Video games. The phrase makes me beam and cringe at the same time. For me, video games are a form of escapism. They present entire new worlds that I can visit to avoid boredom and relieve the stress of reality. However, I can't help but think that the phrase "video games" is just... misleading. When I hear those words, I initially think of one category - bro games. These are the games that the typical testosterone-fueled teenage boy would play. They're the Call of Duty's, the Battlefield's, and the Halo's. This is what makes me cringe. By no means are these bad games (I've actually played and enjoyed quite a few of the Battlefield and Halo games), but they cause non-gamers to view gamers as juvenile and delinquent.
I bring this up because recently I was talking with one of my non-gaming friends, and she had asked me what I did over my week-end. Knowing that she wouldn't be very interested to hear about my pixelated adventures, I answered with the vague phrase "video games," to which she replied, "How can you enjoy something thats all about killing people?" I was taken aback when she said this. She never asked what video games I played or what those games were about, just about how I could possibly get a kick out of killing people. I had been playing Bioshock Infinite, which albeit does involve a lot of guns and killing, but that was not my main reason for playing it. I was offended that she assumed that all video games showcase murder as a form of entertainment. Of course, I could have explained that not all video games are about shooting, mass murder, and death, but instead I started thinking about how the non-gaming world sees the gaming world. In the non-gaming world there thrives the idea that video games are just a pointless form of entertainment that advocates blood, gore, and violence. Though there is good reason to believe this, especially since the Call of Duty franchise is among the best-selling and most popular franchises of all time, there is also good reason to see video games in a different light. Take Bioshock Infinite. The driving force of Infinite is not its gameplay, but its narrative. When I turned on my PS3 to enter the world of Columbia, I did so to experience Booker and Elizabeth's story. Although its gameplay focused on the guns and shooting that this generation has become so familiar with, Infinite's main attraction is its story, characters, and setting. It breaks my heart to think of all the people who would take one look at Infinite and automatically assume that this narrative masterpiece was just Call of Duty in another form.
Why is it that video games can't be taken as seriously as other forms of entertainment like movies and books? In my opinion, video games are better. They allow people more control of their experiences. Increasingly, video games are giving people the chance to mold their character how they want. Games like Mass Effect, The Walking Dead, and Dishonored present choices that impact the story and the player's character. Being given the opportunity to mold my own experience gives me more enjoyment than the linear stories of movies and books. However, even linear games provide more enjoyment than movies and books since linear games still give people control of the protagonist. So even if a video game has a linear story like a movie or book, it still gives people more satisfaction by allowing them to control the character that drives the story forward. When I watch a movie or read a book, I feel like I'm a passenger. But when I play a video game, I feel like the driver. Even with this opportunity for a more involving experience, video games are still viewed as childish by the non-gaming community.
Perhaps if more people played video games the industry would join the ranks of films. But getting non-gamers to actually play a game is a challenge itself. Video games are unfamiliar to non-gamers. And this unfamiliarity might actually be why non-gamers view video games as mostly violent and juvenile. Instead of seeing the multifarious worlds that are offered through video games, such as Rapture, Hyrule, Dunwall, Columbia, the Citadel, and countless others, people choose to ignore them. They can only see video games as variations of Call of Duty because that is what is familiar to them through coverage by the media and what is heard by the "bros" of the world. Obviously Call of Duty isn't the only household name for video games. There are games like Mario, Pac-man, and Zelda, but the increasing market for shooters is drowning those names out. The massive financial success of yearly Call of Duty's has not gone unnoticed. Because of the popularity of first-person shooters, developers have been flooding the market with Call of Duty "clones" to try and mimic its success. This market saturation of FPS's has affected not just the gaming world, but also the non-gaming world. The most vocal members of the gaming community also happen to be the biggest fans of these FPS's. Also, recent events have caused some media to put the blame on violent video games, which increases the amount of negative exposure of video games that non-gamers get. As a result, most of what non-gamers hear about video games is about violence, shooting, guns, etc.
I don't mean to put the blame for how non-gamers see gamers solely on Call of Duty, but more on the bro genre as a whole. I think video games need to be taken more seriously as the industry continues to grow. Developers are creating experiences unique to video games and for their work to be properly recognized, the non-gaming community needs to forget its current generalization of games. When the connotation of the phrase "video games" shifts from being juvenile to being unique, then I believe the industry will have reached its goal.
Questions, comments, concerns (maybe even compliments)? Show me some feedback/other opinions in the comments!