“I hate games”.
I admit I’ve uttered these three words several times in my life. For someone dating a student game designer, that’s pretty disgraceful. But with memories like my year 9 crush ditching me on Skype for two hours to play DOTA, a boyfriend missing our anniversary due to a LAN competition and me just being a complete noob when it comes to driving, aiming and shooting, is it any wonder that it wasn’t love at first sight?
Screenshot from ‘DOTA 2’ (Valve Corporation 2012). Image taken from http://noble-press.com/2011/12/dota-2-beta-impression/
When I look back on my childhood, I remember reading books from the library and sitting like a hobo at K-mart. But then other memories start flooding back. Mini Mak learning English and maths from the Jump-Start game series. Mini Mak playing Barbie as Rapunzel/Cinderella/Sleeping Beauty. Slightly Older Mak playing The Curse of Monkey Island. Over and over again. It was the only video game I owned.
Cover artwork for ‘The Curse of Monkey Island’ (Lucas Arts 1992). Image taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:The_Curse_of_Monkey_Island_artwork.jpg
Then there was all that time spent playing Minesweeper, Solitaire, Hearts and FreeCell. The two million NeoPoints I collected. My Pokémon trading cards that now lie in some dusty cupboard in my cousin’s house. I’ve been a gamer my whole life and didn’t even realise it.
Screenshot from ‘Ultimate Bullseye’, a game within the Neopets (Nickelodeon Kids & Family Virtual Worlds Group 1999) world. Image taken from http://www.neopets.com/~bullseye_Guide
As time goes on, more and more of the population will find themselves immersed in interactive entertainment. If you’ve got a computer or a smartphone, chances are you’re already there. And just as film was once challenged as a legitimate art form and activity, games will stand the test of time. There shouldn’t even be a debate about whether games are art.
Sure, we can argue about whether games are good art or bad art, just as we do with other forms of media, but games contain many of the same elements as traditional art. They make us feel – whether it’s elation at defeating a boss, pissing our pants at shadows in Amnesia or frustration at dying in a level for the billionth time. Designers usually put great thought into the aesthetics of a game – many of which can be categorized into history’s art movements (surrealism, impressionism, etc.). Game narratives contain themes, motifs, and social commentary – which often have a greater impact on players, given the immersion of interactivity and time invested (many, many hours).
Screenshot from ‘Fez’ (Polytron 2012), a game that relies on optical illusions for aesthetics and gameplay, based upon a blend of 2D and 3D, geometric abstraction, pixel art and a constant flow of bright, surreal colours. Image taken from http://weeabooswithcontrollers.com/2012/04/13/theres-already-a-puzzle-platformer-just-like-fez/
Why respect chess but not StarCraft? Both are immensely difficult games to conquer and are at heart strategy games. Chess is recognised as a sport by the International Olympic Committee whilst StarCraft is virtually the national sport of South Korea, with two cable TV channels dedicated to broadcasting games.
OnGameNet StarLeague Starcraft tournament in Korea. Image taken from http://www.mymym.com/en/news/10454.html
I’ve come to respect games. It’s probably a huge relief for my boyfriend. But it’s also pretty exciting for me. I’ve only just started playing some of the greatest titles (I played Super Mario Bros for the first time last month despite having owned a Mario wallet for years). There are so many worlds to explore, characters to meet, things to blow up. It’s going to be an epic journey. Wanna join?
Screenshot from ‘Super Mario Bros.’ (Nintendo 1983). Image taken from http://au.gamespy.com/articles/115/1155216p1.html
Ma beloved Super Mario wallet <3.
Words: Jaymee Mak 2012
Editing: Kyle Manning