Gaming Should be Taken Seriously

I got to thinking about this because of the recent controversy over a local news article, from the New Observer (front page, no less) in Raleigh, North Carolina about MLG Raleigh, a big eSports event that has tournaments for a variety of games like Starcraft II and League of Legends. Rather than give you a link to that article (to avoid giving them any kind of traffic) let me link you this one, which is an insightful view on gaming and how people should view it. However, let me give you some highlights from the first one to show just how immature, superficial, and ignorant the first article is.

“Hundreds of fans poured into the convention center Friday, some accompanied by their mothers”

Apparently we all live at home with our parents who have to take us everywhere.

“Some of them looked like they hadn’t been outdoors in months. Others accepted free samples of Speed Stick deodorant – not a bad idea considering the competition runs from 10 a.m. to midnight Saturday.”

Now we are not only basement dwellers, but unclean as well. This jab was a little more subtle, but still there.

There have been many other articles in the past that carry the same tone as this one towards gamers and eSports fans, that we apparently live at home, are losers, don’t leave the house, and don’t maintain ourselves in any way.

I wanted to use that article as an example of the continued problems with which gaming is faced with today. Rather than talk about why gamers are not taken seriously, I would like to talk about why games themselves aren’t taken seriously because that is really the root of the issue. Once the games themselves are taken seriously, the group that follows them will soon be taken seriously as well.

I have sort of touched on this subject matter before, and would encourage you to read another piece I wrote to better understand where I am coming from. I may address some of the same things, but I plan on expanding much more here.

In my first article I danced around the idea of why gaming was not taken seriously, because a lot of games themselves don’t take themselves seriously. Games have struggled to look at tough questions and morals in any expansive way. Rather than talk about that, I would like to talk about a game’s ability to evoke emotions.

One of the main reasons why other art forms (yes, I consider games an art) like painting, sculpting, and film are revered so highly are because they are able to evoke powerful emotions from people. I’m not a very emotive person and often show very little emotion, but I still get a deep feeling towards some pieces of art, especially games.

First, let me warn you that there are spoilers ahead but I will say the name of the game first. I want to name three games that I think have the ability to draw out some powerful emotions: Final Fantasy VII, Red Dead Redemption, and Kingdom Hearts. And I don’t mean they were emotional because the gameplay was difficult and you were happy to beat a boss or achieve something, but that the game created a great connection with you. It caused you to react to an event in the game.

It is difficult to put these kind of experiences into words, but people who have also played these games likely had something very similar happen to them.

Anyone who has played FF7 already knows the moment I am referring to. That moment would be Aerith’s death. They truly built up the character from the first time you met her and she started to grow on you in a weird way. Sephiroth coming out of nowhere and ending it all for her was one of the bigger shocks I have had in gaming. It was shocking and emotional for a couple of reasons.

I spent time using the character. She was really good, which made me start to build her up. She also had an odd personality that was easy to get attached to, the dialogue between her and Cloud was interesting. It was emotional because there was absolutely no warning that it would happen. I didn’t get to play FF7 until a few years ago and it affected me quite a bit, so I can’t even imagine what it must have been like as a young kid playing the game. I bet that it left a bigger impression on them than it did me.

Now, something that was much more tragic to me, which was the end of Red Dead Redemption. The whole game blew me away, it was one of the most beautiful games I have ever played. Every little thing you did the whole game, which was full of emotional moments, led up to the end. You were physically there, all the way through the entire game, in the tensest moments of John Marston’s life.

You became a part of that story. You were trying to get back to Marston’s family. You shared the same struggle as Marston, a struggle that was almost for nothing – almost. In the end Marston dies but he was able to send his family away first. Marston really achieved what he set out to do, which was get back to his family and prevent them from getting into the outlaw life he had led before.

What made the ending even more powerful was the way Marston died, betrayed by a government he made a deal with at the beginning of the game – the beginning of Marston’s struggle. This made me both sad for Marston and angry, because I know he deserved a happy ending and didn’t get it.

Kingdom Hearts, there is no other franchise I hold more dearly. The writing and characters in that series, to me, are unmatched. There are so many great elements to it and so many emotional moments it is hard to keep track of it all. Kingdom Hearts truly is that cliche of a roller coaster of emotions. Many sad and happy things happen throughout the entire game.

One moment does stand out to me though, the end of the first game. We had finally reunited with Riku after not seeing him for the majority of the game. I mean, the goals were to stop the heartless and for Sora to reunite with his lost friends.

Now, after we spend a small amount of time with Riku at the end, after defeating Ansem, we have to lock both him and Mickey behind the door leading to Kingdom Hearts? I was ten years old when that happened and having to leave Riku (and Mickey? come on) behind was insane to me. I was very attached to the game and that moment will always stick out to me.

Games can bring out many other emotions in people as well. Games can make us laugh, cry, feel scared, pretty much anything any other art form could achieve.

I think it is time that people looking in from the outside recognize this because games can and are so much more than just another form of entertainment for children and “immature adults/losers.” My previous article talked about how I think games have the ability to provoke much stronger emotions. I still think that is very true.

Do you have any moments in gaming you can remember where you felt something significant? It could be shocking and surprising, like Aerith, sad like John Marston and Kingdom Hearts, or it could be many more things. I hear Amnesia is pretty scary.