So the sad truth of the situation is that video games still have this weird stigma around them and the people who play them.
This may be a result of the fact that the general public only checks in with the world of gaming on an occasional basis. And whatever they see becomes the new assumption about the community as a whole.
For example, let’s take a look at “Make Love, Not Warcraft” the South Park episode from 2006. Just a quick reminder: this episode won an Emmy.
It gave a small glimpse into the burgeoning world of online multiplayer gaming, and it featured a character who was basically a stereotype of gamers at that time.
He was obese, unattractive, and had dedicated his entire life to gaming, letting the rest of his life slip right by.
I think, for the most part, the world at large has hung onto this image. And this is not to say that South Park created the image or that such individuals do not exist.
But it was such a powerful image that the world at large has clung to it for years and years.
But is this really what the world of gaming looks like? And does this speak to the effect that video games have had on players and the world at large?
We would say no, not at all. In fact, we disagree with the idea so strongly that we’ve decided to try to answer the question, “How have video games changed society?”
This also isn’t intended to be seen as the final word in the conversation, but rather the starting point for an ongoing discussion.
A Revolution in Home Entertainment
For years, video games lived in arcades, and only in arcades. The idea of playing games in your own home, on your own television, was still just a pipe dream.
Then came the Intellivision and a whole bunch of other home consoles that allowed you to play very basic games through your television.
Video games have since tracked along with technology’s increasing obsession with interconnectivity.
For a couple decades, multiplayer meant you had to be in the same room as the rest of the players. But now, online multiplayer allows for international gaming with relatively few hitches.
We could even say that online multiplayer gaming had a significant influence on the rise of video streaming services.
It proved that people would pay through the nose for the ability to have access to many different entertainment options from the comfort of their own homes.
The progression of gaming goes hand-in-hand with the evolution of home entertainment.
The Rise of a New Art Form
If we take a look at some of the early arcade games, it would seem almost comical to suggest that video games would one day become art.
Now, of course, even today, there are those who contend that video games are not, and can never be considered, art.
Well, we’d like to disagree.
Video games are indeed an art form, and it’s incredibly rare that we see the rise of a new one. Prior to video games, movies were the most recent artform to be created.
The fact that video games have offered the world a new art form should be cause for celebration.
Choose your own adventure media has really only ever been a novelty. It was a gimmick designed to sell more paperback books.
Who knew that interactive storytelling would receive such loving treatment as it has within the realm of video games.
All video games involve interactive storytelling to some extent, since the story won’t progress without the input of a player.
But Bioshock was the first AAA game to truly embrace the possibilities of branching decision paths.
Suddenly, the choices you made in the game actually mattered, actually had an impact on the story itself, making it feel much more like real life.
Visuals to Die For
Just take a look at a game like Breath of the Wild or The Unfinished Swan.
There is so much attention to detail and visual flare in each, serving as a constant reminder that many different people worked very hard to bring the game to life.
Even better, the fantastic visuals in these games, and others like them, are much more accessible than those of traditional art forms.
Influencing Real-World Interactions
Ever since the invention of video games, there have been players who dedicated much of their time to playing them.
And this has caused concern, especially among parents. But do video games really have an effect on how people live their lives?
The Question About Violence
The Tetris Effect has long been used to argue that video games have a negative effect on players. It proposes that playing a game for a certain amount of time can influence a psychological habit.
This concept has been stretched to apply to violent video games, suggesting that games with violent content makes players more likely to commit violent acts in real life.
However, there is no hard evidence to support or refute this claim.
Ultimately, it would appear that gamers are completely capable of making the distinction between a game and reality.
The more you play a game, the greater the potential for those distinctions to become blurred. But even still, even the Tetris Effect is said to take place on a subconscious level.
In other words, even if a player found themselves thinking about certain images from a violent game when they aren’t playing, they would be perfectly capable of controlling those images and impulses with their conscious mind.
On the more positive side of things, we can consider how life simulators, or life sims, can motivate players to engage with their real lives more actively.
Let’s take the example of Animal Crossing, which just happens to be one of my favorite games. The bulk of the game involves performing daily tasks.
It may not seem very entertaining at first, but the sense of accomplishment you feel after completing these tasks is a way to further motivate yourself to tackle errands in real life.
Many people see games as a form of escapism, and they are. But we don’t often address the importance of escapism and how it can positive effects.
Creating a New Community
More than anything else, video games have created a community, a way for people to interact and become friends with people from around the world.
It’s a form of social interaction that offers relief, excitement, and challenges, all of which can make life just a little more interesting.