The perspective of The Guardian on video games: virtual environments are impacting tangible ones | Editorial
According to Gabrielle Zevin, video games can serve as a space where people can express vulnerability and experience a wide range of emotions. In her bestselling book Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, Zevin explores how video games can alleviate suffering, challenge preconceived notions, and foster meaningful connections through alternate realities. This goes against the stereotype that video games are solely for children or promote violence.
Playing video games enables individuals to fully engage in scenarios that they may not have encountered or been able to experience in real life. While these simulated experiences have their limitations in accurately portraying reality, the gaming industry has evolved into a more social and empathetic community. As Zevin acknowledges, this shift should be recognized as video games continue to impact our daily lives.
Last year’s second biggest film, The Super Mario Bros Movie, was based on a Nintendo game. For entertainment that combined commercial and critical success, look no further than HBO’s TV award-winning series The Last of Us, based on a 2013 video game. The industry is blurring the fields of education, leisure and work. The penetration of video games is remarkable. Since 2017, Nintendo has sold 132m Switch consoles, and the launch of its new handheld console is this year’s biggest consumer electronics story. Household names are not standing still: Apple’s latest iPhone is so powerful it can play big-budget titles hitherto only found on laptop computers. Netflix offers iconic games such as Grand Theft Auto.
Gaming has a negative aspect. An evaluation in 2019 of gaming platform rules revealed a concerning absence of protection against sexual exploitation. Among 40 well-liked applications, 29 permitted anonymous registration and self-proclaimed age, supposedly to shield minors from harmful individuals. The UK’s online safety bill should mandate the strictest privacy settings for children when it comes to gaming.
Reworded: Roblox, a popular platform for user-generated games, is used by approximately 70 million people daily, primarily children. However, in 2021, the Washington Post reported that despite age checks, the platform’s voice chat was being misused to disturb others with offensive language and sounds. It remains to be seen if the new measures in the UK will effectively protect children. In the past, gamers were often stereotyped as young white men, but as the player population has become more diverse, this identity has evolved. Unfortunately, there have been instances of disturbing backlash towards this diversity. In 2020, the first transgender lead character was introduced in gaming. Most gamers reject the racism and misogyny that is being spread through online networks.
The combination of realistic graphics and captivating narratives have resulted in beautiful works of art. The release of Life is Strange in 2015 was a significant moment, demonstrating that online, episodic video games can be just as engaging as episodic TV shows. The story is primarily told through the conversations of the female protagonist and the player’s choices in resolving her moral dilemmas. Despite their technical and artistic achievements and wide appeal, video games are still considered separate from high culture. Author Zevin noted that many reviewers of her book felt the need to mention that they had never played a video game, yet still enjoyed her novel. This popular activity deserves more understanding and recognition.