The Significance of Video Games as a Form of Expression

The video game industry is still a baby in the grand scheme of things; it was only 40 years ago since Pong gained the attention of the world. Yet within those 40 years it’s been a difficult journey in establishing this as a grand form of expression, or art even, in the ways literature and film are regarded today. This may seem unfair on our young industry as it certainly doesn’t receive the goodwill or respect that it deserves, however if we take a quick look at these other forms of expression we can see that they too have not had an easy ride, that perhaps video games need more time to be considered with the same respect.

Literature of course, being as old as language itself, is very much discussed and revered as a means to enrich the mind and express beauty and sorrow. The literary experience is exciting because of the lasting effect on the reader afterwards, one that has through many centuries been evolving and adapting to the thought and practices of the times. Many books we consider classics can be disregarded as dated one day and then attention entirely reignited the next. However literature too has had a rocky road through life, for example if we look at the novel which came to popular attention during the 18th Century, their readers were by and large considered inferior than those who read poetry or other well established forms of literature. However nowadays it is the novel that everyone reads, the modern classics lists extends leaps and bounds and the true appreciation for the form has been realised. Of course every form of literature is different and has their own distinct merits and limitations, but from this example we can see it’s never a smooth ride for any form of expression, it takes time for their worth to be proven.

Then there’s film, which due partly to its ever increasing accessibility and consumption, has overthrown literature for the most popular form of expression. This form of expression is more visual than the written word before it, allowing for means of expression that had been imagined before. Seeing events before your very eyes made them more real than ever before and through editing the experience could not be hindered by human limitations, meaning now almost anything is possible on the big screen. From black and white silent pictures to today’s blockbusters this form has indeed evolved as literature before it had done. Simply put, film created a new relationship with the reader which has become hugely popular today. However, like literature respect hasn’t always been so well-kept here and with the industry’s absolute fascination with sequels and reboots today one could say quality has certainly declined in the wake of massive profits and lack of new ideas. Despite this, like the novel beforehand, these kinds of films must find their respect in time and are not necessarily insignificant in the long run.

Thus we come to the Video Game, which has indeed evolved dramatically since the days of Pong and which is still also struggling to prove itself a significant form of expression. The video game of course has many qualities that cannot be imitated in other art forms; pace could be dictated by the player, the actions undertaken in the game can change the very course of the narrative and the very experience of getting from A to B allow the player to cater the experience towards their personal needs. Essentially the player is largely in control, more so than ever before on how they partake in this experience. This evolution process must be doing some good too, as events such as the Video Game BAFTAs are finally being opened up to the public; admiration for video games is no longer a specialist field.

However the video game is still young and still trying to figure itself out and it is my belief we are only just beginning to tap the true potential of this form of expression. *Spoiler* I recently finished The Last of Us and as anybody who has finished the game will know, there is a moment in which the game gives you no choice but to act in a specific way, a specific way that the player doesn’t want anything to do with. However it is this exact scenario the game industry needs to capitalise on, for Naughty Dog didn’t give us a cut scene here, they made it gameplay; they made the player act. *Spoiler over*It may be argued that this kind of scenario has been played out in games before, for example Call of Duty allowed the player to murder innocent civilians inside an airport, however as morally destitute as this action is the player is by no means forced into it, they have a choice. However once this choice is removed and the player must act against their moral obligations, the effect is astounding because you feel responsible. This isn’t like murder in a novel or film where you may experience these events passively; video games can make us actively partake in the event, the player being the trigger for the evils on screen. The lasting effect from this can make us question the entire game experience, leaving us engaging with it long after the controller has been put down. Thus the removal of choice has in effect allowed the game to transcend from normal standards into something more akin to art, enriching our own lives and presenting us with moments of real sorrow and beauty.

This is but one means in which the video game industry can prove itself significant and as it enters perhaps its most exciting stage of evolution yet, I begin this blog in hopes to discuss video games past and present, focusing on the experience each brings to the player in an effort to support its ongoing progress as an art form worthy of study and recognition.

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