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Can A Game Change Your Life?

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It's funny when I think about it, but the next-gen console war that has begun to brew feels so much like the events of the early 1990's all over again. Although this time, I'd say there has been quite a bit of role reversal. This time around, I'd say Sony is the new Sega when the Genesis was starting to make waves. Microsoft, in some ways reminds me of Nintendo (I don't know whether that's good or bad). I'll explain this comparison later.

Anyways, as many of you may know by now, I was an unabashed Sega NUT. A true blue, balls-to-bones fan boy. I I truly believed that Sega would dominate gaming forever. Looking back, that is so incredibly laughable. But, for a quite a while I anxiously followed and ate up everything they were dishing out. Such is the nature of fanboyism.

When the Sega 32X was first announced, I genuinely thought it was a great idea. I mean, why not right? You can upgrade your PC! Why not "upgrade" your game console? Ugh.

Even before the 32X debacle was the Sega CD, which I bought. And during that time, I was a doop for all the marketing hype that was a signature of that decade. Pre-rendered graphics and FMV seemed like the natural next-step in games to me. I thought games like Microcosm, Megarace and Ground Zero Texas represented the future. But the game that truly had me going nuts was Loadstar: The Legend of Tully Bodine. For most of you younger gamers out there, I might as well be mentioning an old Bing Crosby album. Anyways, Loadstar was an FMV rail shooter much like Sewer Shark on the Sega CD. It borrowed heavily from the trench run on the Death Star in Star Wars. Even the cover looked like something from a Star Wars movie.

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I never imagined games would get much better than this.

 

Anyways, when I first got my Sega CD and brought it home, I remember my hands were actually shaking. This... this was to be my Holy Grail of gaming. This was going to be my portal to gaming nirvana. In the 90's there were three distinct obsessions in the entertainment world of games and movies. They were: virtual reality, cyborgs, and hackers/hacking. In my mind, that Sega CD was going to open the door to all of that. Never mind that it was woefully underpowered by that point when compared to what was on the horizon. Common sense had left me.

When I first turned on my Sega CD and played Sewer Shark, that first feeling was complete anti-climax. I knew with absolute certainty that it was not the future. Sure, it was still a nice idea with a few good games here and there. But by this time, I alreay had a PC, and it made the graphics on my poor little Sega CD look downright primitive.

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Yes, it's ugly. Can you even tell what you're looking at?

 

I related that story because it raised a question in my mind that has lingered ever since. Can a game or a video game console change your life? Can gaming give you an experience so profound, so moving that it changes your whole outlook on life? Have you played a game, and come away with some grand epiphany?

I think about this because now that we've seen the next-gen consoles, there is a great deal of expectation over what kind of experiences these machines will offer. We've heard how developers will be able to create worlds of unprecedented scale and depth. We've been told how we'll all be connected and sharing everything you could desire or imagine (and maybe a few things you can't). And ofcourse, there's the graphics. What would a new generation of consoles be without the promise of mind-numbing, brain-bending eye candy?

Now all of this "newness" is fine and good, but I still tend to wonder, where will it take us? What will all of this power and enhanced ability mean to us when we have a chance to look back on it?

It is at this point that I'd like to relate a little story. One day as I was working at a very well known retail store as a cashier, and a customer came into my line witha shopping cart filled top to bottom with nothing but games. They were primarily PC games, but other types were mixxed in as well. She easily ended up spending well over $400 on software. I had never seen a customer do this in my entire life as a retail worker, and so... curiosity got the better of me. I had to ask her, why would she ever spend so much on games? Her answer made me reconsider everything I had ever felt about gaming.

The customer had a disability that didn't allow her to leave the house very often. At most, she was able to get out maybe once or twice a month to handle personal affairs.  She had people who helped her, but her condition was by no means "easy" to cope with. She told me, that for her, games kept her mind busy, helped her to not get depressed, and explore imaginary places in the way that she could do in the real world. Games, were quite literally her escape as well as her lifeline to sanity.

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Now I'm sure that when developers go into making a game, chances are slim that they give much thought as to how their game will affect someone like the lady I mentioned, but they do. Games have brought something very tangible and very good to our modern lives. Now the question is, how much more can they do for us? Can they inspire us? Can they prompt a new outlook on the meaning of life?

Games like The Last of Us and Watchdogs subtly nudge us to think about our common future. Where is the human race headed? What role will new technologies have in our advancement? Or... will technology be our ultimate downfall? The social commentary in these games is very useful at kickstarting some sort of dialogue about important issues. Even the Assasin's Creed games help give us a thoughtful look at history and to consider what that past means to us today.

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Could a game like this be as thought provoking...

 

 

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... as a book like this?

 

With the state of our modern educational system, I've found that many young people are woefully undereducated about important stories and lessons of the past. And yet, where schools have failed, digital media, the internet and unprecedented access to information have changed all of that. The "holes" in the education of many young mind's get filled in ways we probably never anticipated. That fills me with a profound sense of hope and optimism.

So, when asking the big question, "Can a game change your life?", what do I say? I say, ABSOLUTELY.

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