A large portion of my adolescence was spent playing video games.
It has taken a long time for me to ask… why?
Here’s what I found.
Why video games are so appealing:
It’s a distraction from the troubles in real life
Is public school a bleak and repulsive place full of awkward posturing teens? Does it seem better to just get away from it all?
If those are your beliefs, you are probably an introverted teen that plays video games. And that is fine!
The problem is that some people (like I did) take it too far. They want to be immersed in the worlds of video games 24/7 because there is seemingly nothing for them in the real world.
Avoid this mentality at all costs.
The stories are fantastic and you are the hero
Your imagination can create fantastic things. But video games are one of the few mediums that bring your imagination to life and make it interactive!
Where else but in a video game can you assume the role of a female bounty hunter wearing an alien power suit that explores an alien world to battle space pirates and their boss, a giant mechanical brain (Metroid).
Where else but in a video game can you assume the role of a red-haired, katana wielding, time traveling hero that saves the world from an alien that destroys the world in the distant future. Then, you can start over and face the boss at different periods in the story, affecting the ending.
There are hundreds of great games out there. The worlds depicted in video games are fantastic and unique. And you assume the role of the hero saving the world. That appeal is difficult to separate yourself from.
Playing games is a skill that you can refine with practice and time
With enough practice, you can become very skilled in a competitive game and possibly make it a career by participating and winning in tournaments.
If you have ever played games such as Super Smash Bros., Street Fighter, Pokemon or any other renowned competitive game, you know this is true.
If you are not a gamer, look up “street fighter tournament” or “Super Smash Bros. tournament” on YouTube and take a look at some of the videos. Gamers are as enthusiastic about competitive games as others are enthusiastic about sports.
The bitter truth about video games
“You accepted the fiction we’ve provided, obeyed our orders
and did everything you were told to. The exercise is a resounding success.”-MGS2
This is a game that drastically changed my perspective about video games.
“Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty” is regarded in the gaming community as a cult classic. The opinions on this game are very polarized. Gamers either love it or hate it.
It’s a sequel to the action/espionage game “Metal Gear Solid” for the Playstation.
Let me summarize the plot, and you will see the profound decisions made by its developers.
You start off as the main character from the first game, Solid Snake. You infiltrate an oil tanker that the military is secretly using to build a weapon with nuclear capabilities called Metal Gear. Before escaping with evidence of the military’s actions, the ship is destroyed by a villain from the previous game and you are framed for causing a massive oil spill.
Then the game “restarts”, 2 years pass and you play as a new character called Raiden for the rest of the game. You infiltrate an oil cleaning facility that was built to clean the oil spill from the tanker. The oil cleaning facility has been hijacked by terrorists who have the President of the United States captive and you must rescue him.
The mechanics of playing the games are explained to you a second time by a man call Roy Campbell also known as the Colonel. He guides you throughout the game. He is also the same person who guided you in the first game.
As you traverse the game, you encounter a lot of armed mercenaries and surreal villains such as a rollerblading bomb specialist, a woman who can miraculously deflect bullets, and a man who seemingly has the abilities of a vampire.
Near the end of the game, reality is falling apart in the “game world”. You end up in an underwater fortress underneath the oil cleaning facility. The floor lights up with your footsteps. There are bizarre digital codes floating around the corners of the room. You receive bizarre messages from the Colonel. And you cannot communicate with any of the other characters.
Then, throughout the grand finale, you slowly find out what the developers set out to do:
(watch the first 2 minutes)
From “Raiden’s” perspective, the messages you received from the Colonel were generated by an AI housed in the underwater fortress. That AI was becoming corrupted due to your actions. And you are in some sort of bizarre simulation and slowly becoming aware of it.
From the “player’s” perspective, it is a metaphorical slap in the face. It was the game developer’s way of sending the player a philosophical message.
The developers knew that most people playing the game were expecting a typical video game sequel. They got it, but only in the first part of the game! The rest of the game is purposefully just a copy of the story elements from the first game!
By the end, the developers are practically shouting “You are not a legendary super soldier! You are just a kid staring at a tv and punching buttons on a piece of plastic!” to you, the player.
This is known as “breaking the fourth wall”, a term from the theater. It means that the characters in a story are aware that they are fictional and they address the audience on that point.
It was my first time experiencing 4th wall breaking and a misleading story on such a well-executed manner.
It was enough for me to question why I was obsessed with video games when reality has much more to offer than these rigid “simulations”.
No matter how fun a video game is, it is a rigid story where every possible action you take is predetermined by the developers who made it. And all your doing is punching buttons on a piece of plastic.
Although they are fun, they are also a MASSIVE distraction from the life. If you are truly addicted to them, the best thing to do is to quit cold turkey or indulge in a more productive and equally enjoyable passtime.
Instead of spending time playing games, why not make your own?
I will cover this in my next article.
P.S.: The story of this game is much more profound and philosophical than what I’ve told you. The overall theme of the game was to cover a social topic called memes. If you want to know more, watch this video: