Video games have stories too…

Last week I ranted about the necessity for a good story. If you’d like to brush up on that here it is again. Don’t worry, I’ll wait for you to reread it.

What?

You don’t want to reread that masterpiece? I’m serious. It’s a masterpiece and not because I believe myself to be an artist. My last name is Master. Everything I write is a little piece of me. Hence… Masterpiece.

Anyway, back to the point of this week’s column.

I was scrolling down my Facebook feed (or what I like to call my second home) the other day and my bored eyes fall upon a post from a friend that stated that video games should not be considered hobbies or good activities. The friend then linked to an article that further explained the statement. The article, “How We’ve Robbed a Generation of Hobbies, Joy, and Creativity” by Dennis Prager of The Daily Signal, summarizes another article from another website by another writer. That article argues that young people have become so fixated on technology and the digital realm that they have no interest in the physical realm. He lists some causes including school systems increasing course loads onto their students and parents lack of cultivating the need for hobbies in their children. Prager then states:

“After hours of homework, parents understandably want their child time to unwind. And what more convenient way to unwind than by watching a screen – whether a smartphone screen, a computer screen, or a big screen?”

I would suggest to Mr. Prager, and to my friend, that placing a book in front of their face is just the same as placing them in front of a screen. Both are portals into an alternate dimension. Playing a video game can instill just the same level of creativity in a child’s mind than reading a book. 

Shocking, isn’t it? I’m an actual published author. How dare I claim that playing video games could have more of a positive effect on a child’s mind than that of a book. And I’ll explain why. 

Video games allow anyone (not just a child) to become immersed in the game’s world. They can see, hear, and interact with that world. The popular video game Minecraft is one such game. You are placed into a retro looking block world where players must mine and craft(literally the name of the game) anything. The only thing that limits their building is their own creativity. 

Most video games tell stories that are emotional, thrilling, and fantastical. Some even provoke deep questions within the player. The Final Fantasy series are excellent examples of storytelling. Infamous is a game that makes the player decide between serving the greater good and serving the player’s own needs. There are literally thousands of similar video games that include really good storylines that rival the storylines inside books. 

I will concede the argument that there are mind numbing video games that only work against my counter argument. Candy Crush, Fortnite, and all the excessively violent games are examples. Nothing is perfect though. There are books out there that no one should read. Fifty Shades of Grey and any overly sexually graphic novel are examples of books to stay away from.

I will also admit that video games that focus on gaining levels or grinding for that better loot are bad examples to my argument. Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games like World of Warcraft and Terra have weak storylines that aren’t really essential to the game. However, they do rely heavily on banding together with other players to overcome obstacles. 

Just because video games involve a television or computer screen shouldn’t disqualify them from getting some of a child’s attention. Nor should it be disqualified from being considered a hobby.

Video games can also cultivate cognitive and critical thinking. I watched my nephew play the new game Hello Neighbor this last weekend and the game is focused on a child trying to discover the mystery surrounding his neighbor across the street. In order to reach the next stage of the game, you have to figure out puzzles and watch out for the neighbor who will actively learn from the player’s choices and react to them. I’ve never once read a book that had one of it’s character interact with me. 

If a child is interested in playing a video game, they shouldn’t be made to feel ashamed for admitting it when someone asks “What’s some of your hobbies?” The children that have grown up playing video games are currently adults. I’m one of them. I would wager that while some of the video game playing adults are high school dropouts or just lackluster, there are also those that learned from those games to go on to create marvelous things.

When I was growing up, I felt ashamed when people found out I played video games. When I was in school, you didn’t want to admit to playing them because you’d be considered a geek or nerd. I was a nerd in school, but I didn’t want anyone to blatantly point it out. Now a days, everyone is playing them. Some are even playing them professionally and becoming rich from them. 

I’m not telling parents or anyone else to throw away your children’s books and replace them with controllers. Far from it. What I am saying is that don’t discount a video game as a storytelling vehicle. If you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, then you shouldn’t judge a video game either. 

What do you all think? Should video games be allowed into the sacred halls of hobbies? Or should they be banned from the face of the earth? Discuss in the comments below!

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