We’ve all heard it before. Video games lead to violent behaviour in children, encourage them to use explicit language, and make them unsociable or withdrawn. While there is no doubt that watching young children swear and shriek at adults in online games or spend an entire day glued to a television set is an uncomfortable sight, that is not all there is to video games. Video games are a form of art, a passageway into delicately crafted worlds and adventures that would not be possible through any other medium. The combination of gameplay, music, art direction, and storytelling firmly cement gaming as a legitimate form of artistic expression that can both bring people together and offer individual journeys.
I grew up playing Nintendo games with my friends and family. Whether it was jumping from platform to platform in Super Mario Bros, delving into deep dungeons in The Legend of Zelda, or learning to read through Pokémon Red and Blue, video games were both an educational experience and a means of bonding with family and friends. One of the fondest memories from my childhood was back in the late 90s and early 2000s with Pokémon Red and Blue and Pokémon Gold and Silver; the worlds inside the games were massive and imaginative, filled with secrets around every corner. This would transfer to the playground, where those of us who had yet to learn and master the internet would share rumours , advice, and our own discoveries. Through these discussions, we found common ground and built friendships, all through video games.
In my later years, I came to appreciate video games as an art form. The music, when effective, can bring back memories in an instant. It is often strong enough to stand on its own as beautiful pieces of work. Just about anything by Yasunori Mitsuda, my favourite composer, is gold. The ending song he composed for Xenoblade, “Beyond the Sky,” never fails to get me emotional when I go back to listen to it.
The stories in video games have become more expansive and dense as well, with a notable example being The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky series. The first game’s script adds up to a rough estimate of 1.5 million characters. Its sequel, The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky Second Chapter, has a rough estimate of three million characters. In fact, XSEED Games, the publisher for the English release of Trails in the Sky, have estimated that Second Chapter has a final word count of 716,401 words. To put this into context, this is about double the length of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. These are just the first two entries in a series that now spans over eight games, and surpasses most novels, movies and television series in the depth of its narrative, world building, and character development.
Ultimately, these are the very reasons I am so frustrated with the bad rap video games get. It is of course true that like anything else, too much of a good thing will eventually have negative effects on people regardless of age. But just enough of a good thing can be great for you. I’m not asking for people to drop everything and love video games. I’m asking for them to take a couple minutes out of their day, become knowledgeable on this relatively new form of artistic expression, and develop an educated opinion on the matter. In such a diverse medium, there is absolutely something for everyone.
Photo Credit: Matt Coleman