When video games popped up in a recent conversation a relative of mine remarked “Why do you want to play a video game? Why not do something important?” Well, I believe video games are important. I obviously cannot call myself an unbiased party, since I love to play and watch others play games, but I will provide some reason that will be a bit more concrete then simply saying “dUDE! V1dEO 94Me5 roCK!”
Kick back and kill some stuff…
On a very basic level, video games provide much needed relief from whatever is going on in your life. A rough day at work, a long and hassling day job hunting, no matter what monkeys are hopping on your back, you can shake them off by playing your favorite video game for an hour or two. It’s a necessary relaxant for some people, but let’s face it; everyone has their ways of unwinding. Some take hot baths; some work out at the gym; some paint, write, or do something equally creative. I, and many others like me, play video games. It gives you something that’s immediate, yet not actually connected to your life, that you can focus on to get away from your problems for a bit. You’re in control of whatever you’re doing — driving that car, commanding that army, etc — but you’re not going to have to pay in any real life sense after it’s over. That’s what makes video games so alluring; it’s probably one of the purest sorts of freedom you can find in this lifetime… well, unless you’re rich.
To kill or not to kill?
Some games, believe it or not, do discuss important ideas. Take Bioshock for instance, as I got it this week, and it’s all I played for the past four days. In it, you have the themes of how humans will tend to abuse power when they get it. Andrew Ryan suddenly had the power of Adam in his grasp, and he used it to make money even at the cost of his citizens’ mental and physical well being. The citizens of Rapture had Adam and they used it willy nilly to make themselves stronger, younger, smarter, and when the supply began to diminish they used their powers to take it from others. Dr. Tannebaum, creator of the Little Sisters, suddenly had all the chains taken off her scientific research and began to turn normal little girls into the freakish Little Sisters. These are all important philosophical thoughts are relevant to other real life events. Granted, there are a lot of bang bang and explosions, but it’s not like the fights are going to be determined through sudden games of table tennis.
You can be a Rock Star
The value of mindless entertainment is not to be denied. Even though all games are not great works of creative composition that allow us to peer into the deeper inner workings of the human mind and spirit, there is something to be gained from driving a car through city streets at 100 miles an hour as the police chase after you or being embroiled in a computer generated man and/or woman in a war against dinosaurs or zombies, depending on your preference. Plunge yourself into cinema and revel in being the star of your own personal show…
Now, I just have to say for the record that I’m not advocating gaming as being a life… well, unless you’re a competitive gamer, and you play for great gobs of money. That’s different; you are earning a living and by gosh you work hard at it. The flipside, though, is not a good at all… ignoring work, ignoring friends, ignoring boyfriends or girlfriends if you’re lucky enough to get one… this is going too far.
Basically my point is that video games are important, not to everyone, but to the people who play them they serve very necessary functions. So they -are- important, but not important enough to be all consuming.