Not a lot of people know it, but video gaming is probably one of the loneliest hobbies. Throughout my entire life I have played video games and yet I never grew into the shame that comes with that until college. If you play video games as a hobby, or even a job, you are automatically stereotyped to a good portion of people as a person who lives in your mother’s basement and screams at a television screen. You become a sort of pariah if you openly talk about video games in a grouping of people.
If you pay attention you will occasionally hear sniggering, and people looking over at you like you are beneath them. I have had to hide my love of video games from a good majority of people I have come across, from strangers to the occasional friend who just wouldn’t understand- and you know what? I honestly do not understand why. Why are gamers still thrown out as pariah? Even in the video game industry gamers are stereotyped! For example, in Grand Theft Auto 5 the son of Michael (one of the main protagonists) is a larger, college age man who sits in his bed all day playing video games while screaming at other online players. Inside the gaming community, this sort of stereotype is attributed to people who ‘SWAT’ (Swatting is a term used for a person who calls in a terrorist threat on another player in an online game, or during a live video stream). As in Watch Dogs 2, a mission tasks you with getting revenge on a ‘Swatter’ who happens to be a large, college aged man who collects swords and plays video games in his parents’ house. Even though this type of gamer is so minimal nowadays, the stereotype still exists and hovers like a cloud over every gamer. It makes me sad to know that this is the view that so many people take, because that view entirely misses the point of what a video game is.
Video games are an extension of art and storytelling. Think of a movie and a book being mashed up together into one medium and sprinkled with the agency of a person, these are what make up a video game. Not to mention video games are such a unique medium. In what other medium of literature or art can you actually dictate the ending? Sure the ending has already been presupposed by the director and author of the story but so what? Is a choose-your-own-adventure story any less engaging because you know that it has an ending? This is the heart of a video game, being able to genuinely experience another person’s life and being able to have experiences that you cannot have had in real life. Some of the best stories I have ever experienced have been at the hands of video games. I almost cried at the end of Infamous 2 when you had the choice of whether or not to pull the trigger. Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2 were such heart gripping stories that I have been patiently waiting for near 11 years for the release of the 3rd game. Shadow of the Collossus was a video game so ahead of it’s time that it prompted the biggest spiritual successor hype train that lasted for nearly 6 full years. Video games are something more than a story, when done well it is a connection that you, as a player, develop. You feel what the characters feel; you cry when the cry; you are excited when they are, you play a character as an extension of yourself and as that extension it impacts you deeply. This is why the stereotype labelled above makes me so sad. Because a ‘gamer’ is labelled as a nerd or a geek a good majority of people won’t even attempt to play or try a video game and they are missing out! My wife was not a gamer at all; in fact, she had only played Pokemon Yellow up until the point of our marriage. However, I convinced her to let me show her one game and after some time she finally said yes. This game was Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and to anyone who knows the series I am sure you have some strong feelings about it.
This game is known for being almost movie quality cinematics and some stunning gameplay. The environments are gorgeous, the villains are brutal, and the characters are lifelike. I started playing the game and within two days we had finished it, almost 10 hours of play shoved into a couple days and from that point onwards she has been asking me almost every day if a new Uncharted has been announced, or when a new Uncharted DLC will come out. Uncharted 4 served as her gateway into the gaming world and afterwards she told me that she finally understood why I played video games, because they tell a story.
This brings me back to the beginning and to why I wrote this article in the first place. The gaming industry needs to be more accepting of its player-base. This is something that has already happened among the indie community, but the so-called ‘AAA’ (triple A) community has yet to follow suit completely. This blog serves as my voice to share my love of video games and to try to convince others to try them out. I will do my best to use words to describe an experience I have had and post it for all the world to see. In time, hopefully people will come to understand that video games have just as much right to be called a medium of art while also simultaneously being as impactful as a masterfully written book.