The lights are on
Veteran Member - Level 13
As promised, I'm back at it one more time. I figured this time I would dispense with any introduction or announcement and just get right to it.
It has often been said that art imitates life. By contrast, it has also been said that life imitates art. Which is true? Well that is a question for debate that is probably as old as humans themselves. It's the old chicken and the egg scenario. But one thing is certain. Art is a very important form of communication and expression, and it's impact has been profound.
The same sentiment could be applied to electronic entertainment. Video games may not be deemed as art by some, but they are most certainly works of creative expression. Video games can and have been used to convey a message, to provoke thought or to even educate. Video games can compel us to focus on visual aesthetics and scrupulous detail, or can they serve as a simple distraction, used merely to ease the passing of time.
However we use them, at some point games do begin to reflect bits and pieces of ourselves. And it would appear that we tend to embrace the games that reflect our interests the best. The games that end up selling the most copies, or setting sales records are not the results of randomness. They are in fact an indirect portal into our individual and collective psyche. Our hopes, our fears, what we love and what we hate. All of this can be seen through the games we choose to spend the most time with. So with that being said, what do these games tell us about ourselves?
War Is Hell, But We Like It
I began to first think about this one after getting into Hideo Kojima's military "opera", the Metal Gear series. Although Kojima has often said that he hoped to illustrate the horror of nuclear weapons, and that theme has carried over quite prominently, the Metal Gear games hint at something else as well. In truth, it is not necessarily a new theme, as it can be found in much of the most popular works of science fiction and modern entertainment. What is the theme? The future of humanity will be a militarised society.
Think about the story of Solid Snake. Here he is, a soldier whose very belief system is simply based on the mission at hand. The orders of the moment, the mission at hand, these are the only things that matter. Until they don't. Granted, Snake becomes disillusioned at some point, and begins to dream of building a nation of soldiers that have the strength to "make things right". But it is ironic that Snake fails to see how he is merely repeating the mistakes of others.
In the end, the Metal Gear series gives us an opportunity to chew on a most troubling dilemma. Kojima illustrates the horrors of war, and it's various cruelties, but at the same time embraces the idea that it is a necessary evil. Not by any stretch a means to an end, but more like a perpetually flawed solution to an eternal problem.
Consider some of the other more popular games throughout gaming history: Doom, Unreal, Halo, Call Of Duty, Battlefield, Killzone, and Mass Effect. All of these games portray a future where peace is achieved, or at least pursued through force. In each of these games, there is always some conflict or menace to combat. And usually, the only one strong enough to save the day is the obligatory Space Marine/Soldier/Merc who just happens to be a total killing machine that can single-handedly decimate entire armies. Not at all original, but we still eat it up.
We're Either Paranoid Or Just Really Worried
Although it's not at all uncommon to fictional entertainment, we never seem to tire of conspiracies and secret plots. In the X-Com games, there are conspiracies a plenty. In most games, the protagonist has either been lied to, or manipulated, or has discovered some master plan that threatens "all of life".
And though our ordinary lives may be quiet and fairly secure, we seem to fantasize about being the one person to catch "The Man" with his pants down and expose him. Perhaps it's the idea of the fame and adulation that would come with being the one that saved the world from "the clutches of evil".
Give Peace A Chance
Well, you gotta admit. It does look mighty cozy.
Now considering my first observation, this one may sound strange and paradoxical. But the truth is, as much as we love our blood, guts and mayhem, there's an awful lot of us that would rather build something than blow it up. Sure getting that impossible knife kill in COD is great, or using the Crysis nanosuit for stealthy 187's is cool too. But how does that measure up to those who would rather build a castle in Minecraft, or just wander about in The Sims?
Even with games like The Elder Scrolls, are gamers most enticed by the fighting, or the ability to visit and explore lush new worlds? The same question could even apply to Grand Theft Auto V. Based on my personal experiences and talking to my friends and fellow gamers, it would seem that many of us love GTA for the freedom it gives us. The crime and violence almost seem to be incidental.
We All Want To Be Ballers
"Pimpin' Ain't Easy!"
Okay, you're thinking "No Duh!", right? But it's true. No one ever dreams of being Mr. or Mrs. Ordinary. While most of us find contentment in our lives and the day to day sameness of our routines, apparently we also all dream of the lifestyle of an NFL star quarterback. Don't believe me? Check out any game that allows customization of clothes, cars, furniture or homes. Even though the very nature of such games encourages flash and excess, it is not at all unusual to see players go insane with it.
Whether it's GTA or Saints Row, the appeal of living like "the other half" never gets old. We love our "stuff", and we especially love our "bling". How many games feature gold coins and gem stone as power-ups/rewards? Imagine if Sonic collected acorns instead of gold rings. It wouldn't seem as attractive, would it?
And what about racing games? In games, we live the dream of blasting around corners in Ferraris, Bugatti's and other exotic cars. Granted, no one is ever going to want to play a racing game featuring a Prius, or a Smart car. But even when it comes to mid-range sports cars, gamers simply won't be wowed by a Mazda 6, or Honda Civic. Most of us want the full supercar experience.
In games, not everything that we see reflected about ourselves is bad. In fact, most of it is good. It's just our fantasies run amok. And though there may be many urges that we indulge in a game, most of us realize where the game stops and reality begins.