It all started with games like Pong, simple blocks and squares. As time has gone on, the power of the imagination has transformed technology and taken us on adventures that are much bigger than any amount of words on paper could even give us. I always felt that these campaigns that are out there trying to emphasize how important reading is, when we’re a generation that has been raised around technology that is not only more imaginative than reading, are a little misguided. Video games are not only fun, but can also help you become better at many of life’s challenges at the same time, much more so than a book.
As a writer myself, I know just how important reading can be. However, a book is very linear in that the story is already set in stone. Video games are a little different though because while there are many games out there that also have a linear story, there are just as much where the story changes based upon your choices and actions. The level of interactivity only grows as time goes on, and as technology grow, so does the depth and realism of a game.
Because of this, video games are becoming one of the biggest industries in the world today, often times surpassing some Hollywood’s biggest films of the year. With each generation, picking up a controller and exploring a new world is becoming more than just a hobby. For a lot of us, it becomes a passion. The media likes to label video games as simply being mindless violence, often using games like Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty as their examples. While these two series are no doubt some of the highest selling franchises out there, these are some of the worst examples of the power that a video game can possess in terms of storytelling, engagement, and bettering different skills such as eye-hand coordination, rapid and progressive thinking, problem solving, and video games can also teach you how valuable life is.
The way in which video games are also used is changing as well. While the focus is primarily on entertainment, technology is also allowing for video games to become more in-depth realistic. Video games are now being heavily used to create simulators to teach people how to drive, perform medical tasks, and even to train our military for combat and to be able to react to situations without panic. We’re living in a world now that many of the tasks or activities we want to learn can be taught through video games. Yoga, workouts, cooking, math, speaking foreign languages, building and construction. There are games out there that teach all of these things and more.
A video game that made the news not too long ago called Foldit, developed by Bungie (the creators of the Halo Universe), was used by students at the University of Washington to decipher the crystal structure of M-PMV retroviral protease (an AIDS-related protein) that scientists had been trying to figure out for 15 years. Foldit allowed them to do it in 10 days. Could this game be a pivotal tool in helping us find a cure for any of the many diseases we thought were incurable? What other barriers will games like these help us overcome? Only time will tell.
You might’ve also heard about how the Nintendo Wii‘s motion controllers were being used as therapy for people with Arthritis. The patients they tested not only found the games fun, but it was also improving their mobility. While actual scientific results have not been completed, it goes without saying that being able to improve the quality of life for our elders is absolutely priceless. I’m sure there are also benefits to the Xbox’s Kinect and the PlayStation’s Move, which are also motion based game controls.
A trend that’s on the rise with sites like UStream and Justin.TV are gaming using the platform as a way to give back. You’ll often see events held by people who are looking to raise money for charity by playing games, We here at The Game Fanatics held one back in June, raising $750.08 for Fun For The Troops. Other sites and even regular people are doing this every day.
Video games are also becoming one of the biggest social activities today, with millions of people subscribed to online gaming services like Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, Steam, OnLive, and other networks that are available, with the support of voice chat and online multiplayer. Friends no longer have to be on the same couch. It used to be that if you wanted to game with other people, you had to be in the same room or you’d have to go to an arcade. You can connect with people that are half way across the world to enjoy a round of Beautiful Katamri. While they’re not too common anymore because of the poor economy, you can even find gaming cafes where people gather to socialize and play online games together. Gaming is no longer an anti-social activity.
It’s really quite amazing how something like this could literally change the world, little by little. There was even a time when consoles and home computers were thought to be taboo and sales of video games were laughable. Only nerds played games and used computers. The video game crash of 1983 was a pivotal point in America for technology. If it wasn’t for a little trading card company called Nintendo taking a risk and releasing the Entertainment System (Famicom), where would the world be?
All of those campaigns about reading are about to become a thing of the past because I think people are finally beginning to realize that video games are more than just shooting aliens, people, or stealing cars. Video games are furthering the way in which we think and are becoming vital tools. What is amazing is the technology that has been implemented into recent games developed. If we’ve come this far in 20 years, where will we be in another 20? I can only imagine what the world of video games will be like; Will we still be playing on TV screens? Virtual reality?