Department of English

Fall 2011 Edition

Game Design: Is it the End of a Knowledgeable and Social Society?

Vincent Bundage II
Argumentative 1010 1st Place
Professor: Joy Sterrantino

Today we live in a world of technological advancement and achievements. One such advancement has been in the realm of video games, which we have seen dramatically expand since its introduction in the 1970s. We see them in our everyday lives on billboards, in magazines, and even during the commercials of the Super Bowl. This is the modern age where technology has reigned king and video games have become one of the high points in our ever-changing society.

Despite how big the video game industry has grown, there still are stereotypes and critics against it. Many would like to believe video games are childish and have no contributing factor to the world. Others would think they are damaging to the health of our society and communities as people would rather play them then associate with their friends or family. This is not the case, however. Even though some may think video games are for children and degrade our minds, game designers bring art and culture to their players, and they create video games to inspire and help the world.

Something on which game designers put a strong emphasis when developing video games is the art. It is the key factor to a game being visually appealing and having the ability to capture the attention of a person that may consider wanting to buy one. Some have suggested video games can never be on the same level as definitive art. Notable film critic Roger Ebert created a storm when he stated video games could never be art because “Video games by their nature require player choices, which is the opposite of the strategy of serious film and literature, which requires authorial control.” I believe this to be wrong as Stefan Hall, in his article “Video Games as Collaborative Art,” suggests they are a form of collaborative art much like what we see in major film production today (Stefan 19). This would refute Ebert’s claim as game designers work together, making different portions to create a final product for their audience to enjoy; whereas film producers do the same by employing actors, directors, and crews to try and create a movie. Ebert also never takes into account the artists behind those games.

Video game companies hire many concept artists to bring out the feel of what their games should aspire to be and some of them happen to be very successful artists in the industry. A perfect example would be Cory Arcangel. Arcangel is a digital artist and has some of his work is being displayed in the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitey Museum, and the Museum of Contemporary Art – Chicago. People like Arcangel bring proof to the opinion that video games are art because it requires artists like him in the developing process, laying down the foundation for other designers to create the world and characters many have grown to love.

Game designers create places a person may travel to that they admire time and again because they could never see something like it in real life. Video games have an effect on our imaginations of what we perceive to be the world around us. Game designers take much time and effort into studying places around the world so they can use them for reference to create their own environments. They would have to learn about the physics of all sorts of materials and objects to know how to manipulate them for a realistic setting. It takes an active imagination t

o take something we think is just normal to us and make it into something that can never be forgotten.

Much research goes into the development of games that no one takes the time to realize. When creating a story, designers usually look to a certain time period, a book, or even an event. A good example would be Bioshock. Philip Deen, from Gamestudies.org, states in his article “Interactivity, Inhabitation and Pragmatist Aesthetics” that Bioshock “tells the story of a city built according to Ayn Rand’s Objectivism but comes to consume itself under the banner of ‘No Gods or Kings. Only Man’” (Deen). In developing Bioshock, the developers looked towards Rand’s political and social ideologies. The game introduces through backstory and subtle characterization the concept of Rand’s Objectivism—her philosophy of rational individualism that holds there is no greater moral goal than achieving happiness. It can be seen in every aspect of the game. One of the main antagonists, Andrew Ryan, is much like John Galt of Atlas Shrugged. Ryan creates a utopian society he wants no one to find and administers it under the principle that man should not be limited by government, religion, or nationality. The problem is there was no control among the people and the scientists were able to experiment without limitation causing anarchy among their civilization and the sudden collapse of normality. The designers would like to inform people of the possible dangers a society like this could have, wreaking havoc upon an educated populace if not executed correctly. Researching history is also a must when creating a game that is in homage to the times. In a game like Red Dead Redemption, the designers had to look at the myths and culture of the Wild West. The protagonist was an outlaw trying to put his past behind him in an unforgiving point of American history. For the time period, they chose the end of the Wild West, when industrialization was sweeping the nation and cities were beginning to be built across the country. Within the game we see the emergence of electricity in buildings and even the foundations of automobiles.

Video games have become a large part of our lives, shaping our culture. In the present day, it has been increasingly popular to play video games amongst many different types of people. Michael Jindra talks about the statistics of how many people in America play video games today. Over half of all Americans play video games, 76 percent of children, 69 percent of heads of household, and 25 percent of those over 50 play them (Jindra 67-73). Critics of video games cannot deny that game designers are making games that appeal to a wide audience. Much like movies, they have created products that find themselves in the homes of many. The main reason is many people want entertainment. To a great extent people play video games because it gives them a chance to have fun during their free time. Today, younger children can play video games to learn to read. Adults may play them during their time off or because they want something different away from their usual working lives. Someone even wanting to give playing the guitar a chance can find the time to do so through a game. Games have also been able to keep family and friends together through multiplayer gaming. With so many people living in places far from each other, it makes it easier when a person can have fun and hear the voice of their relatives or longtime friends as if they were sitting right next to them. One of gaming’s redeeming values for people is keeping those connections with whomever they meet.

Game designers are not just children who grew up to keep living a fantasy of staying a child and playing video games forever. They work very hard during sleepless nights and often do not see their families so they can bring a fruitful experience to their audience. For them it is a job worth doing as they get to be creative and innovative in this technological age in which we find ourselves. Game designing is not the death of modern art and culture; rather, game design keeps it alive and growing through a time that would otherwise diminish it without these people doing something new every day.

Works Cited
Deen, Phillip. "Interactivity, Inhabitation and Pragmatist Aesthetics." gamestudies.org. N.p. 2011. Web. 8 Nov. 2011.
Hall, Stefan. "Video Games As Collaborative Art." Phi Kappa Phi Forum 88.1 (2008): 19. Academic Search Premier. Web. 8 Nov. 2011.
Jindra, Michael. "Video Game Worlds." Society 44.4 (2007): 67-73. Academic Search Premier. Web. 8 Nov. 2011.