Video games are an incredible medium. They allow players to interact and connect with characters and stories in a way that no other form of media can. Because of this power, they have the ability to make bold statements and have deep impacts on those playing them. Video games, either consciously or not, comment on gender, race, violence, politics, etc. These subjects are important to notice and comment on. The majority of video games writing that I enjoy to read is about these types of subject matters. The problem is, if I’m not careful, I can find myself slowly putting blinders on when it comes to video games. I end up reading about or playing a game while specifically looking for the ‘deep’ meanings. It’s important to remember the reason we all fell in love with video games in the first place, and why we continue to play them now: they’re fun.
I started thinking about all of this as a result of a twitter conversation I saw this week. Patrick Klepek, a senior reporter at Kotaku, published an article about a Dark Souls player who is playing through the game with the screen flipped upside down. It was a short article that also praised how Souls fans are always finding new and interesting ways to play the games. On Twitter, a couple of people responded to the article by implying that it was a waste of time that could have been spent covering more important topics. One of Klepek’s tweets during this conversation was, “What’s wrong with people having fun with a game they love?”. It was that idea that got me thinking about this topic in the first place. I get wanting to discuss important topics surrounding video games. There are a lot of issues that I feel very passionately about, and that I want to help change for the better by writing about, but focusing on a fun aspect of a game doesn’t detract from those issues. If a game wasn’t fun to play, we wouldn’t even be talking about it in the first place.
Casting flames on a giant beast. Yep, that looks like fun.
There has been a lot of discussion about race and gender surrounding The Witcher 3. Most reviews and articles about the game have at least touched on these issues, and many have written full posts solely focused on these issues. There are so many people writing about these topics in the game, because there are a lot of people playing it. Tons of people are playing it, because it’s a really fun game. It’s received excellent reviews across the board. Everyone who has played it seems to agree that it is one of the best open world games ever made. More than that, many say that it is one of the best games ever made period. Would there have been as much discussion surrounding this game if the game-play had been poor, and it wasn’t fun? No. A lot of people discuss important topics in great games, but few people discuss mediocre ones.
With any creative work there is going to be an entrance fee: you have to read the words in a book, you have to spend your time paying attention to a film, and you have to progress your character through a video game. With some works, the entrance fee outweighs the reward. If a books is full of grammatical errors and doesn’t flow well, it doesn’t matter how many great ideas it has; no one will read it. Films that focus on important messages still have to contain good acting and cinematography for people to sit through it. If a game isn’t fun, people quit playing it. It’s as simple as that. The ‘fun-ness’ of a game may not seem like a prestigious or important matter to write about, but it’s what determines if people will even be playing the game at all.
Video games are fun, and there’s no shame in talking about that. Obviously, it shouldn’t be the only point of discussion, but it is absolutely worth talking about. There is a balance between only focusing on gameplay and only focusing on themes within the game. For me personally, I have a tendency to get a little too high and mighty at times. I want to only read the powerful and moving articles about games. The truth is, it’s important to sometimes watch a guy play a video game upside down. It’s a reminder about why we play, write, and talk about video games. They’re fun, and there’s nothing wrong about focusing on that aspect. As Klepek says in regards to writing about interesting play-throughs, “There are worse sins.” So go YouTube some crazy sniper shots and speed runs. They may not change your life, but they’ll probably brighten your day, and remind you about why you play video games in the first place.
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