Video Games are Art

Assassin's Creed: Altair artwork

Some art from the first Assassin's Creed game for the PS3

I love video games.

Really, they’re quite fun. Well, most of them. However, I’ve been told many times that I’m just wasting my time in playing video games.

I BEG TO DIFFER.

Are video games not simply another form of art? Simply another way of expressing oneself? In many video games today, such as the Infamous series, the choices of the player actually affect the outcome of the game–however, in the Infamous games, the player’s options are somewhat limited: you can either be the good guy and save people and whatnot, or you can be the bad guy and run around electrocuting random civilians. However, your behaviour needs to be fairly consistent throughout the game in order to get a decent ending.

Looking at games like these, which force us to make decisions that actually count, does it not show us, at some subconscious level, what kind of person we are? Sure, one could make the argument that “it’s just a game, it doesn’t mean anything.” But isn’t there some part of you that thinks, if this were real, what would I do? And that first inclination you have when faced with a choice, does that not say something about who you are?

Another thing I’ve found in some games is that some of them actually have a decent message, rather than just KILL EVERYTHING THAT MOVES. For example, I’m in the middle of Persona 4, a Playstation 2 game by the company Atlus. It’s a very character driven game, about a series of murders which occur in a small town, and a group of teenagers figure out that people are being kidnapped and thrown into an alternate world via a television set, where they are killed by monsters. These high schoolers then take it upon themselves to enter this world and use their unique abilities, called Personas, to save these kidnapped people.

Persona 4 box cover

Persona 4 for the PS2

UNDERSTAND? NO? THAT’S OK.

It’s a really fun game, which has even spawned an anime series airing in Japan. It’s also a very longgggggg game. Seriously, I’ll be playing it until July.

Anyway, it’s an RPG (role playing game) and, while the plot is solid and interesting, focuses heavily on the characters. In the Persona series, the player interacts with the other characters in ways which create Social Links, which give you more power with your Persona as you advance these Social Links.

Bottom line: you spend a lot of time interacting with other characters, and finding out their problems in life, which, surprisingly, might be similar to your own. Notably, one character struggles with his sexual identity: his father either died or left when he was a child (I can’t remember which) leaving him with only the media as his sense of “what a man should be”. He later struggles with the notion of being a man which the media has presented him, giving him a warped idea of what he “should” be. He acts like a punk, gets into fights, never goes to school, trying to act like a “real man”: aggressive, strong, and just trying to be a badass to cover up his insecurities. As the player advances this character’s story, we find he actually likes sewing, and ends up making dolls for some local children. But because he thinks this isn’t “manly”, he hides this fact and overcompensates with aggression. I, as a consumer of media, can relate to this character’s struggles in the way the media portrays women–in the past and present–and what it tells me I need to be. But the theme of this character’s story is simple: be true to yourself.

Persona 4 screenshot

This scene made me laugh so hard. Kanji tries to be a badass to cover up his insecurities about his sexual identity.

All in all, I find that many video games actually have a deeper message which we can apply to our own lives–even Call of Duty, if you look hard enough. Even Assassin’s Creed promotes the value of family, and doesn’t glorify killing (yes, I know, it’s about ASSASSINS but they don’t just kill random people). Perhaps our parents’ generation can’t understand it, but I believe that video are simply a new, more technological, more fun form of art that our generation has had the privilege to experience.

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