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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

The artistic purpose of video games

Published: March 7, 2013
Section: Opinions

The last 100 years have seen advancements and inventions previously thought of as scientifically impossible. Electricity, telephones, cars, Internet and television all bring people toward one another and allow for life to be easier and more enjoyable. While not as impactful as electricity or the Internet, video games comprise an art form as important as others.

What started in 1947 as a “cathode ray tube amusement device” has become a worldwide entity. The current generation of video games alone has sold more than 240 million home consoles and an additional 225 million portable consoles. The popularity and current usage of past systems and games furthers the impact of video games. With seven of the 10 best-selling consoles released in the last 13 years, it’s unlikely that video games’ popularity will fade away anytime soon.

Current video game makers like Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony have each made a unique name for themselves. Each developer, company, console and series can attract fans that are as loyal and faithful to their video game as others are to sports teams. Because video games often take place in an alternate world, they remain relevant for years to come in a way that literature, films and television cannot compete. Nobody can say that “Super Smash Bros. Melee” was more relatable when it was released in 2001 than it is now or will be 10 years from now.

Multiple franchises have each sold more than 100 million copies of their games. Many of them have become involved with the political world due to the overtly violent nature of many popular games, perhaps none more notorious than the “Grand Theft Auto” series.
Video games can be quite savage, but so can life. Not all video games are violent and not all people are violent, but we should not hide what the real world has in store. War and violence exist, and although it seems as if video games make light of these, they can also bring the inevitable truths of life to people so as to improve their understanding of the world. The bloody violence in videogames is not nearly as traumatic or hurtful as real life events can be. I am not aware of anyone with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after being wounded in a game of “Halo.”

Many believe it to be a misuse of time to play video games as some people play many hours each day. Everyone can form their own opinion on the matter, but I believe that videogames can be quite helpful to people. It gives some a purpose, and gives many a form of art in which they can devote their professional life that was not present decades ago. My peers that have gone into the video game industry as a profession have found an industry in which they feel at home. It’s something that brings people together and provides a method for people to let go of their frustrations in a safe manner. Those who say that video games are a waste of time or energy must look at the alternatives. As I played “Lord of the Rings” online, my sister watched “16 and Pregnant” and “Kourtney & Kim Take Miami” while aimlessly browsing on the Internet and Facebook. It does not seem as if video games can be more harmful than activities and shows such as those.

While not necessarily harmful, shows like these can alter a young person’s view of the world and how people should behave and be treated. Video games can often provide a proper role model that lives life with proper values and morals. Although he is forced to kill others, Ezio Auditore, who first appeared in “Assassin’s Creed II,” lived a valorous existence in attempting to do the right thing by helping those in need while eliminating those who caused incalculable damage. Video games are by no means the most productive thing in the world, but in the present culture, which is focused on enjoying time, video games seem to be more productive than some of the alternatives.

The majority of human history has comprised times that people had to spend time working to survive and support their family. But the increased amount of leisure time in our lives, come decisions about what we should do or want to do during these times and such decisions will inevitably cause stress and inner struggles.

Recent first-person shooter, role playing, simulation, sports and multiplayer online role-playing games have occupied many hours of individuals’ time and can seem as genuine as reality, or at least as other man-made art forms. I know of many people, including myself, who have become more familiar with a video game world and map than of the small nine-square-mile town that I live in.

The popularity and power of video games have understandably brought conflict. Occasionally, an atrocious violent act will be preempted in a video game. As with everything, video games should be balanced with other activities, although some can get away with playing more video games than others. You may even say that video games have saved lives by providing an outlet for those who would otherwise not feel connected to anyone or anything.

The enjoyment that individuals experience while playing video games cannot be measured.The meaning of life differs from individual to individual but it seems to me that the meaning is to enjoy life, not necessarily to do whatever you want at every moment, but be productive in a way that will provide further satisfaction and enjoyment in your life in the future. Video games are no more wasteful than film, television, music, literature or art. The way that one sees the usefulness and purpose of these mediums is individually based on many different factors, but what we all must realize is that none of us have the answers and everyone is different. So I’ll live my life anticipating the new “Sim City” that comes out this week and will watch the new “Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag” trailer while waiting to get “Assassin’s Creed 3.”