Over the past year or so (and particularly over the past few months), I’ve been becoming a lot more involved in various issues and schools of thought, many of which I’ve shared about here. One that I haven’t shared as yet has to do with video games.
Video games have long been an interest of mine, from the early 2D sidescrollers of the early 90’s to the epic RPG’s and frantic shooters of today, games have been a part of my life. Yet it’s only more recently that I’ve become more involved in the wider community surrounding games. This has accompanied a change within myself concerning the way in which I view games – and a rather interesting one at that. I moved from using games as a method of escape from my life – particularly during my teenage years where I felt I had a lot to escape from – to seeing them as something which I can learn from. This view was further bolstered when I discovered that I was not alone in how I view games. Within the video game community – those who either develop and play games (or both) – there has long been a school of thought that believes that video games are a burgeoning artistic medium that can be every bit as valid as the movies, music, or traditional visual arts. This school of thought holds that, as an artist medium, games have the potential to enrich lives, and cause people to think (and learn) about themselves and the world around them (one example of this, which I really appreciate and identify with can be found here: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/extra-credits/1974-Enriching-Lives ).
This has particularly hit home for me as I was playing the game ‘Dragon Age: Origins’, and several things that the game brought up caused me to think. The first one was concerning free will and the suppression of the mind. Essentially, Mages in the fantasy world Dragon Age is set in are conduits to a dangerous world, and the inhabitants of this world seek to invade the real world through them, and those who are deemed too weak to defend themselves against these dangerous creatures are forcibly ‘made tranquil’ – the things that make them special are stripped away (their personality, emotions, ability to cast magic, etc). Discovering this in the game caused me to consider the value that I place upon my free will, and the importance of my emotions and personality. I realised that if faced with the definite possibility of losing everything that made me human, I would take a similar action to one of the minor characters within the game – I would fight back in any way possible – something that took him to forbidden practices and eventually a life of being hunted.
The second was something that a major character said when she joined your party of adventurers. She claimed that she had received a vision from ‘the maker’ (the chief religious figure of Dragon Age’s world – based closely on the Christian understanding of God), which led her to find and join you in your quest. This, and several other conversations with this character, have resonated with my understanding of God, and the way in which He communicates with people – from the generalities of the beauty of the natural world, to the often cryptic personal answers. (On a side note, this in particular has led me to start writing a book – of sorts – about what we can learn from the depiction of God (and religion) in games).
So I guess my point is that Video Games aren’t just children’s playthings (which an unfortunate amount of people – especially those with power – around the world believe and act upon), they have so much more potential. Potential to cause people to reconsider their views on things, to cause them to learn something about themselves. Potential to cause people to cry and laugh. Potential to do what every other form of artistic expression has ever caused people to do.
As always – feel free to disagree with me, comment on something I’ve said, ask for clarification, anything!