If you’re like me, then video games have been an integral part in keeping entertained during long weekends at home. And given the current situation, I’ve been taking advantage of the long list of titles on my to-play list.
Video games have come a long way since the first one – a crude, 2-dimensional tennis game invented in 1958 by physicist William Higinbotham – which was very exciting at the time, I’m sure. Today, they are the ultimate form of interactive art and literature, combining high-resolution, computer-generated images with professional scripts that mirror novels and screenplays.
And there’s a game for everyone, no matter your tastes. Action, drama, mystery, sci-fi, comedy, horror, crime, simulators and even romance – if you can think of it, chances are there has been a game made about it.
So why games? In short, because I love a good story. And like films, their stories can be geeky and artistic, witty and dramatic, thrilling and whimsical, and tragic and heartwarming – all at once.
Games, especially cinematic ones, take me to a different place. Role-playing games are by far my favorites – doubly so recently. You can be anyone you want to be, do things only possible in the realm of fantasy or science-fiction and make choices that impact how the story ends. Including the power of choice in a visual narrative is like a choose-your-own-adventure book on steroids.
And plenty of them are known as “open worlds,” meaning the playable areas are so massive and accessible at any time, it’s easy to get lost in total immersion – but in a good way. For example, some games are so intricate they have their own ecosystems, with animals and computer-controlled human characters acting (seemingly) autonomously, unaware of the player’s existence until interacting.
Some stories in games are so well-written that you make connections to characters so deep it almost feels real. I’m aware to some that may sound sad or lonely, but to them I ask, what difference is there from becoming attached to characters in a book or movie series you spent hours getting to know?
If anything, I’d say games are even easier to become attached to. Memories are formed, and no matter whether they were made in a virtual world, those feelings, that nostalgia is real. Remember your favorite novel?
It is because of such beautiful stories with inherently flawed characters that RPGs are relatable on a human level. And because of my work, I thoroughly enjoy hearing peoples’ stories. It’s the very basis of what journalists do, and a personal mantra of mine: everyone has a story. Perhaps that’s why I’m drawn to living a fictional one through interactive electronics.
But I digress. Video games teach me, as well. If it weren’t for a couple of my favorite history-based games, I wouldn’t know as much about the Roman Empire, feudal Japan, colonial America or – perhaps most notably – World War II. I’m not embellishing when I say that these games are so detailed that they actually helped me in exams years ago.
Since stay-at-home orders have many of us stuck at… well, home, I argue that now is as good a time as any for people who are unfamiliar to try out a video game. If you live alone like me, most game consoles have an online community where you can chat with friends or make new ones.
If you are familiar with games, broaden your horizons and try a new genre. Puzzle games are quick, tantalizing and engaging. They’re also underutilized, in my opinion, given the positive cognitive effects they can have on us. However, RPGs will always have a special place in my heart.
So, fall in love with stories you can have a say in. You’ve got time. What’s there to lose?