Saturday, August 30, 2008

Everyone plays video games... even those who don't.

The Webster's New World College Dictionary (Third Edition) I've got sitting on my desk here defines a video game as "any of various games involving images, controlled by players, on a cathode-ray tube or other electronic screen." Perhaps not 100% precise (text-based games don't seem to fit the definition), but close enough.

If you're reading this, I have no doubt that at one point in your life, you have played a video game.

Minesweeper screenshotI think many of us forget that video games aren't just Super Mario Bros. and Final Fantasy. Video games are Solitaire, Minesweeper, Text Twist, Bejeweled, Oregon Trail, and any number of Facebook applications.

Video games are even Scene It? and those stupid "whack the gnome" website ads and that "match the number" game to get one last ball on pinball machines. Plenty of non-gamers play Dance Dance Revolution or Guitar Hero, and more than once I've heard such folks claim that they don't play video games.

Is there an assumption that if you play video games, you're a total addict, or somehow socially inept? Why is it that people who play absolutely no video games other than Madden or Halo (at least, in my experience) are somehow slightly or significantly more socially acceptable than people who play absolutely no video game other than Mario Kart or Soul Calibur? Those in the latter group "play video games," but those in the former group "play Madden" or "play Halo." All of these are still video games, folks, and I'll remind you that Halo is futuristic and has aliens, things that don't always translate into "socially acceptable."

I think it's that video games are still largely viewed as a hobby (one that often implies certain stigmas, I might add), and not as a medium. Video games can certainly be a hobby, but playing a video game doesn't automatically have to apply a stigmatized "gamer" label to you any more than occasionally watching Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! with my family should apply a "couch potato" label to me.

Maybe it's that modern video games don't always resemble "traditional" or "classic" games such as Pong, Pac-Man, Tetris, Super Mario Bros., Sonic the Hedgehog, or DOOM. Now that video games are becoming harder and harder to classify as any one genre--"it's a first-person, lawyer-roleplaying racer-shooter"; "it's a real-time, puzzle-platformer, tactical strategy farming simulator"--it's becoming clearer, at least to me, that video games are a medium through which we can express innovative concepts, gripping stories, and whatever else we please.

Painting is a medium, and due to the infinite variety of things a person can paint, saying you like paintings does not necessarily mean that you like portraits of dead people, paintings of fruit baskets, or any other "traditional" or "classic" kinds of paintings. We're at the point where saying you like video games does not necessarily mean that you like platformers like Mario or shoot-'em-ups like Space Invaders. It simply means that you enjoy controlling images on a cathode-ray tube or other electronic screen.

You don't need to be ashamed to say that you play video games, though we might be ashamed of you for some of the games that you play. Simply being a gamer, or even a casual fan of video games, should be no different than liking to read, watch movies, or otherwise experience things through various mediums. It's what you play and how you allow video games to fit in with the rest of your life that should define how others view you, and don't you let others forget it!

All I'm saying is that gamers, just like the comics fans Alex talked about in the previous post, don't always resemble their stereotypes, and that playing video games doesn't need to separate anyone from the mainstream. All of us play or have played games; some people prefer a real football between their hands, some people prefer a controller, and some people like both.

If you're turned off by "traditional" or "classic" video games or gamers in general, I think you'll find that modern games, especially those for the Nintendo Wii, are becoming more and more appealing to people who feel the same way you do about video games. If you're way big into gaming and have trouble relating to people outside your fandom, you might find more connections with them if you start talking about video games as a medium (instead of a hobby/obsession/whatever) for the concepts and content you're passionate about. As for everybody else, you're living proof that people can absolutely love or just kinda enjoy video games and still get along well with gamers and non-gamers alike.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I play video games, and I'm proud of it!--Nathaniel's Mom