Expand Your Horizons... Through Video Games - mbellacio Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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Expand Your Horizons... Through Video Games

 

Video games have always had a certain taboo about them. Throughout the decades, people have blamed video games for laziness, poor academic performance, attention deficits, the objectification of women, and a desensitization towards extreme violence. Recently in the news, an article even suggested that video games are ruining an entire generation of young mind's.

Of course, these types of fears are not even remotely new. Throughout history, for every medium or technology that man develops, there is always that segment of society that fears what such new things might bring. In the early days of television, many viewed it as a piece of mind-numbing technology that would corrupt weak minds and lead to a depraved society. Fast forward to the present, the world is still spinning and humans carry on their lives just fine. I remember in the 80's, many parents thought MTV and Heavy Metal were little more than handy tools for the devil himself to claim your eternal soul. We made it through that too. And now, MTV is just pathetic more than anything else.

Technology is and always has been a tool. It is a manifestation of human understanding of the universe around us, and how to make that knowledge work for our purposes. And like any tool, it is only as useful as you let it be. Such is the case with video games.

In so many instances, video games have inspired me to want to do things that I might have never thought of otherwise. What has sometimes begun as a novel fascination with a single game becomes motivation to try on new experiences in the real world. While it's all good fun to explore the fictional worlds created within a digital universe, nothing beats reality.

 

"On the road of life, there are passengers and drivers. Here's to the drivers!" - Volkswagon Ad

 

That screenshot above is from one of my favorite racing games of all time: Need For Speed: High Stakes. When I bought my PS One ( the small one), this was one of the first games I purchased. I spent many, many late nights playing the game not so much with the goal of winning or beating it, but for the simple joy of looking at the beautiful environments within the game.

Later, I would enjoy Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 and instantly fell in love with the track that meanders through a Redwoods-like forest. Again, I didn't care so much about winning, just exploring. After awhile though, I was so impressed by those levels that I wanted to see how they compared to the real world.

I ended up taking a drive along the coast of northern California, cruising through scenic roads with enormous sequoia trees on either side. In my mind, I was searching for places that rivaled my memories of my favorite game environments. It was quite simply, the time of my life.

This became a pattern for me. Whatever game I was playing, I had to find something, someplace in the real world to match it. In the course of doing that, it forced me to discover a lot of places, see a lot of beauty, and learn more about the world around me. It added a richness to my life experiences that I will never forget.

The reason for me writing this blog is because I firmly believe that video games can be a powerful instrument for good. We can learn lessons from games, they can motivate us to do great things, or they can raise our awareness of important issues in a subtle and entertaining way.

 

Pikmin made me want to start a garden... seriously. No, I'm REALLY serious.

 

Destroy All Humans made some subtle, but thought provoking statements about life in the 50's and 60's. I'll never look at Leave It To Beaver the same way again.

 

I am willing to propose the radical notion that video games could be as important to this generation as Citizen Kane or The Grapes of Wrath were to another generation. Through these games we get a snap-shot of life as it is, as we imagine it to be, as we hope it to be. Video games reflect our fears and our potential. Like any other medium, video games are a tool for whatever you'd like them to be.

I think that before anyone lets himself be put down with the old, "You're wasting your life away playing those games", insult, realize that it doesn't have to be that way. I would say, let games make you more aware, more thoughtful, more intelligent, more curious. Let games simply make you MORE. Expand your horizons.

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