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Sunday, July 18, 2010

My Bookcase (Part 2)

This is more or less a piggyback on what Jeremy wrote as part of his "intro" post:

If you came into my basement now and examined my bookcase, you would actually be in for a shock.  There are no books on it; instead, it is full of video games, organized by platform or genre, with a pile of strategy guides on the bottom shelf.  Now, being the nerd that I am, and having a major in video game design, I do not think this is a waste of a bookcase.   Is this an insult to literature?  Some would argue "most emphatically yes."  But I would argue differently.  After studying the development of video games, I've come to realize that they are actually pieces of art (at least, most of them are).  There are aesthetic choices, storytelling elements, character development, and general design choices that, as a player, I failed to notice for many years. The truth is that developing a video game is in many ways similar to writing a good book or filming a movie.  Since I began studying this field two years ago, the way I play and react to video games has changed quite dramatically. 

I find myself actually thinking while i play, something that may surprise most casual gamers out there.  For so long, video games have symbolized reflexive thinking; that is, there was never any kind of deep thinking going through the player's mind as they twitched a joystick this way or that:  Only immediate reactions to whatever was happening on the screen.  Now, however, with new technology and a greater grasp on design, game developers have transformed what their games stand for.  Take, for instance, the game Bioshock: a game that sets the player in Rapture, a ruined underwater city in the 1950s.  This city is ruled by a man who worships the self and the things that man can accomplish without the help of God or government, and as one can imagine, chaos quickly ensues.  Through carefully-placed voice recordings that offer back story on the city as well as development of some of its key characters, 2K Games has created a masterpiece in storytelling, and that's before the player gets to the unforgettable twist at the end.  I won't bore you with a full synopsis of the game, but my point is that video games have changed, and so too should our thinking as we play them. 

I assure you I'm not trying to turn this blog into a video game review, but I hope, if my good friends Shane and Jeremy will let me, to offer what insight i can into what I'd like to call "video game literacy."  These posts will be relatively infrequent as I utilize the other bookcase located in my bedroom and continue with our foremost focus, but I hope you will join me as I take the time to place video games in a new light:  one that is not necessarily in opposition to our challenge, but instead compliments it.

-Nick Natoli, Building Bookcases writer

PS.  From here on out, I plan on making 2-3 small posts per week.

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