*Published in Volume 1 2012 Litmus: The Official Journal of the Department of Communication, Adamson University
It’s a common notion for people (especially the conservative) to disregard video games as an “inferior” medium. Many think the only worthwhile games are the “Jumpstart” series or the “educational” games. Campaigns have been launched to promote the “goodness” of books and print while denouncing the evils of the joystick. Well, times have changed, technology has evolved and so have the intricacies of communicating ideas, emotions and life principles.
Gaming plays a vital role in the world of communication today. One way or another, nearly everyone in the Philippines has access to a video game. While many pass it off as a stress reliever and other damn it with claims like, “I will turn your brain into mush”, only few know of how much work goes into making Ryu’s Shinku Haduken.
1. Worlds and legends worthy of literary recognition
As readily as J.R.R. Tolkien took people on journeys across Middle Earth and J.K. Rowling built the wishes of boys and girls to get their invites to Hogwarts, so have Shirugeru Myamoto brought to life a mushroom kingdom tormented by an evil dragon, as well as the kingdom of Hyrule awaiting its hero of time, Tetsuya Nomura give life to the mako city of Midgard and the battles between the sEEd gardens, Yoshitaka Amano told the story of the war of aedolons among so many other tales that can only be told through the platform which is a gaming console.
There are stories, tales, lores and journeys that would make any literary buff proud, enshrined within all the coding, programming and graphics design that go into a single video game. The difference is that in order to find out if the Templars can catch Ezio, you have to write the story yourself.
2. Longer stories, more fun!
Have you tried sitting through a Lord of the Rings marathon? It would take a die-hard fan of the movies to be able to sit through 10-or so hours of the film without feeling the tediousness in it. Those are all great films by any standard, but a person can only take in so much at one time.
With an average run-through length of 12-hours, video games can pack in a lot more story into it without running dry. Yes, attempting to the next cliff over and over again will frustrate many-a-gamers, but that’s the fun of it. People who play games aren’t in a rush to end it, usually because they’re having so much fun.
Writers of all sorts can and have taken advantage of this feature to gaming, introducing the world to story arcs that would have been a total pain to turn into a film or novel. Some even have the players choose their own story arcs, even adjusting the story according to the actions of the player. The potential for story-telling is great!
3. Teams to develop
No man is an island.
Stay after a Hollywood film and notice the credits. Among the names of stars and celebrities will be lists and lists of people who most have never even heard of. Make up, wardrobe, lights, sound editor, props manager, clapper A, fan operator, camera man juice box holder and the like, these are the people working behind the scenes of a film to make it as grand and wonderful as it is. The same goes with games.
Bucket-loads of codes are written, maps, sprites, models made just to form a decent functioning game. That’s not counting game play mechanics, character physics, model animation, texture, cinematography and final packaging that make you standard run-of-the-mill video game. If people pay P500 for something that has already made its revenues on the silver screen, it’s easy to imagine why developers have to charge thousands of pesos for a copy of their game.
4. New advertising avenues
Aside from those annoying pop-ups that come with free mobile apps, the advertising industry can really take advantage of video games. For example, what team wouldn’t benefit from having cyber-versions of themselves in the NBA2k series? Product placements and cameos are easier to make in a medium that allows items to be used, produced and seen over and over again.
With what Jay-Z did for the NBA 2k series, it’s not hard to see more games getting big names attached to their line-ups as well.
Shoe manufacturer? Why not take out an ad on a Left 4 Dead game, make you latest model an add-on to get extra running speed? Food product? Cameo as the food products on the Sims. The thing about gamers is that they are some of the most avid cult followers out there. Products that make it into the game are sure to get as many viewers of their ad as there are people who buy the game.
Gaming isn’t really mindless button mashing and it is a great disservice to all the people who created them to shrug them aside without even trying them. Just like a good book or movie, a lot goes into a video game that has more to offer than just plain entertainment. The next time someone triggers a haduken, think of that Capcom employee who wrote the script that allows you to guard from it.