Summing Up: The Study of Video Games

The study of video games and the undercurrent of the course readings, has been to investigate how video games use virtual environments to engage players in tasks which have zero tangible output. McGonigal, Nardi and to a lesser extent Bogost all seemed to be investigating the benefits of playing video games, and each of them settled on the benefits of a virtual environment when it comes to motivation. We have seen that video games can create worlds, experiences and social structures which allow for an intricacy and imaginativeness in the tasks that they present to players, that can’t be found in regular games or real life. The tasks offered depend upon the video game, and thus an investigation into video games, particularly the most popular video games, can reveal to us the sorts of tasks that people enjoy taking up and the features which make these tasks so attractive. For instance within WoW, a part of the attraction seems to be the clearly defined social ascension that the game offers. In Madden games, it seems to be more a realization of a person’s personal fantasies. These two video games engage players in wildly different ways, yet the goal for both is the same; foster a virtual environment where particular tasks become enticing for players. For this reason, I think that by studying video games we can learn a good deal about human motivation. For video games, perhaps like nothing else besides natural appetites and physical addictions, motivate people to act, and as humanists we can learn what drives human beings, by examining the sort of desires are satisfied by playing video games, and how video games produce tasks which allow for this sort of desire satisfaction. It’s almost a new standard of critical aesthetic judgment; the ability of a virtual environment to motivate players to engage with it.

One more thing. For us non-gamers, the undeniable is video games aren’t going anywhere. In fact, it seems a certainty that video games will continue to become more and more ubiquitous. For this reason, critics and future writers should make video game criticism a high priority, for it is new relatively new critical territory and so will yield new insights about human nature that can’t be found in criticism of text or film.


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