Video games are awesome. I'm studying Computer Science so I can make them for a living, and generally I think they're pretty neato. There's a problem with the general culture though: people don't take it seriously. Even avid gamers, and big contributors to the industry and culture surrounding video games view them as nothing more than entertainment. The worst though is when people believe video games as a medium are a malice to society, such as David I. Waddington's "Locating the wrongness of Ultra-Violent Video Games". If you want my take on the ethics of Video Games, a paper I wrote on the subject can be found under Ethics.
For now, I am much more interested in taking video games seriously. Why don't people take them seriously? They're the first media to be built on the idea of interactivity, and to have the story form around the user, instead of have the user swallow the story pre-made. Video games are incredibly powerful, and can induce empathy far better than any other medium I've come across. Instead of just watching someone navigate an asteroid field like in a film, you actually get to fly the ship and understand just how terrifying and chaotic the situation is. For horror, a movie can only induce so much, but a game forces you to feel helpless, and requires that you, personally you, fight to survive against whatever is out there. You don't watch someone lose their defenses, you lose your defenses.
This kind of investment is powerful. Incredibly powerful, and can lead to storytelling that not only stands toe-to-toe with other media, but towers over it. Some of the most powerful stories in video games are Dystopian, partly because it can invoke higher emotions in the players, but can also give a great way to present conflict and thus gameplay.
Since this site is for a class, the discussion of these various dystopian worlds that players inhabit will be broken up into the following books:
- 1984 by George Orwell
- A Clockwork Orange by Anhtony Burgess
- Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg
- Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis
- Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
- Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
This site does not even begin to scratch the surface of what is out there in terms of video games and depth. It doesn't even begin to scratch the surface on the games listed even. If you really want to understand video games, and understand why I can say without a shadow of a doubt that video games are going to change the way we produce culture, the way we think about ourselves, and the way we think about others, then you have to play video games. I can sit here and tell you why these games are so powerful, but, like movies, you have to experience it to really, truly, understand it.