Video Games Are Fundamental

Four days ago, Roger Ebert quoted John Warner in a tweet:

"Video games don’t yet (and maybe never will) replicate the experience of reading a good book."

tumblr_l0hkyjx2UT1qb5guno1_500 This may be true that video games can’t replicate the experience of reading a good book but are video games trying to replicate reading a book at all? No. Ebert, and Warner, are barking up the wrong tree. Video games may try to tell a story but they, in no way, have ever tried to replicate reading something.

You see, video games include something called interactivity. Reading a book is an activity. There’s a vital difference that needs to be recognized. When someone plays a game like World of Warcraft, the most lore-rich game in the history of video games*, they’re not reading a book (a simple but enjoyable activity), they’re actually interacting with the story as it flows in front of them through sight and sound (and if you’re the type that likes to pound on the keyboards to make a move, feel as well). Video games attempt to give a completely unrelated experience; Warner’s remark is actually an easily cut down straw man argument.

If we want to go about making straw man arguments, however, I can make one of my own: books will never replicate the interactive experience of playing a good video game or massively-multiplayer online game (MMOG). Books, credit where credit’s due, are a fun activity to take part in but they will never make it possible for 20, 40, 50 people to socialize and participate in a singular activity: fighting dragons, demons, ancient kings and demigods. Reading a book is an activity where you place your mind and imagination in a world of make-believe (even if you’re reading a non-fiction book, you still weren’t actually there); it’s no different than playing a game in that respect—however books will never be as interactive as a video game. Ever.

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Having said and explained this to my wife, she remarked that, along the same lines, LARPing** (Live Action Role Playing) is even more interactive and potentially fun than playing an MMOG. This I can not deny (unless you can not think of LARPing without turning into a puke fountain).

*Yes, WoW is the most lore-rich game in history. I would gladly take up anyone’s offer to compare it to any other video game. Some will point to the Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO) game and say, “A trilogy, prequel AND pre-prequel!”, but if you look at Warcraft I, II, III, its expansion, WoW and its 3 expansions (with a 4th on the way), as well as the books, comic series and now a movie (in the works), you’d realize that there’s a creation myth as well as thousands upon thousands of years of history that came before the WoW MMOG. By far it is the most lore-rich game in history, especially when it comes to actual in-game content. The WoW MMOG actually touches on all that history. All of it—unlike the Middle-Earth-only history in LOTRO.

**My wife has been lusting to get us both into LARP for several months now. She’s found a LARP group in Cincinnati we’re very likely going to start participating in.


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