Gaming is a medium that’s still pretty early in its life all things considered. Books have been around forever, and movies started being produced in the late 1800’s with short productions. Video Games have really only been around since the 1970’s. However, they’re still an important way to get thoughts and ideas out into the world and can definitely be thought of as art in at least certain circumstances. So, let’s explore some of those pieces of art we’ve gotten over the years.
Video Games are important for genres like Fantasy, where the creators can make a totally original, fantastical setting that gets people invested. A good example is the Final Fantasy series. Each entry in the series introduces a new landscape that was brilliantly imagined, whether it’s VII’s Gaia, or X’s Spira. They’re sprawling landscapes with life breathed into them. They feel like real places and can engulf gamers for many hours getting stuck in their details. Final Fantasy is a giant in the industry for a reason, because it’s not just the worlds that entice people, but the narratives the characters have to go through. These characters are realized and grow throughout their journeys. Cloud Strife of Final Fantasy VII has to struggle with who he is, on top of the world-ending threat that the series is known for. He has to grow and come to terms with himself just to become the hero the story needs. Noctis of Final Fantasy XV needs to suddenly take on the responsibilities of adulthood when his freedom and sense of safety are violently ripped from him by a declaration of war. These aren’t just time wasters. You need to invest in them to experience the amazing storytelling and interactive character building. It’s something you wouldn’t quite get with a book or movie, because you’re the one taking each step forward.
An example I’d be a hack to not mention is The Witcher series. While the games are based on the world of the books, they do bring a different way of experiencing the concepts. You take the role of Geralt, rather than just reading about his story. You’re the one swinging the blade. You’re the one making the decisions. The massive world of the third game is also highly praised with how much there is to do and see. It’s a game that has the potential to suck you in for hundreds of hours without getting old. Every character has realistic dialogue and personalities, even in the side-quests. Add to that a wonderful soundtrack and absolutely stunning visuals, and it ascends the medium it was based on.
Then there are games like Shadow of the Colossus, which is more of an interactive art piece than a grand story. It’s a simple premise that keeps you going forward just by sheer will alone. The Colossi aren’t malicious, but you’re tasked with taking their lives anyway to save someone you care deeply about. In the end, you’re corrupted and transformed into a monster for your actions, only to be reborn. It’s a strange story I don’t quite understand, but with a PS4 remake, the visuals are gorgeous with a living, breathing world. Each Colossus seems like a real creature and I honestly feel bad killing them.
Last in this list of examples is another favorite of mine: the Dark Souls series. It’s a series of repeated history. Each player is tasked with sacrificing themselves for the greater good, or plunging the world in a time of darkness. In the first game, the two forces both make compelling arguments. Kingseeker Frampt, a primordial serpent, tells you that you need to seek the God of this world, Gwyn, and relight the first flame to save the world from an age of dark. However, you also can meet Darkstalker Kaathe, another primordial serpent, who says that the age of dark would bring about the age of Man, rather than the end of the world. It’s up to you who you believe, but the more consistent idea of this world is stated in one of the ending of Dark Souls 3, where the firekeeper tells you that even if the world goes dark, there will inevitably be another spark willing to bring another age of fire. It’s a strange loop that the world of Dark Souls goes through, with kingdoms rising and falling with the same philosophy as the last. It all culminates in the end of the world itself in The Ringed City DLC, where the only hope left lies in the painted world made in the last moments of a dying world. Maybe in there, the cycle will finally end.
Each of these worlds are fleshed out and brilliantly depicted in their game’s design. These are experiences I don’t think I’d get by reading a book or watching a movie. They’re differently experienced and you’re more likely to be invested in something you’re actively a part of. If someone ever tells you that games are for kids or that they’re just mindless, then remind them of these worlds and experiences you’ve had over the years. Games shape us in the same ways that other mediums do and I can say with absolute certainty that I wouldn’t be the same woman I am today without them.