I play video games. There, I said it.
Sometimes, that statement is met with a smile; laughter shared, and a friendship is born. Other times, we face a different response: a blank look or a condescending expression, perhaps. You may even get the, “I’m sure you’ll grow out of it soon,” reply. But… why does that have to be the goal? What’s wrong with video games?
Video games are just another form of modern media, just as books and film are media. Why is there such a negative connotation associated with video games? Sure, there are some serious clunkers out there: Grand Theft Auto, Silent Hill, The Monkey King, to name just a few. These games may be fun in their own respect, of course, but from the outside people seem to get really judgey. If my grandma managed to watch an hour-long session of GTA, I think she’f be at risk of exploding from sheer disappointment. Silent Hill is unnecessarily scary. Personally, I can’t play that game without wearing a diaper. The Monkey King just straight up sucks. But, as it happens, nobody’s perfect.
Let’s have some story time, shall we? Let’s say that my imaginary, non-existent friend Mike approaches me and some random social setting. He exclaims, “Hey Andy! I just watched this great movie last night!” That’s my cue to cut him off, jazz hands flailing, and say “Whoa, whoa, whoa. You watch movies? Aren’t you a little old for that? Shouldn’t you be doing your taxes or something more mature?” Doesn’t sound like something we’d ever hear, at least about films, right? But that’s exactly what gamers face, and for a multitude of (mostly silly) reasons. Don’t even get me started on that “Moms Against Gaming” group.
Video games are as much a part of media in our culture as books, movies, TV shows, or whatever might float your boat. Let me hit you with some truthiness, dear reader: there are some seriously artistic, inspired, profound video games in that mass list of all the video games ever made. Rather than associating video games ONLY with games like Grand Theft Auto, why don’t we think of masterpieces like the Mass Effect series? There is such personality, such depth, such great writing in the series as a whole. But instead of sitting idly by as the events unfold in front of you, YOU CONTROL IT. All the events occur because of the buttons that you press and the decisions that you make. It’s actually pretty powerful, and more than a little crazy to consider.
What if my fictional friend Mike liked books too? It would be ludicrous to compare every piece of literature to a Dr. Seuss installment. There are different books just as there are different video games. But people either forget or choose to ignore that, and so the stigma is there. We can’t see past the shoot-em’-up scourges. They blind us to really great games like Chrono Trigger and Portal. These games are meant to be something more than just a cash cow; they were made with every intention of being great.
But still, my grandma gives me that same scoff when I explain (yet again) that I like video games. We gamers don’t let that stop us, though, do we? I still trad on, enjoy the finer things in life – and for me, many of those finer things are video games. It makes all the difference if you just play the right ones. That’s why I love writing about video games; that’s why I’m here. I get to experience them in a way your typical GTA player or non-gamer would never be able to really digest.
Maybe the modern video game has lost its charm. Maybe all of the recent video games are made for the sole purpose of raking in wads of cash money. Maybe that’s why I focus on the older games; times were simpler back then. Companies weren’t outright competing for the best graphics or the best advertising – they were focused on creating a great game. That’s why we have titles like Earthbound and Final Fantasy VI.
I’ll learn to deal with the condescending looks that my grandma gives me. Video games are often seen as both juvenile and anti-social, and I just don’t get it. How can it be all bad? I’ve made friends whom I’ve never met in real life – I know them as voices and as collections of pixels. I’m playing with people from all around the world, from places I’ll possibly never even visit. People I would likely never have met without gaming. There’s something special about that.
My advice? Do whatever it takes to erase that stigma. Video games may not be the most “adult” thing to do, but society doesn’t make the rules. We do. We decide Shepard’s fate. Err…nevermind. Just a little a Mass Effect joke for y’all (one that my dear grandma will never get – so there!).