Over on GoNintendo.com, there’s a post mentioning how someone is making a call out to videogame enthusiasts to share with her how and why videogames are important to them. She has friends who are into gaming, but by and large she thinks they are a waste of time, and she honestly wants to know why we lot love them so much and spend so much time with them, talking about them, reading about them, and of course playing them. Here then, is my personal reasoning.
Videogames, and this is a heavily contended debate these days, are art. Maybe not in a traditional sense, like a book or painting, but certainly in the same breadth of scope as a film. There are producers, directors, writers, tech people, even actors in some cases. There are set designers (artists), wardrobe people (character artists), and so and so forth. All of these parts come together to make one wholly envisioned piece of electronic entertainment… just like a movie. We’ve even had our own Ctizen Kane in the form of a boy named Link saving the world with a horse and an ocarina. Like silent films to talkies to big budget digitally animated adventures, games have grown in terms of execution at an alarming rate.
But all of this is beside the point. In my book, what makes a game art is the fact that it shares one overarching characteristic with a book, an album, a painting, or a film: the mark it leaves on a person. Really now, I’m not being cryptic. Think about it. Just as we have favorite movies, or scenes, favorite books, favorite paintings… we have favorite games. There are games, just like movies, that make heavy impressions on our memories. I can still remember the first time I ever held a Nintendo controller.
I was five. It was in my neighbor’s parents’ bed room. My sister and her friend we playing Super Mario Bros. They let me try. I closed my eyes, hammered the A button, and ran to the right. I nearly finished the level by a shear stroke of luck. The next time I kept my eyes open. I wasn’t scared of it anymore. I was enthralled. Over my childhood, I played hundreds of games on everything from the NES to the Dreamcast as a teenager (yes, I’m young). Across those many systems there are dozens of gaming experiences I remember fondly. Playing my brother for an entire Saturday in NBA Jam on our SNES. Spending an entire Christmas vacation at my Dad’s holed up in the bedroom, playing Breath of Fire and Clayfighter.
I remember my first real RPG on an old Compaq Presario: Ultima VII – The Black gate. I remember how I had an entire virtual world at my disposal. I could be evil or good, I could rob from people in the night as they slept. I could sail the seas. I could lead my own life as a fantastic hero. In the Ocarina of Time, played over the course of 2 months stuck at home with a torn ACL as a high school freshman, I can still remember how great it felt to defeat Ganondorf and save Zelda. It felt so vindicating, to finally beat a game that has stumped me a dozen times over with its puzzles.
Those moments, just like a scene from Star Wars or When Harry Met Sally for a movie buff (I am one of those too), are ingrained forever in my schema. They make up a small part of my persona, just as any experience does. And just like a film, a book, a painting… I won’t forget them. It’s not that they’re important. Really, it’s not. Like any form of entertainment, we could all do without them. But the memories they shape, especially those rare times when my brother and I weren’t fighting, or when my Dad picked up a controller to try playing football on the Dreamcast… those memories wouldn’t exist without games. I’m repeating myself a lot I know, but like a good movie the games I’ve played have attributed to a lot of my fondest family memories. Is that weird? I’m sure I’m not alone. That’s why games are important to me. That’s why they matter.
They are art. They are entertainment. But most importantly, they’re a big part of my life. They don’t define me, by any sense of the word, but I can’t escape the feeling that I’d be a different person without having spent so much time lingering on them. Not better or worse… just different. And being that I like who I am… I wouldn’t change my love of games for the world.
Thanks Jeebus my wife’s a closet gamer. That makes the love affair with Mario easier.