In order to bring my back catalogue of writing to a new audience, I will be re-uploading some articles from my time as Deputy Features Editor and Features writer for The Rabbit (the University of Essex student newspaper), starting with my very first article! More to come!
This article was originally published in the 2010-2011 academic year.
It’s no secret that I am a big fan of videogames (or “computer games” depending on which term you prefer to use) and I’m sure that’s also true of many of you reading this article. There will undoubtedly have been a number of students who simply couldn’t bear the thought of coming to university without their precious Wii/Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 (delete as appropriate) and now have their console of choice sitting proudly in their room, ready to be played at their leisure. But just what is it that makes gaming such an enticing and enjoyable pastime, as well as one of the fastest growing entertainment markets in our modern world?
One possible explanation is that gaming is a form of media like no other. It encompasses many of the best elements from various different types of entertainment – it can tell some truly memorable stories, blow you away with amazingly animated visuals and have well-scored soundtracks that are music to your ears – yet it still manages to be something very unique. This can be put down to its interactivity, allowing you to take control of your character’s destiny and immersing you into a whole new world in a way that no amount of tacked-on 3D film effects could ever do (something that will be proven quite literally come Spring 2011 with the release of Nintendo’s new no-silly-glasses-required 3DS handheld).
So, with so much obvious potential at its disposal, one has to wonder why gaming has only really begun to be widely accepted in society in the last few years. After all, it’s not a brand new phenomenon; it’s been around for quite a while – heck, in the next year alone we’ve got the 20th, 25th and 30th anniversaries of three of gaming’s biggest icons to celebrate (Sonic the Hedgehog, Super Mario and Pac-Man respectively). As with any new form of media though, many people were bound to reject it at first purely because it’s radically different to what they are used to (or “weird and scary” as Grampa Simpson might say) and due to a variety of additional reasons, it’s taken a good few decades for them to warm to it. Stereotypes such as the geeky nerd sitting locked away in a darkened room playing videogames all night certainly haven’t helped its public image, nor has the fact that games like the ever-controversial Grand Theft Auto have been repeatedly held responsible for violent crimes supposedly related to passive consumption (anyone familiar with the notorious US activist Jack Thompson will know what I mean). Fortunately though – the times, they are a-changin’.
Nintendo, who have been at the forefront of innovation in the industry since the very beginning, have helped to pave the way for gaming’s current perception in the public eye. After two less-successful-than-hoped consoles in the form of the Nintendo 64 and Gamecube, which were arguably orientated towards the (to use a term that’s being thrown around quite a lot lately) “hardcore” gamer, the company did a complete U-turn by releasing the considerably more “casual”-focused Wii, with its control scheme that is accessible to practically everyone and a range of titles that cater for those who are looking for a party experience or a bit of physical or mental exercise. Lo and behold, it sold like hot cakes and there was a huge amount of excitement surrounding its release in 2006 – perhaps a little too much excitement, if all those reports of people smashing televisions with Wii Remotes are to be believed! Broken appliances aside though, it has without question heralded a new age for gaming, a success that rival companies Sony and Microsoft will soon be hoping to replicate with their PlayStation Move and Kinect devices.
There’ll be those out there who will scoff at this new approach, claiming that this isn’t ‘real’ gaming. However, this isn’t the attitude to take. The beauty of gaming is that, now more than ever before, there’s something for everyone – for every Wii Fit there’s a Call of Duty and for every Brain Training there’s a Mario. Whatever your tastes may be you can easily jump in and have a good time. It’s a way of bringing everyone together.
In summary, gaming is something we should embrace and enjoy. Obviously I wouldn’t suggest prioritising it over your university studies, but it’s a great way to spend your time off or even to help you bond with new friends and flatmates. It’s up to you – will you insert coin(s) to continue and join the fun?
EXTRA: In a subsequent issue of The Rabbit, this photo appeared of British comedian Phill Jupitus reading my article during a visit to the university! I was chuffed!