As a twentysomething still “playing video games”, I have to say that I am met with a lot of social stigma by a large percentage of people I come across, mostly from the older generation. This is something that baffles me to no end. Firstly, I think it is vital that we finally acknowledge that the term “video game”, and the verb used to describe doing this activity (“playing”) may no longer accurately describe, or apply, to this activity. The words “playing” and “game”, to me, bring to mind something a toddler would do. Or a primary school kid. Granted, a large percentage of video games still fall under this umbrella, being nothing more than exercises in rapid button-mashing, and repetitive elimination of enemies in order to reach the next level of the game.
These are not the games that I play anymore. The games that I myself play nowadays, and the activity of actually playing them, would be better referred to as “experiencing an interactive multimedia story”. For, these days, there is another type of video game which has risen to prominence. The story-driven game. These interactive experiences now have production budgets that rival those of Hollywood productions. And the comparisons to Hollywood do not end there. With stories as entrancing as the best books I have read; with scripts rivalling (or in many cases, surpassing) those of Oscar-winning films, with symphonic soundtracks giving Hans Zimmer and John Williams a run for their money (or sometimes even composed by them!) – and with increasingly talented and well-known actors doing the voice work (up to, and including, Oscar-winning actors) – the line between cinema, video gaming, and literature is starting to blur.
I can understand part of this stigma against gamers. Because most gamers play games so much that they cease having any sort of social life. They get fat, they lock themselves away in a dark room and do nothing else except button a controller for the better part of a day. I was never this person, nor do I ever intend to be. First of all, I’m a functioning human being that goes out of the house to go about my daily business. Secondly, in my spare time I still read books (in fact I can never just read one book at a time), I love watching a good movie or going for a bike ride in the park as much as the next guy!
But let me ask you this? For an upstanding guy who works out, makes music, doesn’t waste nights, has a social life and takes care of himself – why should it be more of a waste of time if, in my free time, instead of getting wasted at 3 in the morning, or paying good money to see the 5th sequel to some crappy action film at the cinema, or watching boring and depressing news on TV – I choose to spend a couple of hours experiencing something qualitative. And not just experiencing it, but being in the middle of it. Doing it. Shaping it. If the game itself is intelligent and immersive, doesn’t that actually put more of my brain to use than just passively watching a movie?