Why are video games so appealing? It's a deeper question than you may think. Beneath the flashy graphics and beepy music is something much more difficult to pin down. There's a sense of wonder and a spark of imagination at the heart of the best video games, and as children we pick up on that right away. Then, over time, most people lose that spark. School, career, social engagements, relationship drama, mortgage payments, credit card debt, medical ailments, and other things that we pick up on our way to and through adulthood weigh us down and we forget the simple pleasures of saving the princess or preventing the moon from falling out of the sky. Those of us who continue to play video games and who make them a part of our adult lives found a way to keep that spark alive. We appreciate and understand video games in a way that the naysayers never will. Over at NeoGAF, GDJustin is exploring just why we appreciate video games and how much they enrich our days.
About a year ago I was conversing with someone when the topic of my work came up. I mentioned I work in the video game business, for a company that publishes websites focused on games. They asked if I was a big fan of video games in general and I said yes, absolutely. But then they asked me something that caught me off guard:
"Why do you like games so much? What is it about them that is so attractive to you?"
I didn't have a good answer for them, at the time. In the following months I've continued to turn this question over in my mind, and I still don't have a very good answer, to be honest. But that isn't going to stop me from trying, here in this topic. The best answer I've been able to come up with is that the medium of video games, unlike any other, presents people with a sense of endless possibility. As an adult, the majority of my life is mundane. Enjoyable and fulfilling, but... mundane, nonetheless. Things simply don't happen in the "real world" to spark one's imagination.
Actually... that isn't 100% true. Things DO happen in the real world to spark the imagination. It's just that, in the end, that spark will end up being extinguished, rather than nurtured and encouraged. A perfect example: The other day during a typical Wikipedia crawl, I landed on a piece on the Great Lakes. I read that Lake Superior is over 1300 feet deep. 1300! "Jesus, that's amazing!" I thought to myself. "There could be ANYTHING down there, at the bottom!" But the truth is... there's nothing down there. Because that's how the real world operates. But in a game, a mysterious, deep lake is always worth exploring. There will always be something there, waiting to be discovered.
Think about how empty life would be without that imaginative spark. We all need a way to escape the drudgery of the average day and indulge our creative and explorative sides, but too many people believe that's unnecessary. We all need a Mushroom Kingdom or a Hyrule to visit. We always have. Society would be a better place if more people realized that and did something about it.
I'll leave you now with some of my favorite games that even on my worst of days never fail to make me unconditionally smile.
(Most images via MobyGames)