The Truth about Video Games

The release of the widely hailed Grand Theft Auto IV indicates what a sea change has happened in how society treats video games. GTA was ignored, GTA II (the first I ever played) got a smattering of negative press, and GTA III was treated as if it were a dire threat to national security. GTA IV is being treated as an entertainment and artistic masterpiece. Oh, how the times have changed.

Video games seem to be a major point of contention for this generation of adult males. Regarded as a childish pastime that every young woman instantly writes off as temporary but soon finds is not, video gaming has become a sore point and a cause for celebration at the same time. The truth is that video games are like any other entertainment: capable of greatness, culture-changing and yet prone to misuse by those who take everything too far, including those looking for easy scapegoats.

No longer is the video game the ridiculous boogeyman blamed for school shootings, carpal tunnel or empty bowling alleys (no, that would be guns, the mouse and the cell phone). But it is the culprit of the male college freshman who stays in his room for days, hiding from the unfamiliar campus, skipping class and ultimately dropping out. Being able to socialize with high school buds via email, texting and social networking also are crutches to make staying in his high school and parents' world so comfy.

Ah, but video games have risen in social status too, as us males of the first video gaming generation have ascended to positions of influence in industry, media and entertainment. And the games have gotten pretty good, in part because they don't take themselves too seriously. Why not celebrate them? They are the first and only completely interactive form of entertainment: mentally challenging and entertaining in ways completely unlike previous forms.

Cases in point would be games coming up in the near future:
Lego Batman: Play with a Lego Batman. If this is half as fun as Lego Star Wars, yum.
Lego Indiana Jones: See above
Spore: Be the (intelligent?) designer of an organism that evolves and eventually flies to other planets from Will Wright, the guy who created Sim City and the Sims.

And in a sign that games are supplanting movies, comics and books in some ways:
Ghostbusters: in lieu of another sequel
Star Wars: the Force Unleashed: Be Vader's apprentice in a brand new chapter that takes place between the trilogies, with a super realistic physics engine.

1 comment:

Ron Toland said...

Careful with that there optimism, Trackball. Ads for GTA IV were taken down from bus stops in Chicago earlier this year, and numerous commentators (who admitted they had never played the game) described Mass Effect as "lesbian porn." There's even a new federal bill to make selling an M-rated game to a kid a felony(!), despite evidence that 85% of kids can't buy those games now.

We're a long way from games losing their stigma of "sending the wrong message," even though recent studies show that people that play violent video games are actually more relaxed afterward, not worked up and ready to kill.

Thankfully, Lego Indiana Jones will kick *ss, and finally give me an excuse to buy that whip I've always wanted. ;)