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Friday, July 19, 2024

Column: Video games. Play them.

Wrench in hand, I made my way through the dark, flooded corridors of the failed underwater city, Rapture. Rapture was “a city where the artist would not fear the censor. Where the scientist would not be bound by petty morality. Where the great would not be constrained by the small.” But, the city is now in turmoil with a recently failed government. It’s overrun with splicers, disfigured junkies looking for some more of a miracle drug developed in Rapture. The drug ran Rapture. Now, I’m in it trying to make sense of it all and escape.

Sure sounds like something out of a movie or novel doesn’t it? Wrong. You’re dead wrong. Rapture is the fictional city of Bioshock, a video game released in 2007 by developer 2K.  Aw, it’s a video game you say? Most of you are probably turned off at the idea, but video games are one of the greatest mediums out there – right up there with film, maybe even better. I’ll bet many of you dismiss games without as much as a second thought. “Games are for children,” you say. Nonsense. You’re really missing out. They’re worthy of so much more recognition then they’re given now.

There are some really great, enthralling stories to be found in video games. These stories can be told in ways that other mediums simply can’t imitate. For example, Bioshock employs a chilling, eerie musical score, a design that borrows from Art Deco and Steampunk, and a keen eye for cinematic composition to create an atmosphere that really makes your hair stand on edge. Video games can draw from the best of many mediums to create something distinct and worthy of praise.

Yes, there are bad games and there are great games. But then again, there are bad films and great films. It all rests in the craftsmanship. Development cycles and production costs for some video games can even rival or surpass that of a Hollywood blockbuster film. Take a gander at the sci-fi blockbuster Halo series. Each installment had three-year development cycles and millions of dollars poured into them. Let’s not forget about the tender loving care that the developer, Bungie, put into the entire series. With some careful research and an open mind, you could sift through the garbage and find a gem of a video game – and there are a lot.

I’ll concede that video games may be less accessible to the average Joe and plain Jane when compared to other mediums like film, paintings, and other entertainment media. Those are more passive and won’t gouge your wallet. Video games require a console or computer to play. They cost an average of $60 for a new, current game. They can typically last six to eight hours for a trip through story mode or campaign. And most importantly, they require some sort of input or interaction on your part. Games aren’t for lazy-asses.

You shouldn’t let that hold you back. Nowadays, many games have a ton of replay value usually through some sort of multiplayer suite, downloadable content, or just a kickass story that demands you play it again (like a movie you just had to see twice or thrice). Simply put, video games can be an engaging and worthwhile pursuit.

It saddens me to see video games remain offstage, not getting the recognition they deserve. It seems that the only times they get any mention are when they stir the pot of hot controversy. You’ve seen it and heard it: people blaming video games for violent behavior or a teenager shooting his parents for taking away his copy of Grand Theft Auto. Video games seem to have a really bad reputation, especially amongst the older generation. It’s time to usher in a more open-minded generation to really embrace video games.

Love ’em or hate ’em, video games have a sizable and growing foothold in today’s entertainment market. One of these days they will have their moment in the spotlight and be showered with praise from everyone. Whether or not you choose to play and experience them is up to you. They certainly aren’t for the lazy. Call me an elitist (only peasants call me that), but I think you owe it to yourself to devote some time to a video game, chump. Think about it, will ya? I’ll be gouging Poseidon’s eyes out as Kratos on his quest to destroy Mt. Olympus in God of War III in the meantime. 

LARRY HINH is a gamer, but doesn’t fear sunshine or women. Let him know if you think he’s elitist at lthinh@ucdavis.edu, peasant.


  1. I agree. I think the video game market is over-saturated with the FPS/Shooter genre. Most of them are mindless and seeking to cash in, but there are some interesting ones that entail an emotional response or reflection. These are usually triple A titles.

    Games like Fallout 3 and the Mass Effect series are driven by gun violence, but they are also very personal. Both games make use of a rather sophisticated conversation system that plays off one’s ethics/morals as they make decisions that change the course of the game’s story and relationships.

    It’s these games that impart some sort of emotional investment from a player that really takes them a step above the “mindless killing.” Not all games require violence being enacted through a player’s avatar to do this though. They may be few, but they can be wonderful. 2010’s Heavy Rain is a narrative driven video game that required little player input that entailed violent actions. A player just watched as this story unfolded before their eyes and it’s all affected by their actions. It was more of an interactive drama — the first of it’s kind, I believe.

    It seems that gun violence is just the best way to effectively penetrate the video game market as people love it. It may be more desensitizing to the masses, but a good game can most definitely cause a person to think twice about why they’re shooting at someone or something. Bleak as it may be, guns and violence may be here to stay. They’re not all bad.

    All is not lost though, as there is an amazing library of video games that don’t heavily rely on violence. They may seem few in number, but they are here.

    Just hope that people become a little wiser and sift through the garbage. A good game should always rise to the top.

  2. I grew up in the 80’s, I loved going to the arcade dropping quarters into the machines. We were considered slackers, with no future, and so gaming got a bad rap. I stopped gaming. I’m still not a gamer perse, but I bought a gaming computer and a few games. I can only play a few hours a month (I still feel that I should be doing something productive in real life.) But with that said, we are a gaming culture and gaming will be one of the main things that drives society to its future being.

    I recently read “Reality is broken, why games make us better and how they can change the world, by Jane Mcgonigal.” It is one of the most enlightening books on the culture of gaming. As a non-gamer it changed my whole perception of gamers. Gamers are the future of this world, game designers should focus more on games that solve real world problems, and less on killing. The connection with remote control drones in modern warfare and gaming is disgusting and inhuman. And I imagine the military industrial complex is salivating at the thought of gamers controlling a robot army. This kind of future forecasting always leads to the winning robot army invading the cities to wipe out the populations, while the gamer is completely disconnected from the atrocities 200 miles away. With that said gamers, create the nature of games by voting with their money. I just hope they talk to the designers and change from first shooter to first problem solver.

    Enders game. Orson Scott Card.


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