Let the Good Times Roll

Posted: October 1, 2013 in Uncategorized

I remember when I was younger, I would play video games all the time. It was an emotional experience–sometimes one of joy because I got to be a different person in a different world doing amazing things, which was a direct contrast to my everyday, monotonous daily routine: Wake up, go to school, come home, go to bed. Wash, rinse, repeat. But other times, the joy exploded in a great fireball of rage inciting me to throw the controller at the TV and inspiring creative expletive strings. Thank God for Nerf controllers.

Lately, though, I’ve been writing and analyzing and obsessing over Skyrim because that’s the game I’ve played the most since it came out in 2011 and it’s the one freshest in my memory. I’ve started, at the very least, three (maybe four?) different games and haven’t even managed to get through the exposition, which is really sad because each of them promises such a good story. So far, my list includes Parasite Eve, Chrono-Trigger, Persona 4, Fallout, and a DS game with a film noir theme. During that time, I’ve watched my husband play Nier; FF VI; Catherine; Persona 3 (twice); Persona 4 (twice); Resonance of Fate; Zone of the Enders; Fable; Shadow of the Colossus; Uncharted: Among Theives and Drake’s Fortune; Assassin’s Creed Revelations, Brotherhood, III; and various romps through Flower, Flow, and Journey He uses games as an escape, too. Escape is a fundamental reason people play video games.

Despite my lack of zeal lately, I’ve discovered some important things about my experience as a player. The funny thing is that it’s easy to tell when someone who writes about games has played them versus someone who writes about games they haven’t played. Each game is a unique experience for each player that plays. It can be true that studying games ruins the joy of playing, but that’s not always the case. Playing them through completely (when there’s an end at all) and then pausing for personal reflection has been the best way for me to be able to analyze and enjoy games at the same time. Another thing I’ve noticed is that studying games tends to be a little like studying books and film and that you can find commonalities between different mediums.

Personally, I see games as a gesamtkunstwerk–this total work of art that synthesizes everything we’ve already created–visuals, music, story. I’m sure I’ve probably already expressed my awe on this before (I wait so long between posts that I forget what I write!). But it really is awe-inspiring that we have been able to create these works of art–total art–and that we can interact with them in a way we’ve never been able to interact with any other type of medium. They are the literature of our generation that represent the times in which we live. It’s a cycle:  toying with various current social discourses in the virtual world helps us situate ourselves in our own world, which in turn affects how and what we play–there’s a much bigger picture at work here than what many negative critics don’t seem to realize.

So WTF, Me? Time to get rollin’. But first, beer and ice cream.

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