Following the definition given by Ian Bogost in How to Do Things with Videogames: a “medium [is] an extension of ourselves for just this reason: it structures and informs our understanding and behavior” (Bogost 2). I want to extend this by arguing that video games act as a medium because they allow people to have an interactive experience that allows the simulation of a real event.
In properly arguing video games to be a medium, a video game must have the trait of becoming extensions of people’s realities. This intrinsic connection between a person and the digital environment within the video game lies within the change of perspective that a video game can provide. By forcing or allowing a person to play a player role within the video game experience, it allows a natural immersion into the scope and rules of the game. Lev Manovich states, “as the player proceeds through the game, she gradually discovers the rules that operate in the universe constructed” by the game (McKenzie 21). People become players within the game and they have to learn the limitations and constraints of their abilities in an algorithmically controlled setting. To win, one must conform to the rules and bound oneself in that immersive environment as quickly as possible. This is interesting because this arguably imposed mentality to become a subject within the realm of the game delivers the trait of the extent of one’s self within the game.
To share a personal experience as a gamer, I used to play a lot of FIFA (a soccer game) during high school. In addition to that, I was very active as an actual soccer player, playing Varsity for my high school and for a travel team as well. When I think about the power of video games as an extension of ourselves, I always refer to the integration of my real soccer player experience and my simulated soccer experience. The power of video games created a gray area and meshed those two aforementioned experiences in terms of my personal abilities. When considering video games to be a set universe with limitations, those limitations many times are greater than those of real life. FIFA allowed me to shoot greater distances, do skill moves, and run without getting tired. This influenced me because after playing FIFA and going to a soccer game or training I would over-estimate my abilities in those areas. This speaks volumes of how video games can temporarily mind alter your own physical capabilities. This creates an extended real-life experience, and does so in an enhanced form.
The second important characteristic to consider is the role video games play in structuring and informing our own understanding and behavior. I think this is really speaking about a medium’s cultural influence and relevance in human society. This characteristic of video games is clearly demonstrated in today’s society. As Neil Postman is quoted saying in How to Do Things with Videogames, “in the year 1500, fifty years after the printing press was invented, we did not have old Europe plus the printing press. We had a different Europe” (Bogost 6). Video games have contributed to changes in the modern culture, especially among the teenagers. Just to give an economic perspective of video gaming prevalence in the United States’ culture, Amazon acquired Twitch.tv for $1.1 billion a month ago. Twitch is a site that live-streams video game footage to 45 million viewers a month. Amazon, a company that is always following innovation and generally makes sound acquisitions, is moving into the growing video game industry within entertainment. Video games create cultural movements and big franchise games such as Call of Duty, Halo, and World of Warcraft develop an astounding following. Now, with the creation and growth of Twitch, people do not only have the hobby of playing video games, but also watch players play video games. When it reaches this level of hysteria and enthusiasm among the gaming community, it can only signify that video game industry has permanently embedded itself in society.
Video games meet the two defining traits necessary by Bogost’s definition. However, video games take it a step further as a very versatile medium. Even though they are known for their first person shooter and sport simulation games, video games extend much further than that. Aside from the general main purpose of video games, which is winning, new technologies are pushing video games to become more useful for educational or preparation purposes. One example that was shared with us in the DiVE (Duke Immersive Virtual Environment) lab was that they are trying to create a cave-like simulation that can be used to train U.S. Army soldiers in cave combat and essentially prepare them mentality for the darkness and tight spaces that they are to encounter in real warfare. This is similar to the enhanced experience that FIFA gave me to a greater degree; however, this video game would be exposing a soldier to a cave experience, and in doing so, mentally enhancing his or her readiness of what to expect.
It is important to understand how dynamically video games are expanding in cultural relevance and scope. New developers are branching out and focusing on directions varying from educational games for math courses to perfecting the coding physics for airplane pilots that now have to spend 100 plus hours on airplane simulators before being able to practice in a real plane. These are a few examples of the different directions gaming is moving towards. As this grows, the quality of simulation video games is inherently increasing.
Playing video games means “to play the code of the game. To win means to know the system. And thus to interpret a game means to interpret its algorithm” (Wark 21). As simulations improve and slowly coincide with the limitations or algorithms of real-life, (which is already starting to happen, having experienced the DiVE simulations) winning in the game will essentially mean winning in the actual real-life situation. To this hypothesis of the future perfection of video gaming simulations, Wark’s statement that video games are real-life and real-life is a video game may become true, because the distinctions may blur and become one (it is a scary thought, but it may not be far off).
Bogost, Ian . “Introduction.” How To Do Things With Videogames. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011. 1-8. Print. Mckenzie
Stone, Brad, and Adam Satariano. “Amazon Bets on Gamer Website Twitch in $970 Million Deal.” Bloomberg.com. Bloomberg, 25 Aug. 2014. Web. 06 Oct. 2014. <http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-08-25/amazon-buying-gamer-website-twitch-for-1-billion.html>.
Wark, McKenzie. Gamer Theory. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2007. Print.
A game is a mental stimulus engaging the focus of the brain in order to allow the player to reach a main goal. There are a variety of gaming experiences offered by multiple companies within the gaming industry. From games like Luminosity that help develop the brain, to first-person shooters that take the gamer into the main character’s role such as Halo, and MMOs that engage a wide audience like Leagues of Legends; there is everything for everyone. Video games are a form of entertainment, but alongside their main purpose, they also bring upon controversy. Whether or not games can be categorized as a medium depends on people’s personal opinions and how much experience they have with video games.
As someone who has dabbled in the gaming world, I can understand why people would categorize games as a medium. Life itself is a medium, it grants all living organism a unique experience molded and shaped by the perception of each individual. It allows for impressions to be made based on the senses that each individual withholds. Like life, games can be classified as mediums given their nature to engage the player and provide them an experience they can take in and make sense of.
Many videogame researchers argue that it is imperative to understand what a medium is in order to apply the definition to video games. Ian Bogost, a video game designer proposes that, “videogames are a medium that lets us play a role within the constraints of a model world. And unlike playground games or board games, videogames are computational, so the model worlds and sets of rules they produce can be far more complex…” One can see how we each gain a different experience by the different games that we immerse our minds into. When we take on the challenge to play a role within a character, we are allowing our minds to wander into the complexity of the game in order to reach goals and solve the problem the game offers. Because we are engaging the brain to that extent, we are allowing games to be a medium through which we play a role, provide our mental thinking and gain new insight and apply it on order to reach the end-goal of the game.
In order to situate and think about games through a critical context, once must be willing to experience first hand the mechanics of game play, and how it influences our perspective and way of thinking. Gaming – although it provides many wonderful scenes, plots and story lines – is not just a form of art. It is a medium that needs to be understood in order to utilize it in real world experiences. “For serious games proponents, videogame’s ability to create worlds in which players take on roles constrained by rules offers excellent opportunities for new kinds of learning.” In other words, through the different worlds that games offer, there are many things one can learn. The gaming industry caters to all types of people and their interests. The Wii can help keep people fit. Many Nintendo games can be useful to toddlers who are just begging to learn primary concepts. Even research has shown how much it has been useful to people who work in extraneous workplaces. For example, organized groups such as the military utilize gaming as a source of training.
Not surprisingly, a crossover between the medical field and the gaming field has taken place. According to the University of Utah, “A new publication by researchers from the University of Utah, appearing in the Sept 19 issue of the journal Science Translational Medicine, indicates video games can be therapeutic and are already beginning to show health-related benefits.” The article titled “Video Games Help Patients and Health Care providers” tells the readers of researchers’ findings of video games and patients. Some researchers from the University of Utah have invented “an activity-promoting game specifically designed to improve resilience, empowerment, and a “fighting spirit” for pediatric oncology patients” (Bulaj, 2012). By allowing patients to be influenced by this type of game play, their recovery can be helped and altered. They engage their minds in order to allow their brains to help them through their physical pain and recovery.
Education has also been positively affected by the revolution of video games. There exists no surprise that humanity has been devising means through which humans can gain more brainpower and capacity. Games such as Luminosity have been proven to help. Although we must take into consideration and not negate the brains limitations, we must not forget the ways such games help us improve our memory and get better at critical thinking. There are many companies that specifically target young brains. ABC Mouse for example is a website that allows kids to learn through games. It makes learning easier and it is a medium through which they learn faster. By incorporating gaming, kids are more willing to learn and their short attention spans are engaged.
Regardless of the many ways that gaming has helped people, there are people who speculate that specific types of games make people more lazy and violent. First person shooters such as Halo and Call of Duty involve violence and arms. MMOs provide many goals for players that they feel the need to continue to play in order to reach them all. But even games that seem to possess no value have something to offer. Apart from providing critical thinking skills, they also offer a diverse set of skills. Many videogame researchers have found that “gamers are faster and more effective at filtering out irrelevant information and spotting targets in a cluttered scene. The size of their field of vision and their ability to track different moving objects in it is greater” (Steffens, 2009). Even the small, simplistic PC game such as “The Company of Myself,” provides useful skills through the way it engages the player to find ways to reach the main goal.
By the multitude of ways video games has helped individuals, it would be helpful if more information were found surrounding the concept of gaming. If we were to study games, perhaps we could advance recovery for patients and advance the rate at which people learn. Yes video games is a type of medium, but it should be used as a medium through which people could get significantly better at developing their mental skills.
Bogost, Ian . “Introduction.” How To Do Things With Videogames. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011. 1-8. Print.
Bulaj, Grzegorz. “Video Games Help Patients and Health Care Providers.” University of Utah News. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Oct. 2014.
Steffens, Maryke. “Video Games Are Good for You › Science Features (ABC Science).” Video Games Are Good for You › Science Features (ABC Science). N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Oct. 2014.