Within the United States alone, there are 211 million people who consider themselves gamers. These individuals regularly play video games, indulge in its culture and make it a large part of their daily lives. The types of experiences video games can offer gamers is vast and leads to many different preferences and opinions of what makes a good video game. As a passionate gamer who actively plays and discuss them with friends, I have my own opinions of what makes an excellent game. While I love that games are a fun and pleasant way to spend free time, the three reasons I love video games and consider them as a hobby is; unlike a book or film you’re able to interact with a ‘living, breathing’ world resulting in engaging and immersive storytelling, they encourage social connectivity both in the same room and online, and are a combination of many different art forms such as literature and painting. Although people who aren’t familiar with video games may not see them from this perspective and simply view them as wasting time. This misunderstanding leads to incorrect stereotyping and has unfortunately resulted in them being viewed simply as children’s entertainment and for geeky antisocial teenagers. This poor attitude towards gaming is largely a result of how relatively young video games are compared to other mediums such as books and film. But once society becomes better educated and understands the positive aspects of games, video games will become accepted in our community as the powerful medium it is.

Don’t pay attention to the stereotypes; this is not your average gamer

Any type of medium can tell a good story, but none can give the same sense of importance and interaction in quite the same way as a well crafted narrative in a video game. Whether it is a TV series, anime, book or film, you are the bystander of someone else’s story. You can’t affect the outcome in any way, shape or form. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, a story becomes much more engaging if the onlooker has a personal connection. Due to the interactive nature of video games, storytelling can take on a whole new meaning. The ability to interact with characters and environments allows the player to feel truly immersed in that particular world. Other unique qualities video games have is the option for gamers to make decisions that have an overall effect on the characters and environment around you. A great example of this is Infamous, a game were you play as Cole, a man with super powers. During the course of the narrative you are able to choose how you use these powers, for good or bad. Your decisions effect the whole world around you and even the final outcome of the game. No other medium can achieve this interaction. It is unique to video games, and that is why video games are my favorite way to lose myself in a tremendous story.

Whether you want to be a hero or villain, it’s up to you. This is your story

When it comes to stereotypes about video games, gaming causing antisocial behavior is usually at the top of the list. While spending an obsessive amount of time glued to a screen isn’t socially active, video games can quite often have the opposite effect and bring people together. Since the early days of gaming, friends have gotten together and had fun by playing games. Whether it be for unwinding after a day of work or to celebrate someone’s birthday, gaming is a great way for people to meet up, mingle and enjoy themselves. With the introduction of the Wii six years ago, games can now have a more ‘casual’ approach thanks to motion controls, allowing people who aren’t necessarily familiar with video games to pick up a controller and have fun. A feature that has been improved in the last few years is the use of the internet to chat and play other gamers across the world. You can play people in your town, country and anywhere in the world. Even though online gaming is often considered even more antisocial than regular gaming, it can be used as a means of communication between people who can’t meet each other to play games. Xbox Live, an online service for the Xbox 360 allows you to talk to and play games with gamers all over the world. Online gaming has quickly become a social portal to playing games, with friends and strangers alike. Having more people to play games with is never a bad thing. As technologies advance and developers imagine new ways to connect people through games, the social aspect of video games will only grow. With their upcoming home console the Wii U, Nintendo plans to launch an online service called Miiverse. Miiverse is essentially the gamer’s answer to Facebook. While the people on Facebook talk about a vast range of topics such as politics, movies and daily life, Miiverse aims to become the place where gamers talk games & share achievements. This will be an intuitive step in the right direction to enhancing social connectivity in video games. I enjoy playing games like Super Smash Brothers and Mario Kart with friends, games that are competitive but still make us laugh together. While I don’t play games online, I look forward to using Miiverse on the Wii U later this year.

Playing video games with friends and family can be an enjoyable way to interact and have fun with one another

‘’To me games are like the ultimate art form. It’s just the ultimate medium. I mean, it’s the sum total of every expressive medium of all time made interactive. Like how is that not… It’s awesome! ’’. This is how Phil Fish, the creator of the indie hit, Fez, expresses his feelings about video games in the documentary Indie Game: The Movie. To me this is exactly how I feel about video games as an art form. Visual style, story script, music, gameplay mechanics, and levels design are some aspects borrowed from other mediums like creative art, literature and film. The art style used in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword was inspired by 19th century French painter Monet, while Gravity Rush’s style was inspired by the work of Bande Dessinee comic artists. Many video game developers have turned towards artists for inspiration. The Uncharted series takes inspiration from action adventure movies such as Tomb Raider and Indiana Jones, which makes for an engaging cinematic experience. The series includes all aspects that make for a good movie. Compelling story, interesting characters and dramatic camera angles, but the difference is that it is a video game, meaning it’s interactive. This enables the player to become much more immersed in the events that take place during the game. Okami released back in 2006, is a perfect example of what stunning art direction, compelling storytelling and unique gameplay mechanics can achieve. The game is based upon Japanese folklore and the art style uses a combination of sumi-e and cel-shading techniques, resulting in a stunning Japanese canvas painting look. The protagonist is Amaterasu, the Shinto sun goddess in the form of a white wolf. You ‘embark’ on an adventure to vanquish evil from the land of Nippon and restore the land. The main gameplay mechanic used in Okami is the ‘Celestial Brush’ which allows Amaterasu to draw in missing objects or items used for combat. Okami is the ultimate example of what video games can achieve as an art form. A beautiful art style, compelling story, unique mechanics and interesting characters and setting make for a wonderful experience and it really shows what games can achieve when all aspects of art and gameplay are harmonious.

With a stunning visual style, compelling story and unique mechanics, Okami truly shows what video games can achieve as an interactive art form

Video games are the ultimate medium for delivering engaging narrative, social connectivity and artistic creativity. While not everyone is familiar with the benefits gaming can give them, if people keep an open mind and give them a go, they will understand why millions of people around the world love to play video games.