Okay, reader, I openly admit that I am not that much of a gamer. I’m not a total stranger to video games — if you put a controller in my hands, I’ll eventually figure out the controls. Whether or not I’m good at the game after I decipher those controls is not up for debate. I, in all likelihood, won’t be.
But my video game history is not comprised solely of failure — there are two games I believe I have truly mastered. I also have strong emotional connections to each game, which I feel is a hallmark of being a gamer. Those games are the two magnificent installments of Super Mario Galaxy. They expanded my imagination, had me creatively solving problems, and honestly tugged at my emotions. (We’re all friends here, so let’s not bother pretending that Rosalina’s story in the first Super Mario Galaxy wasn’t heart-wrenching and poignant.)
Those games showed me that video games have many benefits to society. I’m sick of people railing against video games because they say they promote violent tendencies in the players. To start, only a percentage of all games are violent to begin with. And to be honest, I don’t even have to argue this — in 2011, the US Supreme Court Brown vs. Entertainment Merchants Association decided the psychological connection between video games and an emergence of violent tendencies as tenuous. In other words, they didn’t buy it.
So let’s move on, reader, and talk about what I feel are the great benefits of video games.
To start, the genre of video games has developed exponentially in the past two decades. Everything about video games has gotten better — the creativity, the variety, the graphics, the market, the advertising — I could go on.
There are types of games to serve all purposes. There are video games that educate and enrich young children, like the LeapFrog games or iCivics, which is a game created by retired Supreme Court Judge Sandra Day O’Connor.
There are games that teach empathy and twist all your preconceived notions of RPG’s on their head, like the indie mega hit Undertale, and games that build epic and complicated worlds like the Bioshock games.
There are even gaming mega-franchises that capture people’s loyalties for life like Mario, Zelda, or Sonic. (I include Sonic to show that the games don’t even have to be consistently good in order to keep their fanbase).
Video games have even sprouted several companion industries. There’s the Youtube gaming industry, the video-game music industry, and the Twitch livestream industry. And video games have been involved in the pioneering of new technologies like virtual reality and other types of augmented reality.
Most importantly, video games serve a purpose that every other type of media serves — they’re companions to people in need of companionship. They’re cherished memories from childhood, or an escape from an unsatisfactory life. That purpose is the main driving force of all this growth. Video games have finally become a defined type of media.
So, reader, maybe you’re doubting me a little. Or maybe you’re just confused. Sure, video games are bigger and better than ever before. So what?
I’m arguing that we have to change our view on video games. They’re no longer exclusively a form of entertainment for teenage boys. They’re played by all types of people, for all types of reasons, so they need to be given the same scrutiny and critical recognition that other media types are given. Video games have earned it.