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COLUMN: The Video ‘Game’ Issue

Since the first bloops appeared on Atari’s Pong way back in 1972, video games have progressed into something incredible and truly unique.

As excellent as film and books are, video games have one exclusive artistic feature that sets them apart from other mediums: Interactivity.

This interactivity is able to create emotions unlike anything else. I’m sorry, but those interactive choose-your-own-adventure Indiana Jones books I read in 5th grade are not quite up to snuff with the potential of an excellent “game.”

For example, in the games “Mass Effect” and “Heavy Rain,” when my actions killed characters I had grown to cherish, I was devastated. In the past three years, the only times I can recollect crying were after the first 15 minutes of Disney/Pixar’s “Up” and near the end of “Mass Effect 2.” Seriously.

These events are coded, yet entirely unscripted from their respective story’s onset. My actions alone killed my friends.

The recently released “Stanley’s Parable” is essentially a satire of this aspect of “games,” and is an absolute riot to play because of this. Each playthrough is entirely different and lasts maybe 10 minutes, while the narrator mocks the player for the entire journey.

It’s lovely.

Regardless of the beauty player-choice brings, the objectively greatest video “game” I’ve ever played, “Bioshock: Infinite,” contained virtually none.

Instead, its robust themes of racism and oppression fused with an unbelievably dynamic world containing compelling characters utterly captivated me. The gameplay itself wasn’t too shabby, either.

At “Bioshock Infinite’s” start, a festival is ongoing in the floating steampunk city, Columbia. Meanwhile, the player is the disgraced former Pinkerton, Booker DeWitt, who is attempting to rescue a girl in order to pay a debt.

As DeWitt, I remember walking through the unbelievably gorgeous Columbia. It was an astonishing experience. Despite the city’s beauty, it was evident that darkness lurked somewhere beneath the shining façade.

So, I strolled through the town and talked to several cordial, amiable white citizens, all the while making note of something being off with Columbia.

Then from literally out of nowhere, I hear this a capella rendition of The Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows.”

I could not move.

I stood there on my own accord for the entire song’s duration and remember thinking, “Wow, it’s such a shame that I can experience this for the first time only once.”

It was a fantastic “game.”

Now, there is a reason as to why I have been passive-aggressively placing the word “game” in quotes. It’s because I just don’t think it’s an accurate term.

Although I believe games I play like “Fifa,”” Counter-Strike” and “Crusader Kings” are all fantastic, they are certainly more sport than art and effectively are games.

But “Mass Effect,” “Bioshock: Infinite” and many other “games” like them? They have far more artistic value than some “game.” To refer to them as such feels denigrating.

Unfortunately, neither I nor anybody else in the gaming community at the moment can think of a better term to call them.

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