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Video Games: The Greatest Entertainment Medium
A relatively new entertainment medium compared to entertainment staples such as books and film, games have come a long way over the last twenty-odd years. Games which were once constrained to two button actions, pixel art style and side scrolling 2D worlds have transformed into deep, captivating worlds with rich storytelling and dynamic gameplay. Video games, which were once thought of as simply distractions for children, have evolved to become a medium which can take on film, television and books head on. In my opinion, video games over take all of these media and are the best that entertainment has to offer today.
A Living, Breathing World
Film and television are often lauded for their brilliantly designed sets. However, these are often not able to be fully displayed and explored, as only certain sections can be seen at any particular time. Often certain elements are not recognized, and I end up noticing the full set for the first time as part of a behind the scenes feature. This is not a problem for video games, as sets are not limited in their display. Players can fully explore worlds and take in all of the intricate details that the artist worked so hard to incorporate. In this way, the world feels more believable, as you the character are actually there and able to explore the way that you like.
One of my personal gripes about television and films in particular, is having to take a backseat to the story. From typical movie clichés such as yelling at your screen for the horror movie star to not go into that abandoned meat factory in the dark, to having to put up with characters making very stupid decisions. You as a viewer can do nothing to stop the agony happening in front of you. However, as video games are embracing the dynamic decision model in their storytelling, you have a lot of choice as a player to the outcome of your story. This is one of the features I love most in the evolution of video games, the inclusion of player choice. Giving player’s choice whether in actions or conversations really gives a degree of control to video games that no other medium has. You can feel personally invested in the game, and feel that it is truly your story. No more taking a back seat, video games put you in the front row of the action. Also, due to the generally longer length of video games than feature films, video game stories are often much more fleshed out. Inclusions of side quests and other optional plot devices just add to the increased story telling options of video games.
Customization and Community
Video games, MMO’s in particular, can have such a family or community feel. While you can watch films with friends, playing video games with friends is something different altogether. Combining the fun found in old school board games with the intricacies of artistic elements such as design and story, really brings video games to a whole other realm of entertainment. Entire worlds, plot lines, and quests can be explored with a friend. Games can also form a sort of community, a place to meet others and to communicate. Players can put their heads together to explore the game in ways even the developers hadn’t planned. The growing usage of user generated content in games, as well as things such as fan art and roleplaying creates an unparelled level of customization. The game can be played how you want, and the game’s story and universe can be taken far from the initial constraints of the game.
Of course, the most important part of video games is how it plays. Story and worlds are great, but if it is not supported by good game play it will not be a success. Whether its engaging combat, interesting puzzles or exciting platforming, video games all need that core gameplay to back up its artistic elements. Video games make you be constantly engaged while playing, and this is maybe one of the reasons that they feel more engaging than other mediums. You can’t half-heartedly pay attention to a video game like you would a movie, show or book, because you will be faced with that ever feared “Game Over” screen. Video games force you to pay attention, and to engage yourself. Whether its learning how to appropriately tackle platforming element, or exploring for backstory of certain characters, the interactivity requirement of video games makes its artistic elements so much more prominent.
All of these elements, and more, can be considered when looking at the failed attempts to bring video games to movies. Players expectations of control, freedom and detail usually have to be dumbed down to work in a movie format.
The increased popularity of video games and its move to more mainstream audiences should ensure the continuing evolution of the industry. As more and more games are being sold, and budgets for AAA games are increasing, there is no doubt that video games are going to become a huge competitor in entertainment very soon. As games get better, and peoples opinions of them start to change, they are going to become a serious contender in the media industry.
As for me, I’ll take a video game over a film any day.