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Game Systems

An electronic game that involves interaction with a user interface to generate visual feedback on a video device.

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Interactive Art

  • Feb 6, 2010
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When I was but a wee little child my parents bought an Nintendo Entertainment System.  Something that, at the time I didn't quite understand.  For one thing, when I finally learned how to use it I was two years old.  I don't remember WHEN they got it, or even the small apartment we lived in at the time.  I just remember sitting there and watching my father play through games like Super Mario Bros., Contra and Tecmo Bowl.  Games that anyone could play.  Games that, for the most part, blew my two year old mind away! (It was early 1989).  I didn't play many games then because at two you kind of look at it and don't know just what the hell you're doing.  

In a way, I was an awkward child.  My hand-eye coordination was terrible.  One day Mom got an idea and decided to finally let me try a video game.  By that time I had turned three years old and they figured why not?  A game like say... Super Mario Bros probably wouldn't be too tough for a three year old to learn (consider what a three year old has to do in a video game NOW to learn it).  For the most part it helped to develop my hand-eye coordination.  So it worked out just fine.  My life, after that, changed forever.  For twenty one years I've been a devoted gamer, and as times have changed I've always been able to adapt.  I began with a standard Nintendo.  I updated to the Super Nintendo (still my favorite system out there) and Sega Genesis, the Nintendo 64 and Playstation.  Had the Playstation 2, XBOX and Gamecube.  Likewise, nothing has stopped me from looking up older games and going back and playing them.  I had handheld systems like the Gameboy, Gameboy Advance and even went out of my way to get a Game Gear.  Now I have a DS, PSP, XBOX360, Wii and PS3--along with all the systems I have listed above.  These are all nice things to have, but I don't have to throw my lot in with any particular system or devotion.  I do it because I love games.

As a result, I've been able to meet many friends and managed to form a network thanks to them that allows me to experience more of gaming.  I don't have to own every game I've ever played, but I do insist it's a good idea to experience them.  Thanks to the incredible amount of time I invest in researching gaming and in part because of my participation when it really hit big (I was fortunate enough to only have to worry about school--not bills) I almost had nothing but time to absorb the knowledge of the gaming universe.  Gaming isn't just a hobby.  It's a lifestyle.  And as I've grown up I watched as it was something that people were ashamed to admit they participated in to being something that many people like to do even in just a casual manner.  There's A LOT to talk about when it comes to video games.  I won't dabble on too much with history but I will address concerns about gaming that non-gamers have because as I've experienced gaming I've also experienced a lot of misinformation out there.  We WILL address the issue of violence in video games briefly but there is much more than just "Are video games too violent," that non-gamers need to know.  Gaming gets more respect than it used to, but it still gets a lot of strange jokes and stereotypes that, should people believe them, might as well also believe that fish fly, that you can breathe in outer space and that the sky is blue because it's reflecting off the ocean.  

This review will be, like a couple of others I've written, divided into parts to sort of really get the point across.  Like comics, movies, music and curling up to read a good book... games are absorbing pieces of entertainment.  And much like these other mediums, Video Games has been seen as the new thing to pick on whenever there's an ill in society.  Just like certain books, music and movies.  Video games just suffer more stigma than they should.  So let's talk a little about them.

Video Games Are Entertainment They're Meant to Have Fun
We're starting off here.  When I first began playing video games... story was hardly anything people worried about.  Story is incredibly important now, but ask anyone and if the gameplay sucks, the story often can't save it.  On the other hand a game with an awful story can be saved by the gameplay.  And many popular games don't even have a story.  The reason say... Wii Sports or even Halo are popular is because they're fun.  Halo has an amazing story, but the multiplayer where you can just go into a death match and kill one another is also a major draw (Halo 3: ODST has a Fire Fight mode and it's addictive).  It's for the same reason you go to the movies.  To be entertained.  When Super Mario Bros. came out in 1985 remember that the only thing to its story was saving a Princess... Mario has repeated the same story time and time again with just about every game in the series (save for the RPG titles) but they're incredibly fun to play.  The 2007 classic Super Mario Galaxy still maintained that same story arc... but it was fun as hell and sold millions of copies.

The Wii pushes fun more than anything, but I think it's also important to realize why it's about fun.  Even those who've been playing for years are attracted to a game's overall gameplay.  That's not to say story isn't important.  It's to say that a bad story can be forgiven if it's fun to play.  But oftentimes a good story can't always save a game from horrible gameplay.

There is one thing to keep in mind about the fun factor.  It's what also can sustain a game long after it's over.  In this day and age there's online gaming to contend with and that is enough to keep people playing for  years on end.  Halo 3 still gets hundreds of thousands (sometimes millions) of gamers a day.  Modern Warfare does the same thing.  They just made a Playstation 3 game called MAG that dedicates itself to this entirely.  But as I said.  Story is important.

Gaming is No Longer Just a Kid's Game... It's an Art Form
People get stingy with this one because it's hard to believe that gaming is... for starters, not entirely something enjoyed by children.  The ESA has reported countless times that games are played primarily by adults (the average gamer is in his thirties).  With that in mind, it's no surprise that video games would try to take on bigger and broader topics and provide more mature content.  While people are always paying attention to how violent say... Grand Theft Auto is, they're forgetting that the violence within the game wasn't just placed there for shock value.  Actually playing through a GTA game uncovers that the game very much provides a serious story and, to a degree, a lot of satire.  A LOT of satire.  Those who've never played the game don't know the satire part.   

My favorite example of this is Metal Gear Solid.  The games are violent.  They're not AS violent as Grand Theft Auto or God of War or Resident Evil, but the interest and draw of the Metal Gear Saga has always been the story for many fans.  In fact, one of the biggest complaints is that there's so much movie and story it's a wonder if you're supposed to be watching or playing.  Other games such as Uncharted 2 have turned video games into interactive movies where the pace keeps moving, but they're telling stories (Uncharted is, for the most part, the video game equivalent of Indiana Jones).  And yes, you can find incredible themes hidden within.  The entire Metal Gear Saga, for example, is set in a dystopian future secretly ruled by a band of people simply known as "The Patriots" and filled with so much that your head would explode trying to sort it all out.  To explain Metal Gear would take too long.  But it has a lot of themes concerning FATE, Freedom, Control and manipulation, what defines a hero and even deals to a huge degree with death and what it means to live.  It's some deep stuff, but it's actually evoked a lot of discussion among the community.  A child shouldn't play Metal Gear Solid.  It has little to do with the violence and more to do with the fact that they simply couldn't grasp the complex themes.

The argument over whether or not games are art is mostly ongoing because many believe that you shouldn't have so much control over someone else's creation.  A dance, for example, is an art but it's a "performance" art.  With video games it's an art you have to participate in.  Sure, you have to drive the main character from point A to point B and ultimately to point Z, but in the midst of that remember that with just about every game... everyone who plays it eventually winds up and sees the same story unfold.  They just might see it unfold in a different way.  Regardless of how you choose to play Metal Gear Solid 4, for example, the outcome, themes and story progression are the samel.  Mass Effect, however, is taking that to new heights, but even then the core of Mass Effect is still a story that everyone can easily discuss with its themes and whatnot.  

Metal Gear and Mass Effect demonstrate that video games are willing to get both deep, thematic and philosophical.  But if philosophy is your thing, the game BIOSHOCK will give it to you.  Video games are beginning to have incredible stories.  So when you tell your child not to play... be warned that it probably isn't because they're not mature enough to handle the violence... but they're probably not mature enough to handle some of the themes and stories that they present.  Final Fantasy alone has been pushing this idea of story telling and themes longer than most any other game series I can think of.  With Final Fantasy IV released in 1991 came this idea that you were getting an interactive novel of sorts.  In order to progress the story gamers not only had to read, but watch as their characters began to take on personality.  Not only that but in order to really get involved you had to use your imagination to imagine the voices for yourself and because of the Super Nintendo's limitations at the time... you also had to have a strong imagination to really bring to life what was happening.  

As gaming has developed it has become an art form all on its own.  Where games are tackling some pretty tough issues because the audience is growing and maturing.  Mass Effect presents the gamer with a lot of heavy themes... just like Metal Gear, but handled in a much better way (Metal Gear makes you feel overwhelmed at times, Mass Effect does not).  Mass Effect also lets you make choices.  Where the player has to sit there and figure out how to solve conflicts and there are consequences.  For a little kid, Mass Effect might actually bore them to death because it deals primarily with things that adults would have to deal with.  They could PLAY it, sure, but the story isn't the kind they'd really appreciate yet.  Not until they're older.

Even more important to consider is that games are produced in the same manner as films now.  The sense being that acting is important too.  And video games that have bad voice acting are duly noted... and quickly.  They've got to bring the story to life.  Gaming has come a long way from jumping from one platform to the next and saving a princess.  You have to wonder how much more devotion Mario can have to save the Princess when say... Shepard Smith is off saving the Galaxy or Solid Snake is thwarting a man hell bent on World Domination.  It doesn't have to be about saving the world.  BioShock's story centers on trying to survive in a world where the inhabitants have been insane, and where two men with differing ideologies have basically made you their puppet.  Gaming is some interesting stuff.  Story is just as important as gameplay now.  You don't HAVE to have a story... but if you're going to stick one in there you've got to make it worth the time of the gamer. 

There's one edge that gaming has over Hollywood, and that's a near unlimited amount of time to tell it's story.  Metal Gear Solid 4, for example, will have you watching and absorbing over ten hours worth of cutscenes totally spliced into the game.  Those cutscenes damn well better be done well if I'm going to watch them (before you start complaining, yes you can skip them you don't have to watch them all... even the first time through and you can still spend a lot of time just messing around).  But can you imagine if a movie was 10 hours long?  You'd be asking for your money back at the two and half hour mark.  In a video game you can pause, save and return later.  Can't do that at the cinema.

Graphics Aren't The Most Important Thing But They Are Important
This is one of the most fun things to discuss with gaming.  Graphics.  Why are they important and why do people feel they have to downplay them?  It's true that many people are attracted to a game's graphics.  But as gaming grows the graphics of a game also become more important.  I must preface this point by first pointing out that the importance of graphics doesn't seem to make the difference in whether or not a system is preferred.  The Super Nintendo, Playstation, Playstation 2, Wii, Gameboy and Nintendo DS all bested their competition without having to have the best graphics to do so.  Because everyone is well aware that the software is more important than the hardware (though the hardware is now more important than ever).  In some instances the difference in graphical capacity hasn't even been worth noting (The Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis, for example... nobody cares which one is graphically more powerful).  But we all know that the Genesis had an edge graphically over the Super Nintendo (Despite the SNES having Donkey Kong Country) and could render a couple of 3D designs better, as well as load stuff much faster (although the Super Nintendo had a bigger variety of colors).  We know the Nintendo 64 was TWICE as powerful as the original Playstation and we all know the XBOX and Gamecube ran games far smoother and had better lighting effects than the Playstation 2 (with the XBOX being the most powerful system of the lot).  And we know the PS3 has a slight graphical edge over the 360 thanks to Blu-Ray... but more than that we know beyond a doubt that the Wii isn't nearly as powerful as the 360 and PS3.  Keeping this in mind remember that the underdogs are constantly the ones which everyone flocks to.

So as we begin to talk graphics, I have to point out that... yes, I agree that graphics being better doesn't mean better game or better system.  However, I do happen to believe, especially in this particular generation, that there is an artistic merit to said graphics.  Let us take a simple game to show that graphics aren't just about power, but about setting a look and tone.  BioShock debuted in 2007.  It's a gorgeous and beautiful game, but it isn't actually being gorgeous and beautiful that makes BioShock's graphics stand out.  It's the world of Rapture that does.  Stepping into Rapture and looking at the rundown city and looking at smashed signs, the denizens that have gone crazy and the like... that's what makes BioShock incredible to look at.  It's the equivalent of how Peter Jackson made sure that Middle Earth looked like Middle Earth.  If Bioshock had been just as pretty but less detailed... it wouldn't have been as interesting.  A video game isn't just supposed to look pretty, it's supposed to draw you in.  BioShock is a great example of this. 

This is why games like Final Fantasy VII are still kind of fun to play through.  Sure those polygons are outdated, but the city of Midgar still has a pulse.  Final Fantasy VII made the best with what it had.  Obviously you wouldn't so stupid as to expect a game made in 1997 to look like a game made in 2010, but the point is that it isn't just about being pretty... it's about art direction as well.  Creating a set and a world.  It makes the world that you're inhabiting come alive.  

That's not to say style isn't important.  It is and that may be a bigger reason why graphics are important.  As I said, BioShock comes alive.  It breathes, but style is important because it also helps in separating one game from another.  Super Mario Galaxy may not be as pretty as BioShock, but it's style is what gives the game its charm.  That and it also happens to do well for the Wii.  Super Mario Galaxy has so far sold more than 8 million copies World Wide.  If you want to see the importance of Art Direction, I think the DS is probably the best place to go.  Games like Professor Layton and Hotel Dusk 215 show the importance of art direction and style.  The art style in Hotel Dusk in particular is the reason WHY those graphics are awesome.  It's a fairly empty game, but it has a comic book like style that sort of reminds you of Sin City while being an interactive novel at the same time.  It's comic book like appeal is part of the reason you just like looking at it.  It's not as pretty or as good looking as BioShock... hell, it isn't even as good looking as Donkey Kong Country was on the Super Nintendo... but it has character.  It's artistic style is what gives it character.  Put simple it's like when you walk out and you've got something that clearly defines you to all your friends.  Maybe a special kind of ear piercing, or a tattoo... or maybe you're the type that always leaves the house and puts on a hat for what you do.  These are little things but they give you character... and to friends can make you recognizable.  Sometimes that's really all a game needs in terms of graphics... style.  Mad World on the Wii may not be as powerful as say... Gears of War 2 on the XBOX360... but it's style is the strength of the games graphical capacity.  The 2D Castlevania games on the DS are popular in part because of art direction.  You'd be surprised how important the graphical sprites of a game are to some people, or how important a character model is to others. 

That's the importance of graphics.  They allow you to be immersed in a game.  It's about drawing you into the world not exactly about being these incredibly powerful games. 

Yet let's not pretend that graphics is all about how a game looks.  The other thing that's important about graphics is the thing so few people are willing to point to.  There's a technical aspect to graphics that rarely gets attention and it's probably the part of the graphics debate that should.  Knights of the Old Republic 2, which came out on the XBOX around 2004 was, for the most part, a good game.  It looked alright, but the biggest complaint with the graphics was bugs.  How sometimes the game might slow down.  I was playing once and suddenly just sort of... dropped through the ground and died.  At another instance the game had a tendency to randomly freeze up.  This was on a disc with no scratches.  There's a technical portion of the game that requires a look.  How... well... COMPLETE is it?  Games based off movies suffer from it all the time.  You can see bits of clipping (where a piece of the environment is... uh... missing a piece, or where someone's leg is in the ground or something and it clearly shouldn't be).  You might see flickering (where parts of an environment flicker in and out and they clearly shouldn't be) or... one of the biggest killers out there... frame rate.  When you're playing a game and slows down.  You all know this as lag.  Even a game that's awfully pretty can be harmed by frame rate issues.  Grandia II, the port of the Dreamcast RPG worked well on the Dreamcast, but the frame rate on the PS2 version was so lagged down you had to be a very patient gamer to get through it at some parts.  The reissue of Final Fantasy Tactics on the PSP has frame rate issues so bad that some gamers opt to just play the original Playstation game, in spite of its botched localization (for those who don't know what that is... it's translation).

The point is, a game's graphics are measured not just in how powerful they are... or how pretty, but also in how much character they provide for the game... and how well it runs.  A game with bad graphics usually isn't hindered much unless it just happens to be that the game is really awful to play.  But in terms of how a game's graphics can affect the gameplay... they can, and don't think they can't.

The Sound of Music...
Another aspect where gaming is growing and becoming important?  Music.  I know gamers who can't even bother to play through even a good game if the music is awful.  Hey, if you have listen to it all the way through... they better make the soundtrack good at least.  The 360 solves this problem by allowing you to play music if you happen to hate a game's soundtrack.  On the other hand music is important to a video game the same way it's important to a movie.  It gives you a feel for how things are playing out.  In a level that is dark and mysterious in a game you very much want the music to be kind of dark and murky just the same.  Final Fantasy relies VERY heavily on its music to enhance the gameplay.  So do other games.  Final Fantasy is a nice example, though because it also has to set a mood and tone for many of the games bigger elements.  Not just its cutscenes but in those moments where your characters might just be standing around and talking, or as you're traversing a dungeon.  It's important because music sets the mood and tone.

When music isn't utilized well it can make you feel... very strange at certain moments.  Final Fantasy X-2 is a good example here.  You listen to it and during certain moments where someone is in some very pivotal danger they're making this cute little girly music that sounds like something ripped from Charlie's Angels.  For whatever reason when saving someone who is about to die you feel like busting out into a Michael Jackson dance step.  Ummm... no, if I'm about to die and the people who are supposed to saving me start to bust out in dance moves... I think I'd rather die.  Final Fantasy X-2 has several moments where the JPOP beat of the music ruins some of the games more dramatic moments.

But the voice acting is important now too.  You may not have to read in a video game much anymore, but you DO want your voice actors to be good.  If a character has just survived hell, you want him to SOUND like he has (and in gaming nearly EVERY character has survived hell).  When Nathan Drake just barely escaped that helicopter in Uncharted 2 (thanks to your excellent skills, of course) he's panting, he sounds nervous and even throws in a joke to calm himself down.  Yeah, you WANT that from a game.  Bad voice acting gives you... Resident Evil.  I can't help myself.  If you're a gamer you know that the best example ever of bad voice acting (AND bad writing) is the very first Resident Evil in 1996.  

What About VIOLENT Video Games, Sean?  The VIOLENT Video Games That are Destroying Society?
If you believe that, then you've been listening to Jack Thompson who knows about as much about video games as an American does about soccer.  The point being, he knows the basics but not exactly the full story.  The first thing I have to say about that is that you keep your kid from playing violent video games the same way you keep him from watching violent movies.  You monitor him.  You can't be with him all the time, but you can be with him enough to make sure you teach him.  Violent video games aren't as big of a problem as the parent who neglects to find out just what kind of games his kid is playing... or the kind of content that's in a game.  Luckily, as I said earlier, video games are primarily played by adults now.  The theory here is that the medium became really popular in the 70's and if you were a kid in the 70's you probably grew up with video games and got attached.  Thus as you went into adulthood you didn't stop and then you had kids and introduced them to video games as well.  If you were born in the 70's and you still play games from that era... you're in your thirties.  If you were born in the 80's and played video games (like I was) you're in your twenties.

That's the theory, I don't actually know if that's true... but it kind of makes sense, yes?  More than that, it's also that many people who are developing these games are not, in fact, children.  You don't think people who make games wouldn't play them, do you?  Is it so unusual, then, that adults making video games would want to appeal to adults?

As far as violence in games is concerned, though, I think you'll find that the world isn't quite as violent as you might think.  And while there are plenty of violent games... it's the least violent that shoot up the sales chart.  The Wii is the bestselling console in this particular gaming generation, for heaven's sake.  But more than that, it just seems that if video games made everyone who played them violent then the world would be a bloodbath.  Japan has some of the most violent games out there (and have for decades, most games on the Super Nintendo went through heavy censorship upon entering the US) and yet they've got one of the lowest crime rates in the world.  According to the FBI as video games have become more violent... violent crime among the youth has actually decreased.  The point is that complaining about violence in video games is more of a moral outrage than it is an issue that's actually sweeping the land.  The games are violent, but the violent games have neither taken over, nor have they taught your kids how to kill.  Squeezing a trigger on an actual gun is far different from squeezing the trigger on an XBOX360 controller or clicking a mouse.  

Also, a lot of violent video games don't rise quite as fast on the charts.  Sure you've got Call of Duty or Halo... but you've also got games less violent that really soar on the charts.  The Final Fantasy games are selling in truck loads but contain no blood in them.  Super Mario always drops and stomps on its competition (New Super Mario Bros on the Wii has outsold Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2, for example) and even in the past games like Kingdom Hearts, Mario Kart Wii and even puzzle games like Tetris etc. have thrived.  Mario Kart Wii, for example, crushed Grand Theft Auto IV in sales... but you don't hear about that.

Part of the reason Violent Video games becomes a huge outrage is because it makes for an interesting story.  Just telling you someone was murdered wasn't enough.  We LOVE to have someone or something to blame for the murder.  We want ANSWERS and sometimes it's easier to blame something which can't defend itself.  Video Games are that thing right now.  Consider that sometimes you hear things like, "Teen kills mother... Police find copy of Grand Theft Auto IV in his house."  It doesn't specifically SAY Grand Theft Auto IV was the cause.  They're letting you make that connection yourself.  But in almost every instance where people pointed to the video game authorities have ALWAYS found something else that makes them say, "It couldn't have been the video game."  If you walk into anyone's home who has murdered someone... you're likely to find other things too.  Violent movies, music that contains explicit lyrics.  These are all things that were once blamed for violence among youth (to an extent they still are) but with Video Games here, it takes that pressure off.  You never hear a news report saying "Teen kills mother, police searched his myspace and found hateful blogs and premeditation at work..."  That won't sell in the News Media.  But create a fear out of violent video games and it will.

The reason that it's hard to determine whether or not video games make one violent is mainly because of so many other factors.  For example, if a teenager commits a violent crime... just finding a copy of Grand Theft Auto Vice City doesn't exactly mean he used it to train on.  There's hardly a definite link.  Remember, Charles Whitman didn't have Grand Theft Auto.  For those who don't know who Charles Whitman is, he was the man who attended the University of Texas.  On August 1, 1966 he bought a sniper rifle to school, climbed the observation tower and unloaded.  Before Virginia Tech that was the most deadly school shooting on a college campus we experienced.  We can talk about the violence in video games, but it seems unrealistic to assume your teenager doesn't know what's fake and what isn't.  It's unrealistic to assume he can't tell fiction from reality at age say... 16.  Chances are he can.  If you're letting him watch violent movies, read violent novels and watch violent television he should understand the difference between reality and fantasy.  If that's the case, I think it's safe to say that he knows when he's killing someone in real life and when he's killing someone in a game.  

We can say without a doubt that video games play a hand in desensitizing us, but we were well on our way to being desensitized long before video games came around (have you ever watched any forensic show?  A Quentin Taraninto movie?).  The point is that while there's violence in video games the medium has become a scapegoat for people who don't know why some people do some bad things.  Jack Thompson relies on it just a little too much.  When Virginia Tech happened, for example, Jack Thompson found the nearest camera he could find and went on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News to blame video games... even after we discovered the shooter was mentally ill and that he actually sent off tapes to NBC detailing exactly why he did it and what influenced him.  Jack Thompson still held firm (even when learning the guy didn't play video games). 

The problem with violent video games and whether or not they cause people to become violent is that it's easy to point to them, but it seems unreal that so many people think so little of kids... especially teenagers who, in high school, are likely to know much more than they're given credit for.  The myth that video games are for kids is primarily what fuels this debate.  No one, for whatever reason, seems to care when a mother takes her fifteen year old to an "R" Rated movie like Sin City... but if they play a video game like God of War all hell will break loose.  What makes it that they're more responsible for the graphic violence of Sin City but that they aren't prepared for the digital violence of God of War?  One is displaying something far more realistically than the other.

I don't want a debate, only asking that if violence in video games is so bothersome, you have to be the one to step up and tell your children that they can't play a specific game.  You can't be with them all the time, but what you're teaching them will come through... even if it means waiting a while for it to happen.  But if you're good at instilling good morals (including the ever important "Don't kill someone, even if they're an asshole to you.") then you've totally got to have faith in the fact that you're the boss and not the video game.

What About Women?  Do They Play Video Games?
The answer is yes.  Women play video games.  Yes, most gamers are men.  In fact, an overwhelming amount are men.  That mostly depends on the type of game you're looking at, however.  It seems like many women will play puzzle games and even fantasy games like World of Warcraft.  It's actually not unusual to find women playing different kinds of games than what men would play (or the same games for that matter).  A LOT of women play games like The Sims.  If you want to open up the definition of video games to games you find on your cell phone and solitaire on the office computer, then the number of female gamers exceeds that of men.  I can't tell you what kind of game a woman wants to play, but I can tell you that you probably won't find too many women playing Cal of Duty Modern Warfare 2.  

The point, however, is that women actually DO play video games and to assume they don't, or that they don't have knowledge of gaming because their women isn't exactly going to win you points.  You probably wouldn't know too much about video games either if you didn't play them... but your gender probably isn't the reason you don't play them.  There are female gamers... and there are more out there than you think... many just might not exactly play the same kinds of games that men play.  But just because say... your sister prefers Mario Party 8 or Guitar Hero to the likes of Modern Warfare 2 or Uncharted 2: Among Thieves doesn't suddenly make her any less of a gamer or anything like that.  It simply means her tastes differ from yours.  I grew up in a household where my mother was a devoted gamer until 2001.  She still plays video games.  Even though the majority are the type you find on your cell phone or that you might download online (Freeware Games) or things like Bejeweled, but she's still playing.  She just isn't as much for Console Games as she used to be.  She played Video Games on our NES, SNES, Genesis, N64 and Playstation.  She stopped with console games when we got to the Playstation 2.  And she played the same games I played.  Ones that are supposedly for men.  But she played, enjoyed and conquered some of them.

Gaming comes in many different shapes and forms and some of them aren't exactly on a console.

What About How Lumpy, Fat and Lazy Gamers Are?
This is actually the stereotype I think is the most annoying.  "Little Timmy is a blob because he never goes out to exercise because he's too busy playing video games all damn day!"  You know... "Little Timmy" might also stay inside all day reading books, watching TV all day, surfing the web all day or maybe he's just lazy.  The video games didn't make him lazy, though.  He was already lazy. 

But the most important thing I have to point out is that you can't be a gamer and be all about gaming.  It doesn't work that way.  Gamers have surprisingly active lives.  When I was in high school EVERY gamer I knew had other things on their mind.  Many people go around thinking that gamers think about video games all the time and that they don't partake in other things.  Uh, I hate to break it to you, but society works in a way that a gamer couldn't possibly do nothing but play games.  There's always that joke about the fat guy that lives in his parents basement (if that happens it's because the parents didn't kick fatass the hell out) but a gamer just can't live his life that way.  In the first place he'll need a job to buy more games and that'll put him out in the real world anyway.  

More than that, it's actually that while gaming can be addicting... a responsible human being kind of needs to do other things.  It's unrealistic to think an overwhelming majority of gamers would neglect their bills, their children, their friends and family and in the end... their lives for a video game. 

Gaming addiction DOES happen and it IS nasty, but seeing that one parent who threw their life away on World of Warcraft doesn't really represent the other 10 million people who play--the majority of whom know restraint.  Dr. Phil once ran an entire episode on video game addiction and labeled it quite dangerous... as though anyone who ever touched a keyboard to play World of Warcraft would suddenly be put under a spell that would keep them engrossed in the keyboard.  As though one can't get addicted to reading either.  Or that they can't get addicted to other things that would keep them away from their family or cause bigger problems... you know, like alcoholism or a drug addiction etc.  I'm only throwing those out there because they're much bigger problems than Video Game addiction but when people bring up video game addiction suddenly they forget that other addictions are out there as well.  It's mostly brought on by the fact that gaming is relatively new.  We've been dealing with alocholism and drug addiction forever.  People don't IGNORE them but it's more acceptable that it happens.  We haven't been beat over the head enough times with video game addiction that we shrug our shoulders and say, "There's nothing we can do about it."  That sounds depressing as hell to say... but there is merit in it.  Alcoholism and Drug Addiction are common enough it's considered... well... normal that it happens in society.  We haven't gotten to that point with video game addiction yet.  And what's sad is that Video Game addiction reports are disturbingly rare when compared to the other two.

But that also means people overplay the video game addiction thing.  In the same manner Dr. Phil did.  When each time you hear about video games in the news and it's always something bad... then of course those who've never been exposed to video games or play them are going to believe that.  It's ALL they've been hearing.

When it comes to lumpy, fat and lazy... most gamers lives are just far too busy for them to be such.  The number who neglect their daily lives for gaming are very few and far between.  When you're younger you have more time for gaming because as a kid you don't have too much responsibility except for maybe school and perhaps your chores.  As an adult?  There's jobs, bills, taking care of your kids and countless errands.  Sometimes you want to play but you realize you've got to get the car fixed... or something in the house broke down and you've got to take care of it.  Not to mention you have to sleep sometime.

And let's not forget there are other forms of entertainment out there.  Do you really think gamers don't go to the movies, read books, watch TV etc.?  For those who are teenagers... if they participate in after school activities and love them enough to keep going with them... they're bound to want to stay in them.  Gaming is a fun aspect of life but in terms of how much people play or what they'll put aside for it it's a little overstated while the people who are apt to put the game away for days at a time are heavily understated.  In reality, the typical gamer is kind of boring to hear about, when you think about it.  The guy who gets so addicted to World of Warcraft and loses his assets just makes a better (and more entertaining) story for the media than say the gamer that plays for a few hours a day and then devotes the rest of his time to other things and doesn't actually become a drone.  The drone is more interesting to hear about.  As I've said elsewhere... the media wants the story that's going to evoke action and a shocking response.  It's why the guy who commits a murder is more interesting to hear about than the guy who stopped it.  You wouldn't want to write a news story about plain old movie goer because you know a plain old movie goer is boring.  Why would you think a plain old gamer would suddenly be any different?

What About Movies Based Off Video Games?
Uh... they suck.  Always.  But there are reasons for this.  Many times, movies based off video games that go straight to DVD (primarily those that are anime) are actually not half bad.  But if you're talking the ones released to theaters like... Lara Croft: Tomb Raider... or Resident Evil or Mortal Kombat or movies like that... they're usually pretty bad. 

There are a couple of reasons for this, but the biggest one seems to be that Hollywood doesn't take gaming seriously and they, for God knows what reason, think that gamers are a bunch of teenagers with the attention span of hyperactive puppy with a severe case of ADHD.  In short they think teenagers are cute... but stupid.  Hollywood seems to think that teenagers actually play these games because they're pretty and not because they're fun or have interesting stories. They ALSO assume that very few adults are playing them.

Those who know me know that I usually don't care for whether or not Hollywood gets the adaptation right.  With gaming that attitude came from the sense that I think Hollywood hasn't learned how to make an interactive experience into a visual one yet.  It isn't just that they think gamers are stupid, it also comes from the fact that they seem to look at the game and say, "This sounds like a really cool title.  How much did it sell?  That much, eh?  Wow.  We might be able to make money off a movie with this!"

The games they pick are often odd too.  The reason no gamer in their entire life could've actually hoped for a good adaptation of Super Mario Bros. is because... well... how the hell would you have done that?  The move came out in the early 90's off the success of Super Mario World.  But consider that it's not like Mario provided much of a narrative anyway for them to follow.  And when Mortal Kombat was released in 1995?  Same deal.  There just wasn't much of a narrative for them to base it off of.

"Well, Resident Evil had a narrative," you might say.  It is rather strange that the Resident Evil movies are quite popular among gamers.  Those are, for the most part, horrible films... but they're even WORSE adaptations.  The cheesy action, horrible cinematography and terrible writing get to me, but what I always find laughable is that Resident Evil, quite literally gave them something without them having to dig.  They could've easily made a movie with Chris and Jill being trapped in a mansion and uncovering a web of conspiracies.  The game already gave them a setting, a situation and characters but they ignored it because (you guessed it) they think gamers weren't playing it for those things.  They weren't paying attention to the story with Resident Evil or the fact that many gamers find the fictional conspiracy theory quite enticing... what they were paying attention to was, "Gamers want hot chicks and explosions!"  Which would be cool if that was actually why Resident Evil became popular in the first place.  But remember, when Hollywood adapts a video game they're not trying to appeal to gamers, they're trying to appeal to teenage movie goers that they believe don't care about substance... and they do THAT because they think the majority of gamers are... well... teenagers.

The last thing seems to be that the video game medium may actually be too complex for Hollywood.  This is an actual theory.  Let's take Mass Effect.  Just to make the first game into a movie and do it right... they'd need SEVERAL films just for the first one.  In short, if you want to adapt a video game... a television series would be far more apt than a movie to do so.  Depending on the game.  This may be why in Japan when they adapt a JRPG they make an anime series out of it instead of simply making a movie.  It just happens to be better suited for it (the most recent I saw was Valkyria Chronicles). 

I think Hollywood taking an interest in gaming is a pretty cool thing because you can expose more people to something like Resident Evil... the problem is that they seem to be way more interested in the money aspect more so than creating something of good quality.  The fact that Paul W.S. Anderson is the big heavy weight is worse... because even his movies that aren't based off video games are terrible.  The point is simple, though... unlike books video games not only have something written already (comics, graphic novels... hell even the goddamn instruction manual!  Oh, and did I mention that people will write and post full game scripts at GameFAQs.com) but they even provide something visual to show you exactly what you need to be doing.  Of course, that's also why Hollywood ignores it.  Who wants to see a movie about Chris and Jill roaming a mansion when you can already do that in the game itself?  Point taken.  There's that whole imagination thing.  But if that's the case... why adapt anything?  Hollywood adapts countless books all the time.  If the argument against actually following the game narrative when it's there is, "Well, if they wanted that they could just play the game..." then why adapt the book when they could just read the book?

You don't adapt a video game for the sake of gamers... you do it for the sake of NON-GAMERS who don't want to play it, but who want to be in on the action.

On the other hand, I usually don't mind if a video game adaptation gets it right so much as I want it to be a good film.  Which is more why I get disappointed.  It isn't that Hollywood can't do it.  It's more based on the fact that Hollywood has this idea of who gamers are that they keep holding onto.  Their theory for making a video game adaptation?  "Put explosions in it, make sure you've got a hot chick... satisfied fanboys."  Unfortunately I don't fall into that bracket.  I like explosions but too many give me a headache and hot chicks has never been a driving force me to go to the movies... ever.  What I'm saying is that video game adaptations would be better if they went for substance rather than thinking their audience was too stupid to appreciate it.

And What About You, Sean?
What about me?  I suppose you could say that I do love gaming.  Part of my life is centered around it.  The history, the news the innovations.  It's not my first love but it's big enough that it's a part of me in a way that perhaps only fellow gamers (or those who have to deal with those gamers) might understand.  If you're going to take me you better be prepared to bring the games along as well (along with my books and movies--especially the movies).  For about as long as I've had a conscious memory I have been a gamer.  It's a part of me.

But it doesn't rule me.

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July 11, 2011
Video games have become an art form. I hope that people continue to read high quality books concurrent with playing video games.
August 20, 2010
Great article. It really is interesting to see how video games have changed and which of my friends/family have stopped playing games, and which have continued. I think the new Metroid: Other M game is explicitly trying to target "abandoned gamers" with its simple play control and 2.5D style. Speaking of which, I was a bit disappointed that you didn't mention Metroid and Zelda - two games that are popular, non-violent, and have great atmospherics and music. I think a decent movie could be made on either game, although I wouldn't trust Hollywood to do it. Keep writing these articles.
February 13, 2010
Boy talk about someone who is passionate about their games Great Review as always Sean.
February 10, 2010
Outstanding! As you know, I was a gamer back in the days of PSOne and PS2, then I quit for awhile and focused more on other things. I've just recently picked up the controlller again and I tend to look for violent, realistic games. Video games don't destroy society, as with any other medium, it all matters on how it is wielded.
February 08, 2010
Wow, as you know, I never really grew up gaming-wise (still very much attached to my SNES!), so it's very interesting to read about the evolution on gaming in the past couple decades through the eyes of a avid gamer. Thanks for sharing, Sean! :)
February 08, 2010
Great, well-written review of video games, Sean! I really enjoyed reading your in-depth thoughts, many of which I agree with. :)
February 06, 2010
Wow. That's all well and good, but what do you really think about games, Sean?
February 06, 2010
I may only be two years older than you, but you're making me feel ancient, what with my Atari, Sega, and Playstation...I haven't even heard of a lot of these games. Does anyone remember the original "Donkey Kong", "Keystone Caper" or "Stampede"?
February 09, 2010
My man, there you go! The "E.T." game was absolute crap, so was "Raiders of the Lost Ark". However, the various "Star Wars" ones weren't bad. I think I have three or four of those. I still can't figure out what to do in "E.T.". Even the directions sucked.
More Video Games reviews
review by . February 25, 2013
Thank you, world.
Four words: I LOVE VIDEO GAMES!!!!! I thank you, world for having video games in our lives, because that is the greatest invention ever. I hope you all reading this feel the same and agree with me. :)
Quick Tip by . October 10, 2013
Abominable monstrosities that take all your time away from productive pursuits!! Why does God allow them to exist??
Quick Tip by . September 26, 2010
One of mankinds greatest inventions. Forget sliced bread.
Quick Tip by . August 11, 2010
If you're a guy gamer, and looking for a way to get your non-gamer girlfriend involved, try the game "Eternal Sonata". The game play is fun and second player is the prefect amount of involvement for a non-gamer like myself!
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Sean A. Rhodes ()
Ranked #7
I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … more
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A video game is an electronic game that involves interaction with a user interface to generate visual feedback on a video device. The word video in video game traditionally referred to a raster display device. However, with the popular use of the term "video game", it now implies any type of display device. The electronic systems used to play video games are known as platforms; examples of these are personal computers and video game consoles. These platforms range from large computers to small handheld devices. Specialized video games such as arcade games, while previously common, have gradually declined in use.

The input device used to manipulate video games is called a game controller, and varies across platforms. For example, a dedicated console controller might consist of only a button and a joystick. Another may feature a dozen buttons and one or more joysticks. Early personal computer games often needed a keyboard for gameplay, or more commonly, required the user to buy a separate joystick with at least one button. Many modern computer games allow, or even require, the player to use a keyboard and mouse simultaneously.

Video games typically also use other ways of providing interaction and information to the player. Audio is almost universal, using sound reproduction devices, such as speakers and headphones. But other feedback may come via haptic peripherals, such as vibration or force feedback, with vibration sometimes used to simulate force ...
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