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Nov 19 2012

Video Games vs. Books

As far as entertainment is concerned, there is no competition; modern video games are far more immersive and engaging than books. I have no intention of implying that books are obsolete, but rather, I wish to place video games on a pedestal to be admired for all the integrity they have earned for themselves.

There are, of course, many critics who disagree with this thesis. One of the more common attempts to belittle the value of gaming asserts that video games are limited in potential experiences. The argument goes something like this: “Books rely on the reader’s imagination to visualize the story, and therefore, the potential for engaging a story via book is limitless.” This argument is a paradox. It seems the exact opposite is the truth. The power a book has to create atmosphere is not limitless, in fact, it is limited by the readers experiences. That is, the reader can’t imagine a scenario in which his memory has no experience with.

Here is an example: Picture Sam Harris eating a durian. You can’t do it, and whatever image you conjure up in mind will have very little resemblance to what this scenario would actually look like. A video game, however, could recreate nearly any situation with such authenticity and detail that you could understand exactly what happened with unparalleled accuracy.

The youth of America has shifted from books to video games for their means of entertainment. This shift has brought with it a shallow accusation from video game critics. It is believed by many, that America’s youth has lost their desire for intellectual satisfaction due to our overly convenient society.

People read less and less novels these days, and it is tempting to be lead to the conclusion that this must be a bad thing. It isn’t. America’s youth isn’t reading less because they’ve lost their intellectual desire for stories and adventure. People are reading less because modern video games have become the richest and most immersive story telling medium in history.

The power of modern video games to illicit an intellectual and emotional reaction in the player is nothing short of astounding. I have read a few books for entertainment in my life. I remember a couple of characters and generally enjoyed the experiences. However, no book has ever grasped my curiosity and filled me with a sense of awe as many games have. I will never forget the tension I felt when creeping through the leaky corridors of Rapture, reluctantly following the “suggestions” of Atlas. AAA titles such as Skyrim, Mass Effect, and Uncharted have redefined our ability to tell stories. The combination of realistic visuals, dynamic audio, and interactivity have allowed video games to raise the bar on human entertainment.

No longer do books guide us along to one inevitable ending. The ability to control your character and interact with your environment have transformed gaming into an entertainment phenomenon. Hans Arnseth says it well: “A reader has no say in what happens to the protagonist of a book…while we may feel empathy, emotions run higher for video games. By controlling the protagonist in a video game, we become an active participant in the story. We are no longer passively being taken for a ride, but have to process information actively, make decisions and respond to stimuli from the game. Thus video games are the stronger medium playing to a broader register of the human mind.” (Book of Games).

This article was written by Frank Curzi,  he is an avid gamer and a Call of Duty commentator. Check out his You Tube page at “MrPotatoHole”.

3 comments

  1. D'Arcy

    Wow, just wow. I could not disagree with this opinion more. I wasn’t even sure where to begin, as I disagreed with the first sentence.

    “As far as entertainment is concerned, there is no competition; modern video games are far more immersive and engaging than books”

    – WRONG. You are comparing two different mediums by one category. That would be similar to me saying that “As far as being a citrus fruit is concerned, oranges are much better than my dog.” It is also incorrect to say that, as you might not have stated but did imply, that ANY modern video game is better than ANY book. Books have been around much longer than video games, so it seems that a definition of ‘modern’ would be needed.

    “That is, the reader [person] can’t imagine a scenario in which his memory has no experience with.”

    – WRONG. This is quite an antiquated idea, but generally has been refuted by most major philosophers and publics since the 17th to 18th century. One does not necessarily need an experience of something to imagine it. I’ve never seen someone’s head be ripped off, pooped in, and then given to a group of European tourists, but I have seen someone’s (fake) head be ripped off, I’ve seen poop, and European tourists.
    An easier example is the unicorn. They aren’t real and this if we follow your premise no one anywhere and anytime could possibly have any experience of it (and this create it). We do, however; have experiences of a horse and of animals with BAMF’ing horns on their head – we can make a unicorn.

    Literature and written text can also do something in terms of “entertainment”, or narrative works, that is very hard, and delectably impossible, in video games. Text has the ability to use personification, metaphor, and simile. I can’t imagine how a video game could mechanically reproduce something like “He ate like a windmill,” or “Their hunger was that of a thousand years.”

    “No longer do books guide us along to one inevitable ending.”
    – WRONG.

    Firstly, books are not manufactured to be solely entertainment or of a certain structure. They are created to communicate ideas. As this article seems to infer that they are used for entertainment, the following comments are written with that in mind. As a book with a narrative structure, (let’s not bring in CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE books), it is supposed to tell a particular story with particular people in a particular time. Sometimes novels carry certain analogies events or something external to itself, but generally a book is dated to when it was written. The ending of a book is not the goal, but the journey (generally, same with a video game). Telling a story is pretty simple and does not always require input from the audience (think of a movie, a play, a CD) creating and breaking patterns are what stories do, and we enjoy to see them.

    1. HalfBeard

      Just a reminder here from the editor that we try to show a range of opinions with our submission pieces, we don’t adapt these pieces to fit our “theme”, we let aspiring authors represent themselves. Personally I love a good book as much as a good game (I do work in a book store outside of all this) and I think both mediums have their strengths. Both have made me laugh, both have made me cry, both have made me swell with pride at a hero’s triumph, and both have made me cringe at a villain’s utter cruelty. For every shitty bland FPS there is a poorly thought out and terribly written harlequin romance novel but for every War and Peace there is a Bioshock. Versus is not what this should be, that insinuates only one medium may succeed, rather cooperation is what’s needed; good books based on gaming franchises and good games based on books. So yeah, editorial rant over, enjoy the site.

      1. D'Arcy

        Don’t worry, I wasn’t ragging on the site or the author, but just the opinion of this piece.
        I agree with you, that it should not be put as versus as it does indicate that one would be better than the other.

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