I remember reading a couple of months ago that games are now considered art. I applaud this decision not only because it can open up new doors for indie developers if they go down the grants road but because games deserve to be.
Games these days can stir up emotions, they can offer controversy, then make us laugh, angry and offer beautiful worlds and stories in which we can explore. Similar to books they offer fantastic stories, fantasies in which we can escape to from the tolls of daily life. Stories in which we can share with our family and friends. Though when we discuss a book the story is the same for each person (though opinions regarding the story will wildly differ), but when you discuss a game and even though the end is normally the same the journey there is a different experience for each person. Discuss your journey through Oblivion with a friend and you will find his or her story vastly different than yours. (This opens up a whole debate of whether sandbox/open world games are a better or worse story telling medium than linear games. I am not evoking on a task to discuss that now though.)
Like movies games offer brilliant stories with twists and turns, made real with an amazing script and top class acting.
And like art they offer real beauty and create worlds we can believe in.
Yet with all this on offer games are still frowned upon by the majority of people. To be fair it is usually industry outsiders who think the only people that play games are lazy unemployed people, students with free time or foul mouthed chavs. This is not the case these days; I think gaming is cooler and more accepted than it used to be due to the improvement in quality in every aspect of game creating. Gamers tend to be more mature and require more mature games than just shooters.
So what do non gamers think of gamers? I asked a colleague at work and she said because gaming is very self-indulgent, it takes the gamer away from his her family/friends. It also takes a lot of time, time that could be used doing house hold chores. I think it can take a lot of a person’s time, especially if playing the right game but I think we are talking about people that are addicted here. I do play 4 nights a week, but I play from 10PM, when the jobs are done and the wife is in bed. It’s the time that I would either be asleep or watching something on television. I also play online with two people normally, at FIFA, so this gives us chance to chat and have a laugh. I use to go to the pub to do that with my friends, this is cheaper and safer.
Another point brought up is that gaming is too violent, that you don’t care about the characters you are slaughtering on screen. Is this worse than watching an action film? The only difference is that you are pulling the trigger. Games are violent and 80% of them involve killing in one way or another, but they are not overly violent. Most show the consequences of killing and do not glorify it.
The flip side of ‘games are violent’ is that games can test our moral judgement and make us choice right the paths, unlike films we decide which route we take. For example in Fable 3 I was given the choice of rebuilding an orphanage or tearing it down to save money. Even though this is not real life and the result of my choice would not affect me in anyway, I could not pull down an orphanage (think of the children). I also found myself following all the Paragon routes in Mass Effect 2.
As far as I can see gaming, in moderation like anything else, is a good thing. Like watching a high quality movie, but in which you make the choices. You may make the wrong choice but it’s yours to make. Gaming has gained me a good friend, gaming makes me laugh, makes me think, it keeps my mind active and working. It’s not made me violent. It’s not made me lazy. It certainly has not made me a bad father or awful husband in anyway.
What are your thoughts on your own gaming experiences? Please comment and we can discuss these issues further.