At the age of four, my parents placed a video game
Eventually, I grew to accept the fact that what I actually had was an Atari 2600. I played the handful of games I had to death. To this day, I have fond memories of maddening Spider-Man marathons and harrowing tank duels with my dad in Combat.
What my parents might not have realized at the time is that they were planting the seeds for a love of video games that would stick around well into my adult life. Gaming is by far the most active and absorbing hobby in my life (bear in mind, I don't consider writing a hobby). I try to make time for it at least once or twice a week, even at my busiest. Though a particularly engrossing game or series can get its hooks in me and turn the habit daily if it's good enough.
One such series is Mass Effect.
Created by my favorite game developer, BioWare, the Mass Effect series and the universe explored therein are as compelling as nearly any science fiction work I've ever experienced, including books, television, and movies. It's right up there with Star Wars, Star Trek, and 2001 for me.Earlier this year, the final game in the trilogy was released. To gear up for the grand finale, I've decided to go back and play the entire series in order.
The games cast you as Commander Shepard, an elite human soldier who sets out to explore the galaxy on a quest to save it from an ancient race of machines known as the Reapers, who've made a habit of wiping out all traces of organic life in our neck of the universe every 50 million years or so. The game gives the player the freedom to pursue your goal in whatever way you see fit within the bounds of the story, either as a heroic war hero who does everything in his (or her) power to protect the innocent, or a ruthless soldier who will sacrifice anything (and anyone) for the greater good. The games keep track of the choices you make via the save data on your system, so in the latest installment you're still feeling the consequences of decisions you made five years ago in the first game.
Mass Effect is just one example of why I think video games should be held in the same light as any other medium for fiction. They may have begun as blinks and beeps in shopping malls and movie theater lobbies, but now they're telling stories. Now they're making statements on politics, life, and philosophy. When done well, games can be just as moving and rewarding as any other art form. No matter what Roger Ebert thinks.
I'd love to hear your opinion on video games and where you think they fall on the spectrum of entertainment and art. I'd especially like to hear what fellow writers have to say. Do you think video games are a medium you could use as a writer? Leave a comment and let me know what you think.
With my next entry, it will be back to regularly scheduled programming. Specifically, I'll be gearing up for the April A-Z Challenge, which I'm excited and terrified for.