Let’s be frank: If you’re over thirty and are still booting up your favorite video games, someone has probably told you that you need to get the controller and do something more productive, more healthy, and more responsible. Adult gamers are no strangers to constant criticism and the nagging thought that those critics have had it right all along. That’s why a number of people, as they grow older, set the controller aside in the name of adulthood and responsibility. That, my friends, is bullocks.
Future wife, I apologize in advance for the times when you have to put up with my playing some first-person shooter or MMO with a group of former college friends that I have yet to meet, and that you probably will never like.
The reason I’m going to continue gaming is because it’s probably one of the most effective media for writers to find inspiration. As a future student of journalism and economics at the University of Missouri-Columbia, recognizing video games as an increasingly effective medium for creating immersive gameplay experiences with original narratives is huge. Consider, for example, a few games I have played as of late:
Tomb Raider, which follows the beautiful Lara Croft as she attempts to discover the reason behind her and her crew’s inability to escape they island on which they’ve been stranded, tells a thrilling narrative with convincing characters and an even more convincing, realistic environment. Seeing how developer Crystal Dynamics was able to create an immersive world and developer its characters enhances my ability to do the same in my writing and the interactivity does much more than any novel or film ever could.
Then consider Bioshock: Infinite. What a beautifully designed game. Admittedly, Infinite isn’t a masterpiece so far as gameplay is concerned. The concept of the skyhook had enormous potential, and was quite enjoyable, but often fostered the hit-and-run mentality and became repetitious. What had me coming back for ore was the game’s storyline, which not only meets the series’ standard for storytelling but far exceeds it. Brimming with plot twists and vibrant, relatable and emotionally engaging characters, Infinite establishes a connection in the first few minutes in a way most games can never accomplish. Moreover, Bioshock: Infinite defines a clear line between narrative gamers are required to experience and that which is optional. The game features an abundance of in-game opportunities scattered throughout the world that allow players to paint a full picture of the floating ‘paradise’ of Columbia and the riotous world below. When writing an article, essay, or screenplay, I would do well to consider how Irrational Games only forced so much information on players, leaving the smaller details and history optional. Writers of two-thousands page novels would do good to play Bioshock: Infinite.
Finally, there is The Last of Us, which is the reason I’m a gamer. Period. From the moment the game debuted at E3 last year, I knew the creators of the Uncharted franchise were going to be creating another captivating universe. The game’s prologue alone, which features the modern world as it is falling to pieces, paints the most picturesque, realistic characters I have seen this generation, and emotional connections with them are instantaneously forged. Naughty Dog also surged some much-needed life into an otherwise dying survival horror genre. Only a few hours into the game, having witnessed a number of breathtaking scenes, character designs and other gems, I’ve been on the edge of my seat numerous times, attempting to sneak around an encounter with a terrifying, fungi-infected clicker. The Last of Us is a gaming and storytelling masterpiece, to say the least, and no one should earn any flack from loved ones for indulging in it.
Being a gamer as an adult, of course, is going to be different than gaming now, or at the onset of the current generation. I can’t play Call of Duty for eight-hours straight in order to reach the game’s level cap. I can’t write a list of ten games and expect to beat them within the month, or even a year. Instead, I’ll have to become a more selective gamer and only choose the games that truly have something to offer, be it a means of occasional relaxation or a flare of inspiration for my writing and storytelling ability. Hell, it might even help me become a storyteller for my children:
“You see, kids, once upon a time there was a huge fungal infection, society collapsed, and... well, kids, everybody died. Sweet dreams.”
Gaming is not the medium for irresponsibility and indolence that it is made out to be. I know that in the coming years, and assuredly by the time Sony stops supporting the PlayStation 4, I will have earned my fair share of criticism for still being the occasional gamer. But I’ll find solace in knowing that those same people are probably logging innumerable hours on some mind-numbing TV show that could never demand the kind of decision-making or offer the interactive experience offered by a good, well-developed video game. Buying the PS4 for me is an investment into my future relaxation, future inspiration, and as frightening as it may be, an investment into what will probably be the first console my children will play.
To all those men and women who contemplate following suit and giving up what society deems to be a medium for the lazy and unemployed: Game on (responsibly).
Steven Chaffin, Jr is an American editor for PlayStation Universe. You can read more on his personal blog and follow him on Twitter @steven_chaffin.