by Hillary Kang
I like video games. I’ve liked them since my brother introduced the ubiquitous Pokémon series to me when I was seven. Since then, video games have seen me through the years, and I’ve even seen numerous franchises mature and change along with me, such as Final Fantasy and Resident Evil (imagine my surprise when I saw the waifish Chris Redfield from the original Resident Evil transform into a hulking mass of muscle in 2009’s Resident Evil 5).
So you can imagine my disappointment when people casually dismiss video games as pointless or otherwise. Case in point: in December, a local gaming team was forced to pull out of the finals of an international tournament because one of their members was denied leave of absence from National Service. Ironically, a local singer was able to postpone his enlistment date in 2014 to participate in a competition held in China.
I think video games have a lot to offer potential players, and that people’s negative attitude towards gaming has to change.
Video games have garnered quite the bad rap in its relatively short history of less than 50 years. In recent years, they have had the dubious honour of making the headlines for a host of reasons, not all of them encouraging: from their purported role in sparking off senseless shooting rampages to perverting the minds of innocents with pixelated nudity. The negative press about video games has been widespread, making the public’s aversion to them unsurprising.
But from the standpoint of someone who considers video games an integral part of her life, I speak from experience when I say that video games should be accorded the credit that they rightfully deserve, and not dismissed as a childish waste of time.
I have played video games that – through skillful storytelling and judicious use of art and unique mechanics – have been veritable works of art. Take Journey for instance, which was not so much a video game (no Michael Bay-esque explosions or achievement hunting here), as it was an experience.
I was mesmerised by the quiet, ethereal beauty of the endlessly rolling dunes, which belied its unassuming gameplay. Simply put, Journey involves solving puzzles with or without another random, anonymous player that can connect to your game at any time. Unlike most conventional online games, you can only communicate with this stranger through lilting musical notes, further adding to the poignancy of the game. I hosted one such player the first time I played Journey, and in the course of an hour or so, forged an inexplicable bond with him/her as we ventured through the spellbinding landscape.
Journey, as its name implies, is more about the experience, rather than the destination; the same could be said for many other video games.
There have also been games that have helped me hone several real-world skills, such as reaction time, teamwork, and tactical thinking. One such game is Guild Wars 2.
In Guild Wars 2’s World versus World mode, three teams of up to 50 players each vie for enemy territory in real time, while attempting to protect their own. As a commander in World versus World, one needs to consider many variables, such as: Which of the two territories should I focus on? Should I risk splitting our forces up to create a diversion, or would that simply weaken us?
Communication is key, and I’m glad to say that through my time in Guild Wars 2, I’ve met a number of people from around the globe, and have had those friendships continue on even outside of the game.
Similarly, my latest gaming guilty pleasure has been instrumental in keeping me sane between long studying hauls. That game – though it pains me to admit this openly – is the curiously addictive mobile simulator Tiny Tower, a game that secretly delights my inner micromanager to no end. There is something strangely soothing about observing my hundred-or-so Bitizens traipse about their day in their uncomplicated, pixelated glory, and watching them never fails to wind me down.
And therein lies my point. Video games do have an intrinsic value, whether as art, a tool for education or, at its very core, a simple form of entertainment and stress relief.
Naysayers should look beyond viewing video games as a senseless waste of time, and perhaps settle down with a good, engaging video game.
by Hillary Kang