Video Games: An Underrated and Underutilized Form of Entertainment

Video Games: An Underrated and Underutilized Form of Entertainment

The phrase “video game” is interpreted by most as an activity related to solitude, laziness, violence, financial irresponsibility, and time-wasting. It is a sad perception, but this is the idea that has been implanted in the minds of non-gamers everywhere. However, the depiction of video games as a useless invention, as well as the portrayal of those who play them as lazy and unmotivated, is far from truth.

Video games have changed enormously over their history, evolving from a hobby in which one would solitarily immerse oneself into a much more social experience. They have transformed from a way to kill free time into tools for the development of physical and mental fitness. Games have turned into an art form, a creative outlet, and a constructive use of time rather than a mind-numbing experience. There are numerous ways in which video games may benefit those who play them, yet much of society seems determined to remain oblivious to this.

The stereotypical gamer is one who sits in his basement nightly, unaware of the world around him, withdrawn from any social interaction. In the age of the internet, this is nearly unheard of. Nearly every major title on the market has some form of multiplayer mode, and every current game system supports voice chat which keeps players in constant communication with each other, and studies have shown that online interaction is beneficial for kids. Not only do most games support discussion between players, but team based games encourage it through the advantage that working collaboratively gives one team over its foes. Some games, such as League of Legends, promote teamwork and sportsmanship through various different methods. In-game messages sometimes pop up onscreen reminding players that their teammates will likely perform poorer if harassed. League of Legends actually has an entire honour system devoted to rewarding sportsmanlike players, as well as a code which outlines ideal behaviour from players. Other games like Portal 2, a puzzle solving game based around navigating courses by traveling through strategically placed portals, offer cooperative problem solving, and difficult problem solving at that, for hours on end. Even single player puzzle games like Q.U.B.E. can be played together by friends trying to beat each other’s best times through each level. Ultimately, even single player games can be social experiences if the players make it so.


Portal 2

Another thing puzzle games do extremely well is encourage creative thinking. Portal, Q.U.B.E., Quantum Conundrum, and several other titles require out-of-the-box thinking to navigate the complex levels created by the developers, and thinking such as this keeps one’s brain extremely active, and it also builds problem solving skills. Additionally, games have an impact on the ways in and level at which one’s brain functions, notably affecting spatial cognitive skills as well as reflexes and sensory perception. Even when one’s brain is still forming, and when they are still learning basic communication skills, video games are a highly useful tool. Many games developed and marketed for kids have no voice-over, meaning kids must read both the storyline as it unfolds and the instructions that guide them through the game. For those who begin gaming before they ever set foot in a classroom, this forces them to learn to read years before other kids simply because parents do not appreciate being asked “what does this say?” every five minutes. On top of the benefits to mental wellness, there are also a plethora of games available which promote physical fitness. Nintendo’s Wii Fit provides an excellent balance of strength and aerobic exercises in an interactive and entertaining format. Dance Dance Revolution even has a calorie counter in game that gives players a rough idea of how many calories they have burned based on their mass and the level of exercise each song demands. While not all games have a physical or mental benefit to them, there is certainly a market of such products, and these products prove quite effective.

When games are discussed in the media, they are more often than not accused of being mindless, violent, uncultured pastimes, but this is not the case. Not all games are violent like Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty, but unfortunately anybody who watches the news would likely think they are. Especially in today’s games, so much time and effort is put into both the visuals and the audio that it has spawned an enormous appreciation for what is essentially “video game art”. Skyrim is a prime example of said art. While the game is focused around a war in a fictional land as well as an invasion of dragons, it is such a beautiful game that one cannot help but be awestruck when they first play it. Splendidly rendered mountains, plains, and even aurora borealis grace this game’s remarkable atmosphere, and the award winning soundtrack complements it further. To call Skyrim “art” would not be a stretch at all.

Perhaps the greatest feature of games like this is the ability of players to create and change things within the game. Modifications, more commonly known as mods, take numerous hours to perfect and implement, but they are an excellent way to apply one’s creativity. Between the art in the games themselves and the tools that gamers are given, it is no wonder that a sub-culture appreciating the beauty of video games has emerged, with even an art museum opening a gaming exhibit.

While many people will of course remain steadfast in their unjustifiable crusade against video games, it is important that society as a whole come to recognize the potential that this industry has. They are a platform for social interaction, mental and physical development, and the creation of an entire culture. Games must be viewed as not just toys, but also tools, and when they finally are, then their true potential may be unlocked.

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