An Escape: Can a Video Game be More than a Game?

By SAMUEL ANTEZANA

Last night, I traversed the brick streets of a dimly lit town, the sound of blood-curdling screams filled the air and it was hard to concentrate, especially when werewolves were strolling up and down the bridge that a weary traveler, like myself, had to make it past. I managed to cut down the rabid beasts and explore further down the Gothic looking buildings, past many lamp posts, discovering a hillside where I spotted burning humanoid beasts on crosses.

Along this trail there was an old church. I ventured into the church and found a creature known as the “blood-starved beast.” I fought it, and I died. On the other side of the screen, was me: eyes wide, mouth open, extremely stumped. This was my fourth attempt at fighting said monster, but I still couldn’t get enough of this punishing, yet enthralling video game called Bloodborne.

This is only one of the many universes I have traveled and I can assure you that each world is more different than the next. Video games have always been more than entertainment to me. The idea of taking on the role of another person, animal or thing is incredible to me. Nowadays, with the technology that many video game companies have at their disposal, it is possible to create immersive open-worlds that give you the choice to make your own decisions, which can affect the NPCs (Non-Player Characters) and the very world you inhabit.

Games like these make it hard not to spend your whole day deciding on crucial decisions that could affect a vast array of life within a world, like whether or not you should report a suspicious, fedora-sporting man in a post-apocalyptic bar who wants to set off a dormant nuke that lies in the middle of a town, or taking his deal, earning yourself a hefty amount of cash and getting front row seats to the nuclear explosion of the town. These decisions are what keep people like me engaged in a world where opportunities are endless and the only limit to your play-style is your imagination.

However, if open world exploration is not your cup of tea, then you might try your hand at the overwhelming amount of story-driven games that have plot lines ranging from a man who has survived a plane crash only to discover a twisted vision of a once thriving utopian underwater society, such as in Bioshock, or the story of a boy who finds his strength through friendship, all the while trying to rescue his friends with the aide of his new allies: Donald Duck and Goofy, from an ominous force known as “The Heartless,” which threaten to destroy his universe and the universes of many other famed Disney characters in the video game series Kingdom Hearts.

My experiences with story-driven games has lead me to believe that games can conjure the same amount of emotions and reactions within a person as say a movie or a book would. In story-driven games especially, one learns to fall in love with a character who he or she connects with in one aspect or another. Much like art, a video game can be viewed by a large audience, and though the game may have been created with a message in mind (or even no message for that matter), it will leave a different impact on anyone who has played it.

Throughout many video game moments you will experience joy, anger, pain and awe. Whether you witness a father losing his daughter amidst the chaos of a viral outbreak; an off-earth village begin destroyed and its natives murdered because of a dark lord’s relentless pursuit to eliminate members of an order dedicated to balance; a treasure-seeker fighting through a company of mercenaries while trying to leap off a derailed train cart that is falling from the side of a cliff; a battle-hardened squad from the Red Army aiding the final assault to take Nazi-infested Stalingrad during WWII; or a zombified canine smashing through a window you have passed by several times without incident, these events will leave you feeling something.

Not only can video games tell stories, but more often than not, they will have you telling stories about the times you’ve had with others. You and your friends will reminisce about the time your buddy lost all of his stars to you with one fell shake of his dice in Mario Party, preceding to then swear at you. You will have met a friendly player who may be on the other side of the globe, willing to work with you in order to discover the secrets of an endless desert in Journey. You and a friend will find yourselves as robots, using guns that create portals to try and solve deadly rooms of puzzles that only grow harder and harder with the progress that you make in Portal 2.

Video games combine the aspects of fun cooperative and competitive gameplay in a way that revolutionizes the way we spend a Friday night with a group of friends: slaying zombies or racing carts? It’s your pick.

Soon, we will be able to wear a helmet on our heads that will allow us to enter these virtual worlds and provide an even greater, realistic experience, such as what the creators of Occulus VR have already done and are working on distributing to the general public. I am thrilled to see a true example of virtual reality making its way into the public during my lifetime, and I believe this type of technology will forever change the direction in which video games are headed.

Perhaps one day we will no longer need a helmet. With the experiments of virtual reality on video games we will begin to see a pattern of various other technological innovations, and I am proud that the games I have played since I was younger up until now serve as examples as to how far the gaming industry and culture has come.

So the next time a friend invites you over to play a video game, give them a chance. Your perspective on gaming may be changed just by holding a controller and having a good time.

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