Why study video games? You could ask the same question for why we study art or film or history or literature; all considered serious topics in academia. The answer is the same: it’s a reflection of culture and society. Studying these things gives us an insight on what humanity has done, what we have thought of and what potential we have created.
I have been playing games my entire life. I joke that video games are what taught me to read because I remember playing a Dr. Seuss computer game at age two/three alongside Ocarina of Time on the Nintendo 64 (I never made it past the Deku Tree; don’t worry I beat the game later in my life). Since then, I’ve been playing a variety of games on consoles, handheld consoles, on the PC through Steam and on my phone. Video games have
had a huge impact on me and have shaped my influences, opinions and what I know about a variety of subjects. The same idea goes with books, movies, music, art; anything that can be an interest to you and you pursue to know more about. Just goggling “video games” sets you up for a huge list of things to explore. The impact games has is due to the fact that games, like any media platform, is a reflection of society, cultures and the human experience.
Themes in games is a concept that links video games back to the human experience. Games that challenge moral choices, militarization, depression and mental illness, even simple adventure and the battle between good and evil are linked to the human experience. Games that focus on political and military issues are inspired directly from real history, places and events in the real world. Many games like the Call of Duty series take place in middle eastern countries, have terrorist enemies, and imitate actual combat on the field that today’s US military deals with or has dealt with. Even fantasy games, like the Legend of Zelda series or the Final Fantasy series, have roots in actual elements from the world.
Games also show our potential from a technological standpoint. When you look at any form of media, there was a basic starting point. Paintings were done with crushed red pigments on cave walls, stories were orally told and passed on, movies were black and white with no sound, a song hummed with a few unnamed notes. Video games were just the same, starting on basic systems with simple graphics and controls.
As time progresses, everything becomes more advance and there are more outlets to explore. The VR (virtual reality) headset, Oculus Rift, is real and there are games being developed using VR. Games are now on phones and can be played on laptops anywhere (both phones and laptops show amazing technological advancement from their clunky, non-portable origins). Even creating games is a medium open to anyone, like any other medium out there, with many indie games being developed by small teams or even just one person. People who play games and commentate, Let’s Players, have profitable careers on YouTube. Who knows where technology will take us in the future, but we can see everything we have done up to this point and understand the power of technology.
Through this class, I hope to look at games from several perspectives. I want to look at games from a developer’s, player’s, and non-player’s standpoint. I want to see how ideas have progressed and influenced throughout gaming history and the roles games play in today’s society.