When critiquing video games, gamers tend to focus on interesting game mechanics, compelling stories, and fascinating challenges. However, I think that, when focusing on this way of judging a game, developers and gamers miss what could be an important aspect of gaming, their ability to evoke different kinds of emotions.
Many games focus on killing which is not bad and could be cathartic, but I feel as though something is missing in today’s games. They do not seem to do a great job of fulfilling their purpose as an artistic medium. For example, as exciting as a person may find a killing game to be, one could get board of playing them after playing them for so long because you are, basically, just shooting monsters or the enemy over and over again. While I don’t think that it is necessary or even always desirable for a game to address complex social emotions the way a movie or a book does, I wish there were more games out there with more to them as far as their ability to evoke different kinds of emotions goes. I would like it if games could give the gamer a sense of joy, peace, wonder, or mystery and encourage exploration and discovery. There should be less of an emphasis on procedurally generated content, violence, frustration, and pre-designed narrative. It would be wonderful if a game, through excellent visual effects and relaxing sounds could cause a person to feel as though they were actually looking into a tide-pool full of sea urchins, starfish, and life or walking on a beam of light. Two examples of games that do this kind of thing are Flower and Cloud. Flower is categorized as a poetic adventure game and involves exploring a Flower’s dream. Cloud tries to evoke a feeling of flying through the clouds. These two games have an effect on the gamer that is similar to that of viewing a lovely work of art or listening to music. I’m certain that if more games that address more of a variety of emotions and were as fun as some music videos are were created, more gamers could be found, especially female gamers.
I enjoy playing games like Flower and wish that there were more games like it, but there are a couple of things that concern me about this kind of game, their ability to be addictive and the creation of games that produce negative emotions. While I do not seem to become easily addicted to anything, there are numerous cases of people out there who have serious video game addiction problems already. Just think of what kinds of effects more evocative games that are tied to complex social emotions could have on them or how continuously playing a scary evocative game could cause people to be jumpy over a prolonged period of time and have nightmares. It is unethical to make such games, but violence in video games is so commonplace and people buy or play violent video games so regularly that someone is bound to eventually make an emotionally evocative game that scares people too much or an evocative game that encourages game addiction. Eventually, it could get to a point where all kinds of large-scale, evocative virtual reality games exist and people end up spending almost their entire lives playing the virtual reality games the same way gold miners for WOW used to do. A drastic increase in the number of people who live that kind of lifestyle could not be healthy or beneficial to mankind as a whole. In conclusion, I think that it would be most useful if games today placed less of an emphasis on violence and in-game rewards for performing certain actions, and more of an emphasis on not stressing out the gamer, allowing the gamer to make more of his own decisions, and more of an emphasis on allowing the gamer to go on a simple journey.