A New Blog Post Series: The World of Videogames – An Introduction
This new blog post series will dive into the glorious world of video games, regardless of genre. I myself have been playing point-and-click adventures ever since I was a little kid, starting with the popular series of Monkey Island. Guybrush Threepwood was the biggest hero of my childhood. Now, I enjoy playing RPGs, FPS, and Hack and slash, such as Diablo III, Torchlight II, The Cave, BioShock:Infinite, Path of Excile, Team Fortress II, and Dota 2.
When I studied English Literature, Media, and Communication at Mannheim University, I wrote a research paper about narratives in computer games. I will use some paragraphs and chapters for upcoming blog posts, but will also write about new research topics. Furthermore, I have the honor of having other bloggers write about video games on my blog.
↟ Introduction to the World of Video Games ↟
When thinking about art and culture, classifications such as literature, language, film, theater plays, painting, and music immediately come to mind. All these fields are being taught in high schools and universities all around the globe. Games, if they are not ancient and historically meaningful, seem to be somewhat excluded, outstanding, not worth mentioning – yet. The academic field of computer games has only just started getting the attention it would have been worthy of decades ago and game studies are starting to be taught in schools, if only to a limited extent. Computer games have exceptionally changed since the middle of the twenty-first century: They are no longer being created and played for mere entertainment and diversion, formerly designed for children and young adults, but they started to serve educational purposes; they facilitate interactivity, reinforce visual thinking and are even being used for military training and therapy.
Computer games not only function as social and educational media, or as graphically appealing simulations, but they are creating worlds, characters, and narratives the gamer can actively control. The player is the godlike creator of the game’s story. Movies, computer games, and literary works are utterly different from each other and they remain fields of research on their own, but nevertheless they are intertwined in regard to how they narrate stories and how they use certain techniques. All sorts of plays and games have been and are a means of entertainment, relaxation and pleasure, of social engagement, of ‘killing time and boredom’, of competing against others, of taking over other roles for a temporary time, of telling new stories and of creating fantasy worlds that contrast from everyday duties – although it does not deny games their meaningfulness and importance. Games are part of our average life. The one who does not play does not know real life, imho.
Many consider video games to not occupy the same field of significance as literature, movies, music and other ‘high art’ do, presumably because video games are a fairly new medium. Even though computer games are part of our culture, the conventional belief is that games are not as serious as other media and that they are not as educating, life-changing and inspiring as certain literature can be. But players develop micromanaging skills and logical reasoning when solving conundrums, they are sharpening their sense of orientation when fighting their way through cities, and above all, they learn how to deal with lies, betrayals, trust issues, and misconceptions. Especially when playing a game over the internet (MMORPGs), one encounters actual people and has to utilize communication skills. Playing computer games is therefore not only an interactive activity – meaning the interrelation between man and computer – but also between multiple people and the computer. Computer games open possibilities of a whole new form of communication and a new way of telling stories, across cultural borders and language barriers.
People are eager to interact, actively be part of a story, be involved and be forced to make decisions. Being part of a community and feeling needed and responsible are essential to life. But to do so in everyday activities, at home, school or work does not always seem to be sufficient. One can be satisfied with sitting in an audience and watching a theater play or movie, but part of the reason for our admiration of actors is that they are engaging in worlds far from our own participation. At this point the computer game comes into play: The aspirations to experience strong emotional feelings cannot always be satisfied by the so-called ‘real world’, by passively sitting in an audience. Fiction is not there to escape reality but to engage in multiple realities, to live in two worlds at the same time.
Am I right?!
Image: FanArt Diablo3, by me (©Sarah Friedrich)