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What are Video Games to You?

Digital parasites cursed to rot our minds or fulfilling creature comforts that help the hours go by? For someone who doesn’t play or can’t find any enjoyment in video games something like FIFA is a needless waste. Why continually spend money on a pointless simulation when you could go touch grass outside? I’m a “5Head gamer” who understands the true value you can get from playing them, but to an outsider they only know what they know.

On the other hand, even those who do appreciate them usually find the one thing they like and dedicate themselves solely to that, to the point where nothing else registers or matters. To give an example, I know someone who pretty much only plays one game, and yes it gives her joy and comfort, but I find it sad she denies that same if not potentially greater gratification from other genres.

Clearly, titles like Grand Theft Auto, World of Warcraft, and Mario Party mean something different to everyone on an individual level. I respect that video games simply might not be for some people, and also that enjoying one thing unconditionally isn’t something for me to deny anybody. But to all those people I’m here to tell you there’s undiscovered potential when it comes to the experience one can have on a computer, TV, or phone screen. I want to introduce a new perspective through the simple question, what are video games to you?

I'm obviously biased but to me video games are an art form. “Call of Duty is art” you scoff? Well take an action movie for instance; it might be filled with nonsensical feats but it can still against all odds manage to tell an engaging story. And a formulaic pop song consisting of derivative cheesy lyrics can all the same strike an emotional chord that resonates with people on a universally relatable level. So why not video games too?

Having already given my thoughts on Quantum Break and adapted TV show Arcane, I’ve always known the digital medium was more than capable of being an avenue for well written narrative driven stories. Case in point, I just finished God of War for the first time now knowing that it shares similarity with John Wick, a brutal character glorifying violence with every action. Nevertheless, both blood soaked stories go beyond the surface giving way to tortured souls who want to leave their pasts behind and possibly seek atonement. However, maybe that’s a review for another day, so instead I’ll happily dive into the subject once more through the lens of something I would never normally play - a horror adventure, puzzle-platformer known as Little Nightmares 2.

Following Mono, we find him all alone in the game’s unsettling world until he encounters another survivor known as Six. On their perilous journey you will help the young kids safely navigate the shadows, hostile environments, and literal childhood horrors awaiting them.

To state it plainly I f#&*%$! hate horror. I get the opposite of enjoyment from it and for obvious reasons a game called Little Nightmares is no exception. There is no dialogue and everything is distorted through a small scared child’s lens making the experience truly immersive. And yet as someone who enjoyed the aforementioned story driven games I was intrigued at the way the game drip-feeds you information and context about the world. Self-made discoveries such as the game being a prequel compelled me to keep trudging through Little Nightmare’s dismal tale.

I don’t know how or why, but I felt a genuine curiosity to look into the metaphorical dark abyss presented before me and engage with my newfound vulnerability. Eventually giving into a strange impulse to make a leap of faith into the unknown. Something I imagine most horror enthusiasts share, but more importantly an experience I would have never discovered if I just kept playing Halo or Civ 6 repeatedly. Weird. Anyway, speaking of discovery...

I find the term “video game” is used as such a wide-sweeping generalised statement by non-gamers whereby most accept the medium at face value. Some can’t get past the idea that video games can and are more than just mindless action, adventure shooters when they actually also have the power to be instructive and educational.

Coming from a console shooter background, strategy games like Civilization, XCOM and even the recent resurgence of Chess have not only demonstrated their relevancy in an ever-changing world but taught me a thing or two also. To name some, making considered moves on the famed black and white board legitimately translates to how I approach certain real life situations. XCOM makes resource management a fun concept, Words with Friends and Wordle keeps the mind sharp. Even Roblox is an avenue for kids to do something practical, productive and literally constructive with their playtime. The utility video games provide is grossly underestimated and undervalued which is why I want to highlight and praise this through the well known franchise Assassin’s Creed.

The game premise and core concept allows players to dive into the past playing as part of a fictional Brotherhood known as the Assassins. The historical action adventure made its name off not only integrating its own original story into real world history, but also allows for real freedom within that context. Across the games and multiple time periods you could uncover the story at your own pace or generally roam the vast open world. Though, due to the fairly recent addition of the Discovery Tour mode, game developer Ubisoft have made the AC franchise a full-fledged history simulator and authentic educational tool. Now anyone can pick up a controller and experience guided tours curated by actual historians and experts regarding Ancient Egypt, Greece and now the Viking Age.

If you’re going to release a game with the tagline ‘history is our playground’ you better stay true to it. And after getting familiar with Discovery Tour’s interactive elements first-hand I learned that Ubisoft’s underlying philosophy must be learning by doing makes history fun. It’s something I wish the education system encouraged and implemented when I was growing up, but now to a great degree it can be for a new generation due to the research and time the game developers poured into this endeavour.

In essence, said experts in their respective fields fill in the gaps of knowledge and the game developers populate the player’s world. Whether it’s about the religion represented by the nearby church building or the politics being yelled by surrounding non-playable characters, you can follow the day in the life of individual characters each with their own unique stories. Exploring the world and culture through characters' eyes stops it from being a monotonous tour, and instead becomes a smart way to unconsciously guide you to experience history for yourself. I was tricked into learning and I am forever grateful for it.

The goal of this article was to offer a new perspective for both sides of the ‘are video games good for you’ argument. Play a game if you haven’t because video games are more than just a mind numbing pastime, and if you do game, try exploring outside your comfort zone. There are many many genres so don’t judge one before you play it. At the beginning I said I knew someone who only played one game, to be specific League of Legends by Riot Games. Despite this though, in the last year or so she recently fell in love with the FPS genre! Sure it’s Valorant, from the same makers as League, but baby steps are still progress.

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