts of the game.
This is the potential of modern video games. They can bring the story more to life than ever before and with new innovations like Virtual Reality then it gets more immersive than ever before. Who knows maybe soon we will have full Virtual reality where you can touch, smell and feel like you are in the real world.
Mechanics As A Narrative
Through interactivity comes another way to portray a thought or a concept. Take the game Papers Please. This game on paper sounds boring and tedious, but as an experience it is one that will impact you for the rest of your life. The game is a boring desk job as a border agent under an oppressive regime. You must balance your duty with what you feel is right and the consequences can be very far reaching.
This is where game play is more of the narrative than a regular linear story. You make choices and you see the aftermath of those choices. You also feel the fear of what it is like to live under an oppressive regime. The game while simple dives into a much deeper territory than most other media will allow.
Other mechanics can help one to create their own narrative. With a game like Civilization you are the leader of a starting empire. You are in charge of whether you invade your neighbors or make peace. You can lead your empire to either riches or ruin, it is your story and not one game is the same.
One other game worthy of note is the game DLC Quest this game is a simple side scrolling game with a simple statement to make. The game designer was fed up with the modern game publishers greed in not releasing the whole game at one time; much like the game and its sequel Destiny and Destiny 2. You had to pay for the rest of the game and story.
So the creator of the DLC Quest made a game making fun of this practice. Everything is a DLC in the game that you have to pay for with gold you found in the game. If you want your character to jump well you have to purchase the in game DLC. If you want the good ending then once again it is a DLC. This game is so tongue in cheek that it is very fun to play because it really lambastes the gaming industry.
With its mechanics, or lack there of, this game crafts a narrative that is more the focus than the simple rescue the Princess story. It is a short game but a fun little joke on the gaming industry, that would have lost something if you were just watching it.
Through the mechanics of a game they can relate more precisely a narrative than most other media. The game developers can evoke strong emotions from the player that may fall flat in other media. This is what makes the experience more visceral than just reading or watching media.
We have all watched a movie and wondered what was that character thinking or we would have done things differently. Well here is your chance. The most wonderful part of games is that you get to decide what you want to do in a situation.
Take the game Fallout 3, everything you decide has an effect on the world for good or bad. There is a situation in the game where you can set off an atomic bomb in the center of a city, or leave it and buy a house there. If you decide to destroy the city it makes some people mad at you and others happy with you, not to mention you cannot visit the city anymore since it is destroyed now.
You can make decisions in certain games that change the narrative completely. Like the game I mentioned before Mass Effect and its sequels. There are choices that decide who lives till the next game and who doesn’t. You can lose your entire squad and have to live with that.
This is what makes games fun and different from other media. Through choice you become a part of the story rather than an observer. There are parts of movies that have enraged me because the character made the stupidest choice. Well now the ball is in your court will you make a better choice or a worse one.
You can play in the world created for you and not suffer any consequences in the real world. It is a way to live vicariously through your in game character. Your actions impact the game world and you can watch as your choices change the world around you.
Experience Things You Could Never Do
I remember when I watched the obscure movie Robot Jox. General premise is giants robots fighting. My mind was fired up I wanted my own giant robot to pilot, and was sad that I couldn’t have one. Then a few years later my dad took me down to the local computer store and showed me Mechwarrior 2. I have never wanted anything as badly as that game, I could taste it.
I got that game and a computer to play it that Christmas and I was enthralled with the game my family didn’t see me for many days.
There are many things in life we can never do. Like be a fighter pilot, or a professional race car driver. This is where games come in. True it isn’t the same as doing it for real, but it may be the closest you come to the real thing.
The military has embraced this form of medium for training their fighter pilots and even their infantry. This training is cheaper and safer than the real thing and can train the soldiers in situations they could never have prepared for without it.
The possibilities are endless and with Virtual Reality the experiences are getting more real. Pretty soon they will have controls so close to real life that it will feel almost like you are really in game. This to me is one of the more appealing parts of video games. I will never be a pilot of a giant mech or a secret agent, but in the virtual world I might be able to experience a little of that and that is enough.
Puzzles To Be Solved
Games are not a passive experience, they are constantly engaging and some really can bend the mind. Games can present some very interesting puzzles that since they are in a three dimensional space they are far more engaging than just a pen and paper puzzle to solve.
There is a game that is an engaging puzzle game called Portal. This game starts with a simple premise that you have a gun that fires a portal on to a surface and the joining portal onto another. Now you have to solve a puzzle room using this simple concept in some very intricate ways.
Games like this are ground breaking because they are a thought experiment that you can play around with and the game forces you to think about all the different ways you can use a simple portal gun to get around.
Many games present puzzles for the gamer and help the gamer learn how to think outside of the box. There have been studies that have shown that playing games can help with memory and visual tasks.
Sometimes games are a solo experience but there is an ever growing online communities where people across the world are able to meet and converse through games. I knew a couple who met through World Of Warcraft then they got married after playing the game together for many months.
Also it can be a very fun in home experience to play multi-player games together with family members. Very much like playing board games family members can get together in the living room and play a game like Super Smash Bros. and have a great experience interacting with each other over a game.
Some of my more fun memories were when I went over to a friends and we played fighting games together and tried to play Soul Calibur on the Dream Cast using Dance Dance Revolution Konami Pads.
It didn’t work out so well but it was fun to try.
Video games provide the opportunity to interact over a very fun experience and sharing that experience with those we care about can be a much more enriching experience than just watching television together.
Teaches Fair Play
This mainly works with co-operative games or just games with more than one person. Most online games have a way to ban people who are playing unfairly and who are poor sports.
In many games there is a social contract that all players have to accept otherwise they can be banned from the game entirely and lose all the time and money they have invested into that game.
Most gamers learn they have to be polite and kind to their fellow gamers otherwise no one will want to play with them so they will be stuck on the outside and not able to play the game they love.
I have seen this with the game Fortnite. This is a battle royal game where 100 players enter an arena and try to eliminate each other until one player remains. Even with 100 players trying to be the top dog there are rules and most people want to be accepted so there are certain rules that most players adhere to even though it is not hard coded into the game itself.
Some of these rules are don’t kill people with out a weapon, don’t hide in a bush until the end, don’t kill people who are in the middle of a dance and don’t steal your squad mates loot.
I have seen this first hand, many people even without forming rules of conduct adhere to these rules themselves, just because they have learned fair play through the game and want to make the community a good one rather than a bad one.
This is the benefit of cooperative play for any one, it teaches people how to relate to each other and be more civil. It teaches people there are rules of conduct in any society and that people must be civil to stay a part of the group.
Most games can be a great stress relief for most gamers. Games can be a positive outlet for anger, and frustration. Games can also help people learn emotional awareness.
There are actually certain games designed to help relieve stress solely as their intended purpose. These games while not as popular as the latest triple A title they are useful for calming people down and helping them focus on their emotions and how to control them.
For the most part games require your undivided attention so they can take your mind off of what is stressing you and can provide you with a new less stressful thing to think about. There have been many times in my life where I was very stressed out, and playing my favorite video game has helped me put things into perspective and allowed me to come back the problem with a fresh perspective.
How video games help with emotional awareness is that no matter how angry or mad you get at the game it will not change the games rules so if you want to keep playing you have to calm yourself down and solve the problem rationally. This helps most gamers to learn how to not indulge in the negative emotions and instead become problem solvers.
Video games while maligned by some truly offer a new and very immersive form of entertainment for many if not all. If you are a person who loves good stories then there are games for you. If you are a person who loves puzzles and solving problems then there are also games for you, and if you like mindless puzzles that can distract then there are also games for you as well.
The point being that this is the media of the future and many people are embracing it even unknowingly, and without trying it you could be missing out on an experience that can be thought provoking and may just be life changing.