I have a love-hate relationship with video games. As in I love video games but I hate myself for playing them. It’s hard to justify time-spent-gaming (TSG) when there are books to read, things to write, walks to go on, knowledge to gain, workouts to conquer, jobs to look for, other productivia ad nausem. I don’t consider gaming to be a beneficial activity. Whenever I finish playing a video game, I feel like my time could have been spent better otherwise, plain and simple.
Why is that? What is it about video games that makes them feel like a waste of time? When I finished Gravity’s Rainbow, I considered that an accomplishment. I haven’t considered beating a video game an accomplishment since Pokémon in third grade. But aren’t both activities just absorbing pieces of entertainment? I still enjoy playing video games, or else I wouldn’t do it. But when my monitor gets dark enough to see my reflection, and I see that dead stare, that complete involvement in the screen in front of me, my self-loathing level goes up, just a little bit. I add a few EXP points to my depression rating.
Why don’t I feel this guilt when I allow my self other entertainments? I even consider watching certain movies a “productive” activity. You’re learning about storytelling, the modern myth, the inside of someone else’s brain. You are studying the canon. Or so I tell myself.
I started to think a lot about what makes a piece of entertainment “legitimate,” and realized that its literally impossible to define. I started playing games like Skyrim, which have entire societies with economies and religions and mythologies and politics and cuisines. Why is that any more of a waste of time than reading the latest DeLillo? Is either a waste of time? I enjoy playing video games. They’re fun, and when I’m actually playing them, I’m happy. Could that not be justified by some kind of enlightened hedonism? As in, because I’m enjoying myself, spending part of my time as a sentient being quote unquote, happy, the exercise is beneficial?
This week was E3. The Electronic Entertainment Expo. The biggest video game convention of the year (I think. I’m not a part of “gaming culture.” I game in a vacuum.) Out of curiosity about what I won’t be able to afford in the coming months, I kept up with E3 this year, and watched a lot of the video game trailers the trade show produced. I was amazed. Three stood out the most.
Each of these gameplay trailers is as entrancing as a short film. And they’re medium changing. Or part of a greater trend in medium change. When’s the last time you saw a movie that you thought actually changed the medium? When’s the last time you read a novel that was truly groundbreaking for literature without just crawling up its ass with postmodernism? These three games have the potential to change the path of one of our most popular media.