October 21, 2012

Why Video Games will Never be for Everyone

I have been a fan of video games longer than I can remember.  I mean that literally.  There are pictures of me playing Intelevision at 2 or 3 years old, and I don't even remember back that far. Only when I was in college have I ever been without a console in my home. Even then, I played games on the school's computers.  Right now I have the 3 major consoles, and a few you've probably never heard of.

That said, I know not everyone is like me. And even though more than half of my fellow adults play video games, including 25% of people over the age of 50, there will still be people that don't and won't play.

I view video games as another medium for art and story telling - just like books, plays, music, painting, movies, etc.. But there is a limitation to video games that no other media has. It is the very limitation that defines it - that of interactivity.

Anyone who has learned to read can pick up a book and read it. Anyone who can see can look at a painting. Any hearing person can listen to music. There is no skill involved in any of those things.  Sure, if you have a vivid imagination, you may get more out of a book than another person. And one can, of course, develop an appreciation of art or music that would add layers of depth to your enjoyment of that medium - but any one with little or no effort, can enjoy it on some level.

Not so with video games.  If you do not have the talent or invest the time to develop the skill to progress through the game, you simply will not be able to enjoy it at all.  Games like the Fallout series or the Final Fantasy series or the Elder Scroll series have epic naratives that would enthrall anyone who heard or read them - but since they are wrapped up in a video game that takes time and effort to experience, some people will miss out on the stories forever.

There is a solution. An elegant one at that. The answer is videos of video games now, not all video game videos are the "let's play" variety that walks you through the game moment-by-moment, capturing the entire storyline - but even game reviews, or spoofs, or memes can deliver part of the gaming experience to those who can't or don't want to play the entire game. Personally, I have yet to play Skyrim, but I do know that as an adventurer, I should great care to protect my knees from arrows.

Of course, capturing video games as movies does take out the interactivity aspect, which is what makes a video game a "game". But it allows the stories to reach a far wider audience. Even as a gamer, there's no way to play every game there is - not even every /good/ game. Videos of video games is a way to get at least some of the experience without having to play the entire game.

Add to any service

1 comment:

JAmes said...

Whenever I hear about a game, I go seek some gameplay videos too. Not only to learn, but to know if it's worth it. When you mention art in games, I often think the industry confuses the quality of a game with quality full motion videos in presentations, which usually misleads the consumer in buying crap. Advertising, for some devs, are all that matter (surpassing sometimes the development budget). Games are not Hollywood productions. Interaction quality and many other aspects, which mostly gameplay videos show, are actually what matters most in these days. Skyrim is one of those games that I love to play and whenever I go back and see the intro, then everything fits and comes together beautifully, because the core value is there, where the rest of the game's aspects (video, graphics, music etc) just follows along.