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Polly Chester’s recent dismissal of video games as “a massive waste of time” got Elise Bottle thinking perhaps Ms Chester could benefit from the humble video game as it exists today.
Last week, fellow TBS contributor Polly Chester wrote what I believe to be an excellent article about the Indian comic superheroine Priya’s Shakti.
Like Ms Chester, I applaud Priya’s efforts at addressing what is a worldwide problem.
However, I do have one small point of contention. It was a single sentence, and it really had no bearing on the article as a whole, and yet, it simply left me feeling that I had to say something.
Ms Chester, you are certainly entitled to your opinion, but I respectfully disagree that video games are “a massive waste of time.”
I understand why you might feel that way. So-called “Triple A” games like Grand Theft Auto that hog the media spotlight don’t paint the industry in a very positive light, and the #gamergate debacle on Twitter is more than enough to make one ashamed to be part of “Gamer Culture.” But you must recall, Ms Chester, that your article was about a comic book – itself a form of media that in the past has been seen as little more than “a waste of time.”
I have evidence that prove that games are much more than that.
First off, not all games involve mindlessly shooting the snot out of or beating enemies into submission. If you’re feeling up to it, I really recommend Ms Chester experiment with games in the adventure category, many of which are easily available through Steam, iTunes or Android.
Titles that come highly recommended include the Ace Attorney franchise, a series that has you playing as a lawyer who must defend his clients from false accusations of murder, and was heavily influenced by Japan’s worryingly high conviction rate. Also from the creator of Ace Attorney is Ghost Trick, which has you playing as a disembodied spirit who must manipulate his environment in order to uncover his lost identity, and features a funky art style and soundtrack to boot. From the other side of the Atlantic is I Have no Mouth, and I Must Scream, based on the science-fiction short story of the same name by Harlan Ellison, which is considered one of the darkest and more intellectually mature video games made.
I’d also suggest strategy games like the Civilisation or Age of series. As well as both being excellent games, the franchises are renowned for providing the opportunity for players to learn about the historical events, civilisations and individuals who inspired the games. Heck, in the latest instalment of Civilisation, there are multiple play options to win a campaign if world domination isn’t your style!
Even games with combat elements aren’t necessarily mindless – popular Nintendo franchises such as Mario and Zelda are renowned for encouraging exploration and experimentation, rewarding players for taking time to find that hidden dungeon or level. Battling enemies is not so much about having the biggest gun, as finding your enemy’s weak point and using the right tools to exploit it. Japanese RPGs such as the Final Fantasy series are known for their epic story-lines, and Western RPGs like Elder Scrolls and Fallout allow the player to create their own character, not only appearance wise but in behaviour as well – essentially encouraging players to create their own unique story within the world of the game.
Speaking of creating, what about Minecraft? The entire game is basically a huge Lego brick-pit just waiting for your input. People have recreated everything from real-world locations to sites from their favourite works of fiction, or even their own original creations.
Okay, time to finish up. Before I go, I just want to tell Ms Polly Chester that I don’t mean any offence. I get that you really didn’t mean any malice in what you said, just that you’ve been misinformed, and I hope that I was able to educate a little. Even if you still decide you never want to pick up a controller, I hope at the very least you can be a little more understanding of gamers and their passion.
I’ll admit that in the grand scheme of things, gaming as a medium still has a lot of growing up to do. Homophobia, transphobia, racism, sexism and other forms of bigotry are rampant in both the industry and the fandom. But that is why I wanted to reach out to you, Ms Chester. More people like you need to come in and put pressure on the industry to abandon the ugly elitist attitude that has poisoned the community, so that maybe one day gaming can get its own equivalent to Priya’s Shakti.
So, for the rest of you heading to the Boxing Day Sales post-Christmas, don’t turn up your nose at the humble video game.
They really have much more to offer.