Castles and Dragons

For all of the good features of today’s world, people still find mythical places in different time periods to be fascinating. This is reflected in the plethora of different worlds in which our video games and movies take place. Whether it be thousands of years in the future or millions of light-years away, everyone has a place from a video game that they would like to live in. For me, this world would be that of Middle-Earth, the setting of The Lord of the Rings Online and every other work in the LoTR collection.

This world appeals to me because of its inherent simplicity. Life in a decentralized, technologically unconnected society such as this one would allow a person to truly live like they wanted to, without the societal pressures of “being successful” and whatnot. There is no law to follow when the authoritative structure is no disperse, and one is governed by what he feels is right, not what someone else told him was right. Without a societal hierarchy that one must necessarily fit into, it is possible to devote the mind and body to whatever pursuit seems right. The satisfaction of really making one’s own way in life, fully depending on yourself or a few relatives for survival sounds enthralling. Essentially, existence is simpler and therefore allows more time for intellectual or physical gain.

Would it be a shock to live in a world with no Facebook or video games? Maybe. I know some people that couldn’t imagine it. But I think that a simpler world would be more fun, and there isn’t a better simpler world than one with all of the mythical aspects of the Dark and Middle Ages that allows one to spend their time as they wish and has no outward societal pressures.

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The graphic novel, in all its splendor

As children, I would hazard a guess that most of us read a comic book at some point or another. Why? Comic books are meant to be entertaining. They don’t need a terribly deep story line or minute references to real people and events or social commentary to achieve that point. But can they?

If you’re name is Alan Moore, you clearly thought that they could. And thus we have the graphic novel (as one would call a long comic book with substance such as this) The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Now, graphic novels usually get bad press in the academic world because of their similarity to comics. But a look at just one panel of Moore’s novel shows that it has much more meaning colored and shaded into the frame than a comic and provides as much, if not more, detail as a normal book would.

Who says game designers aren’t artists too?

The debate of whether video games should be considered art is still hotly contested. How can an interactive form of entertainment such as a video game be called art? It seems that it would be much like calling tic-tac-toe or solitaire a form of art as well. However, it is not the playing of the video game that should be up for consideration, but rather the game itself.

With many of today’s video games, it can be difficult to distinguish the setting from the area it is based on. For example, in playing any of the Assassin’s Creed series games, the cities and building are so incredibly life-like that the gamer almost has to think he’s there. The original builders of these cities are (and if they aren’t. should be) considered artists in every sense of the word, so why not the remediators that created these structures within video games? It is arguably every bit as challenging to create 15th century Italy in a video game as it was to build it the first time. Yet we call the the latter designers “artists” while the former remain only designers.

One’s argument could be that these designers did not originally create this setting but copied it from the real artists, and therfore are not artists themselves. This is nonsense. Throughout history, artists have redone the works of previous artists, often in different forms (such as paintings of wood-prints, and vice versa), and both works are still considered art. How is the case of video games any different? Furthermore, many video game designers create worlds entirely of their own imagination, and create them with such detail and care that they too could pass for real.

For all this, video game designers are too talented (usually) and have worked more than enough to deserve the title of “artists.” Their form of art is judged by many of the same characteristics that other forms of art are, in many cases combining the crtieria for several forms (i.e. novels, architecture, etc.) and still qualifying as masterpieces.

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Steve Wiebe for President

So yeah, I’m just going to throw it out there. I forgot about this. But here we go anyway:
All of the slime of the Earth somehow found its way to one central location and produced the vile being that is Billy Mitchell. By sheer luck, this creature was given the ability to play video games very well, particularly Donkey Kong, but it is far more inclined to be manipulative and arrogant. This long established evil in the video game world appeared to have firm control over his dark empire, until that hope-inspiring day that the world learned about its next Luke Skywalker: Steve Wiebe.
Practicing for long hours in his garage, Steve Wiebe awaited the day that he would make video game history, which, I want to point out, HE DID. He beat Billy Mitchell’s score, which was legitimate to everyone except Billy Mitchell. However, his dark arms had already reached out into the minds of others on the world record scene, and the score was annulled. But you can cut Luke’s hand off, and he’ll get a new one. Steve Wiebe went back to practice, and on display at Fun Spot he beat Billy Mitchell’s record once again. Billy pulls a fast one however and sends in a video of a score that beat Steve’s new score, now going against everything he had always upheld in the way of “setting records in public.” But once again, evil would not prevail for long. Steve went pack to practicing and eventually beat Billy’s record once and for all. And from that day Billy Mitchell has been little more than a great head of hair on the video game world horizon.

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P.S. Billy, I wouldn’t even use your hot sauce to pour in your eyes.

Gaming or Playing?

How many people do you know that consider themselves to be hardcore gamers?  Maybe 5? 10? Any more than that and you’re in a pretty big gaming club, or you’re just a very social MMORPG player. But now consider how many people you know that play video games, even if only a few times a year. That’s a lot more people, isn’t it?

So what is really the difference between the hardcore gamer and the once-a-month player? I will argue that, other than the obvious inequalities in the amount of time spent and likely the skill level (and the severity of Vitamin D deficiency), there is not much difference at all.

When someone turns on a video game, they might play “just for fun” or to “kill some time” or whatever else they can come up with. But once they start playing, they want to win: to get to the next level, to beat the current high score, or to improve their online rankings or develop a new, more effective strategy. In essence, no one continues to play a game only “to play.” They want to win, whether they play once a month or 7 hours a day.

To me, this is the difference between gaming and playing: working toward a goal. As long as someone picks up a controller or stares down a computer screen with the intent of beating some challenge or goal, they are gaming. They are trying to win, to be successful. If they were merely playing, this attempt to beat something would not be present. It would be like playing Call of Duty and not keeping the score in an online match. Players would simply repeat the same tasks over and over again with no goal or challenge in mind, like children playing with sparklers on the 4th of July. There is no goal to watching something give off sparks, but it is entertaining nonetheless.

To sum it all up, gamers play to win and players play to be entertained. So the next time you’re crushing your buddy in HALO, and he says something to the tune of “I’m just playing, don’t be so serious” or whatever lame excuse he comes up with, remind him that if he wasn’t trying to beat you, he wouldn’t care that he was being beat.

Game on, gamers.
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What’s wrong with gaming?

For several years now, video games have been a useful stress-relieving component of my life.  Between school, sports, and dramatic friends it can be very difficult to feel in control of your life. Video games provide an outlet where one can can express oneself in a way that ordinary society does not allow. Role playing games are especially useful for this, whether they be set in a fantasy land or in everyday life, or even within a sports game. But if video games could be so useful to kids and adults alike, then what’s wrong with them, and why do people seem to have such a problem with “the gamer?”

In my life, I have never truly been discouraged from playing video games, although I must admit that it was not encouraged either. Occasionally I was chastised for playing Call of Duty instead of, say, mowing the lawn, but nothing atypical in the way of parental control. I have also been lucky to have friends that also enjoy video games, and even my girlfriend has an XBOX Live gamertag. But as I said, I am lucky to know such people that are very accommodating of the gamer in me, when many are not so fortunate. So why are people against gaming?

Quite simply, I believe that it boils down to a misunderstanding of the purpose of video games for many people. I would argue that a majority of people, especially of older generations, see video games as nothing but a waste of time and energy. However, the skills that children gain while playing video games, such as problem solving skills, quick reflexes, the ability to process multiple information sources at the same time, and the experience of cooperating with other players in-game are all valuable life skills that will translate into various other areas. Some will always disagree, but the results of gaming as a child will only become more clear with time.