Video Games, Thou Art A Harsh Mistress
Video games are a unique form of media; they are more auditory than a book, more visual than music, and more interactive than a movie. They are pervasive and everywhere, first being held within arcades, then entering our homes, then our travels, now even on our phones. However, there is something that makes games a unique form of media:
You have to earn your happy ending.
Every gamer is familiar with the Game Over screen, a notification that your skills, reactions, and even luck were not up to snuff, that you will have to make another attempt. And that is part of the thrill of video games, of the fun. But just think about it: nothing else is that harsh.
A movie doesn’t stop partway through to quiz you on the characters, and shut off if you answer wrong.
A book doesn’t force you to answer about themes in order to flip to the next page.
A song doesn’t pause and demand an analysis of the melody before picking up with the chorus.
Video games are unique for being the only media that requires a constant struggle to enjoy the full story.
Let’s take an example here: Bioshock.
This game, in my opinion, has a wonderful story, a unique landscape, and an enthralling atmosphere. However, it takes skill to make it from one end of Rapture to the other, past the various foes, and even more exploration to sniff out secret audio diaries to learn more about the history and the society of Rapture, painting a full picture of the world you’re in.
If you’re trying to tackle this, especially in the hardest difficulty, you may never even know how your journey ends.
While movies and books don’t have the exact same difficulty, there are some Easter eggs that add bonuses to the media, such as references throughout the Marvel Universe movies, or the code at the bottom of the pages in Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl (and yes, I did sit down with a pen and notepad and translate that entire code). Still, the entire novel is not required to be translated, nor the plot of The Avengers having to be fished out through context clues and actions. They certainly don’t have the same obstacles as video games have.
This is not meant to be a harshing on the mellow of those of us who play games, nor a critique on difficulties (I already did that one, remember?). It’s merely a thought that made me ponder, considering that we live in a multimedia world, with the apparent increase of laziness as modern society prefers to kick up their feet and watch instead of interacting, though we can say that video games are definitely more interactive than most other forms of media.
So, pop quiz: What was the name of this article?
Did you earn your happy ending? Or do you have to go back to the start of the article, and try once more?