A Different View of Reality

My love affair with video games runs deep.  So deep, in fact, that I used to be a video games advocate for a hot minute.  Do you remember that whole Jack Thompson thing?  I was one of the “Flowers for Jack” kids.  Crazy, I know, that video games are such a social hot-button topic.  Oh the violence.  Oh the pornography.  Oh the Teletubbies are a little queer.  I think that people enjoy being reactionary, and don’t take enough responsibility for their own actions.  But hey, I like personal accountability.

I was never a Nintendo or Sega kid.  Sure, I had a Gameboy and a computer.  But I didn’t actually start playing on a console until the PS2 with GTA III and the original Devil May Cry.  And then came Final Fantasy, which kept me occupied over several games.  But the games I started on were Doom, Quake, Half-Life and Warcraft.  I played Baldur’s Gate and Diablo.  I hungered for strategy and roleplaying, because they gave me stories to experience and things to think about.

I recognize my place as a child of the Digital Age.  I was the kid who had a Commodore 64 in kindergarten.  I have an iPod, a laptop, an Xbox 360, a flat-screen tv, cable television, twitter, a blog, Netflix and Gamefly.  I probably put in more hours per week playing games than I do writing (bad on me).  But why?

The older I get, the more I try and refocus my priorities towards accomplishing my life goals of being infamous and wealthy, I wonder why I waste time playing video games.  I don’t know that I have one legitimate answer.  Some games I play to be social, or as a catharsis.  Others for the experience of the story.  I do believe that some video games are art.  To paraphrase the guys from Penny Arcade, how can something created by a group of artists not be considered art?

Just as there is shitty art out there, there are shitty video games.  They are crafted poorly in hopes to make a quick buck, and ultimately succumb to their wretched fate.  Or there are games that show great promise but ultimately fail (Two Worlds, etc…).  I don’t know that I would consider the latest iteration of Sports Game ’11 a work of art, but I acknowledge that some art went into it.  But then you take a game like (and I know everybody mentions it) Shadow of the Colossus, or Braid.  These are masterful works of art put into an interactive format.  Even before that, we had games like Out of this World as example of art in storytelling.

And we have deeply complex roleplaying games such as the Elder Scrolls series, Fallout and the Bioware games.  Or games that skillfully use their environments and style of play to lend cadence to a story, such as in Red Dead Redemption.  Games that foster a sense of community, as in Little Big Planet or Halo: Reach.

But I digress.  I was musing on the what, rather than the why.  I play video games because I can.  And for the same reason I have read books since I was a tiny child.  So that I can go someplace else and be someone else, even if only for a few hours.  I don’t want to be misunderstood here.  I like my life quite a lot, and I have more blessings than I deserve.  But who doesn’t want to visit other worlds?  See other ways of life?  I can’t go to Italy or ancient China during my morning commute, but I can escape into a book.  And I can’t really save the universe or unravel the tragic past of the evil wizard, but I can still pretend with my video games.

If you’ve read this far, I thank you.  I’m prone to rambling, after all.  In the future I may do some review type stuff about the games I play.  Currently I’m playing Halo: Reach and Dead Rising 2, though that new Borderlands expansion is out.  If you still want to read about guys loving video games, my friend Justin has a post on his blog, which you can find here.  He and my wife talk about some interesting things on their blog, so check it out.