The Occasionally Achingly Poetic Nature Of Video Games
On the surface, there's a lot that is trite, low-brow, or even embarrassing. And sometimes, or most times, nothing lurks beneath that simplistic surface.
But at its core, there is something deeply poetic and inspiring about interactive entertainment. It's akin to that very same sense of intrigue and control we experienced when reading those "Choose Your Own Adventure" books. It echoes in our minds as something unique, a type or form of entertainment that oddly defies standardized labeling and seeks to break heretofore untested boundaries.
And this isn't just about freedom of choice, which is the new trend in video games today. This isn't about being able to explore increasingly realistic worlds or hemming and hawing over an apparently difficult - and likely important - decision. This is simply about the act of participation. We participate in a very different way in this medium; it is active and not passive, and the great games don't always turn our minds off...in fact, many require that our minds function at maximum capacity.
Beyond that, there is an almost ethereal nature to the venue. Perhaps it's most similar to "playing God," in that we are in direct control of what we perceive to be a living thing. At the same time, the danger inherent in such an act (see Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein") is mitigated and almost entirely erased by the fact that indeed, none of it is real. What worries me is when the unreal begins to border too closely on the real, at which point we will face a whole new host of problems that are best saved for another article.
For now, it's merely intriguing to note how we brush upon a previously unknown realm, where we control something that shouldn't really be controllable, and we participate in a way humanity has never experienced. It's true that the majority of games out there aren't exactly trying to be poetic or creative or inspired; many are just kowtowing to the mainstream masses that demand familiarity and accessibility. High-concept ideas have never been for the masses and as such, we have to search for examples of the poetry of which I speak. But they're not that hard to find and when you do find them, you know you're enjoying something singular.
Video games can't aspire to the literary mastery of classic novels or film but then again, they probably shouldn't. Gaming is very much its own form of entertainment, and it provides an original myriad of sensations and emotions, which we should appreciate. That feeling you get upon completing a great game? Upon finishing a fantastical adventure that put you elsewhere for many hours? It's different than finishing a great book. It's not better; it's just different. And that difference is precisely what makes gaming so damn special, and we shouldn't pass that by simply because a franchise like Call of Duty rules the sales charts. There's no fighting mass appeal.
We should appreciate gaming for that intrinsic factor, which is unlike anything else. If we can manage that, at least we'll know, in our heart of hearts, that the naysayers and the skeptics labor in ignorance. That knowledge will keep our mouths silent (for what good would it do to speak up?) and our souls happy.
11/7/2012 10:00:39 PM Ben Dutka