NEW MEDIA: Video Gaming as Escape

In a post sometime last week, I blithely wrote something about fantasy and feeling sorry for those among us (certainly not me, Willie!) who don’t indulge.  But reference was made to the opportunity video games offer those with less creative instincts.

Well, that’s not exactly what I meant–to imply that it was geared to only those who do not have daydreams of their own.  This clarification is not being made to cover my ass in saying that I thoroughly enjoyed gaming, implying that I’m not a creative person, after getting so excited about playing one game.  But it is obvious that video games fulfill a need to escape sometimes from the mundane realities of life like jobs and laundry, just as books, movies, tv shows have always offered people.  It’s a well-established fact that romance novels serve as satisfaction to (mostly) women who are still looking for the rose on the kitchen table amidst the dinner plates and buttered squash.  People just need to sometimes make the world a little more exciting, a little more dangerous, or maybe just a little more unrealistic than it is.  My neighbor used to spend 90% of his time at home outside gardening; it was an obvious break in the stressful job he dealt with daily as an architect.  I always imagined a farmer somewhere sitting down at a table building a model airplane while Andy worked the soil next door.

Video games are one of the best doorways to another world, another place, another time because they involve the mind and the physical senses of vision, hearing, touch, and even hint through these three at the senses of taste and smell as well.  Even if a user is not clearly the protagonist (this would involve, perhaps, no visual image of the protagonist being, but the game would be viewed from his visual point of view only), his control over the character slips him into place in the virtual environment of the game.  Kind of a neat place to be until some sort of skin-stretching, smoke-blowing weird dude enters the scene. 

Reader/user involvement has always been the goal of literature in all forms.  Video games, by allowing and actually requiring user input, are the epitome of writerly accomplishment.

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2 Responses to NEW MEDIA: Video Gaming as Escape

  1. ersinghaus says:

    “Reader/user involvement has always been the goal of literature in all forms. Video games, by allowing and actually requiring user input, are the epitome of writerly accomplishment.”

    But would this also apply to a game like “Go Fish”? I guess a question would be what sort of involvement?

    The functions of the game also exist outside the game itself. For example, in fan communities or the relations that exist around the bowling league.

  2. susan says:

    Okay, so first I had to google-search to see if Go Fish is available as a computer game–it is–or if you were talkin’the old style of 52 cards, a few people, and a table.

    The “involvement” in a game such as Silent Hill, or any similar type where one is on a mission, requires more from the user because he is within the environment–his ability to “step” into a room, turn around, see it from all angles, including what was formerly “behind” him. The fact that he is specifically invited in, told what he can and should do to succeed in the mission, and has the freedom to move around (varies with the quality of the game, I’m sure) within that virtual world is what I would call extreme involvement.

    The interaction with a game such as Go Fish, or playing Scrabble with Maven the computer, is a one on one gameplay, and no one crosses the barrier of the fourth wall; the computer screen is the gameboard, and if you like, you can think of it as the user on this side, comfy with a bowl of peanuts and a soda, and “Maven” or “Chip” on the other side of the screen, maybe munching on kilobytes. It’s still not a real person.

    I have never played online games with other “real people,” but there is still a difference between being there and being 3000 miles of table space away. Our writing personalities are different than our face-to-face ones (although my writing one is a helluva lot nicer and smarter-sounding). And while there are indeed groups that share the experience after the fact, it’s not done while in the maelstrom of ba-boom action.

    Still think it’s a participatory but lonely sport, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that either. Sometimes I too like computers better than people.

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