A video game fix

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Video games are a part of my life.

I’ve played them since elementary school when I was introduced to them at the daycare I attended after school. I still remember the first time I picked up a Super Nintendo controller and realized that the character on the screen would respond to my directions. It took just a few tries and soon I was more than proficient at guiding my character through the 2-D maze.

I wouldn’t say I’m the best gamer ever, but I will say I’m good and experienced and knowledgeable about games. And every time I open another article or see an “expert” on TV talking about the negative effects of video games on people, I really wonder if they have any experience themselves.

Video games can be violent, sexually explicit and disturbing. However, the same can be said for movies, books, television and the Internet, none of which are as heavily criticized as video games. None of them promote physical activity and all of them will strain your eyes if you look at them too long.

But critics will always hone in on one angle: video games are the only media in which you are actually controlling the action and are therefore responsible for what takes place. In movies and books, you are simply a bystander and observer as the main character guns down his foes. In video games, you are the one pulling the trigger.

So if the player is also the character and critics of video games claim that the player is simply a manifestation of the character and directly responsibly for his actions, we should use their criticism to create games that are beneficial to youngsters. In the same way that movies can bring books to life, video games can take an observer and place him into the actual story.

If you can, imagine yourself playing the roles of Ishmael and Captain Ahab as you sail the seas in search of the mighty whale, Moby Dick. The storyline, the characters and their lines would all be the same. The only difference would be that you were the main character. And that is the main appeal of video games: to, for a few hours, become someone other than whom you are in reality and lose yourself in fantasy.

Teachers and professors alike have difficulty in forcing students to do their reading, especially if the book is dull and boring. Even movies sometimes fail to capture our attention, as we can’t do anything to change the speed of the action. Video games, on the other hand, can do just that. If you don’t want to advance the storyline just yet, you can keep exploring your surroundings or talk to strangers instead.

Of course, the developers would have to add additional aspects to the game to keep it from turning into just a movie. But so long as those new parts don’t detract from the storyline, there isn’t any harm in having characters collect coins to purchase new clothing or solve puzzles to earn points. In fact, it would keep gamers interested and wanting to play more.

Games like the Final Fantasy series have long been heralded for their imaginative story, settings and characters. And yet I would say that those stories are not superior to stories like “Hamlet,” “Moby Dick” or “Paradise Lost.” The developers wouldn’t even have to come up with an original storyline and characters. It’s already laid out in front of them.

Game developers have not really tried to step into this realm (“Dante’s Inferno” doesn’t count; the game has no plot and is all action. It is completely the opposite of what I’m suggesting).  However, it is an idea worth considering, especially since if it is successful, critics will have nothing to criticize. Their silence would be the biggest reward of all.

Stephen Lu is a senior journalism major. He can be reached for comment at sjlu@smu.edu.

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