Video games are the pinnacle of our culture, technological advances, and communities. Pretty bold claims, right? Well, let’s look at the components of a game. Visual artwork? Check. Verbal or written stories? Check. Music? Check. Dedicated physics engines? Check. So we’ve got these different elements of culture and technology, but what about community? Let’s turn on the power and find out!
A Shared Experience
Do you remember your first video game? The rush of excitement as you picked up that teal Game Boy Color or flicked the switch of a gray NES. You waited for the screen to light up, and when it did, all you could think about was how to complete your next quest. All of that accomplished in one small task: pressing a button.
That is the beauty of video games—they give us endless power to control large swaths of various worlds through buttons often smaller than our fingertips. We can choose to wield a sword, build machines, or wander through seemingly endless landscapes. It is in these small choices that we create a new connection through our interactions.
Take the renowned Legend of Zelda series as an example. Some of our readers immediately pictured a young lad enrobed in a green tunic, while others heard the iconic music crafted by Koji Kondo playing in their heads. For those who have played any one game in the series, we know that the objective always revolves around restoring order to the kingdom of Hyrule using a variety of tools given to us as we complete various quests.
All gamers have at least one game like this. Recall a moment as small as a fairy shouting, “Hey, listen!” and the joys of the game come flooding back. It is through these moments that we can start to build connections with one another. We can celebrate the beauty of the world and commiserate over difficult bosses, making video games one of the best parts of our communities.
Connecting the Pieces
While these memories certainly put a smile on many faces, what is it that makes video games the pinnacle of culture and technology? For the answer, we only need to look at two games: League of Legends and the original Halo. These two legendary franchises might not need an introduction for most of our readers because of their impact, but let’s talk about what exactly they did.
Bungie did an amazing job of raising our expectations of what video games could be with the original release of Halo: Combat Evolved on November 15, 2001. From the midnight launch parties to the best graphics ever seen and even LAN multiplayer, it was all the rage in the early 2000s. The popularity of Halo 2 helped fuel the competitive scene as MLG.tv snagged the first ever TV broadcast, opening the doors for modern esports.
As businesses started to commit more and more money to the esports scene, developers were able to expand their horizons. Enter League of Legends in 2009. The game’s developer, Riot Games, grew out of a true passion for the community; Polygon’s story on the devs captures just how strongly they felt about turning community feedback into better games. League of Legends was free to play at launch, and it took off. Milestone after milestone, the parent company was supported not by people purchasing the game, but rather through cosmetic transactions, merch, and corporate partnerships while the game remained free.
Anyone who has been involved with either game knows how quickly the culture sweeps you in.
Video Games as a Tool
Let’s not stop there, though. Video games are exciting to play, but they can also be inspiring—they can help us to unlock the best in ourselves. If we take the time to connect with the game and our fellow players, games can be a tool to truly lead us to a world of unity. We can squabble over the best games, but we can appreciate the various roles every person has to fill.
If you look at a game like League of Legends, roles are easy to see. Each role is clearly defined by your location, and every team needs a balanced composition to perform well. These roles can lead us to talking about strategy, timing, and the mechanics of how we play. Not just as individuals either—it matters that a team is communicating and working together to get the win.
How does that apply outside of the digital world, though? There are times when we certainly want to have a barrier between our perception of the digital world and reality, but other times, unifying them would really benefit us in talking about things like how we communicate effectively or what we can do to solve a challenging puzzle quicker.
Some games don’t even require that much abstract thinking to generate productive discussions; look at the world building simulators available. Age of Empires forces you to think about resource management vaguely, while Eco requires you to deal with the consequences of overconsumption and pollution almost immediately. There are even games in the education category recommended by moms!
When all is said and done, video games give each individual a choice in how they proceed. That is precisely what makes them the best of culture, technology, and community. Whether you want to go it alone or try to make new friends in the digital realm, you have that option. Video games can’t be reduced to one single culture, we couldn’t possibly analyze all of the tech used to create these worlds, and not every community will agree on everything. One thing that we hope we can agree on is that being a gamer is more than just pushing buttons. It is how you connect, experience, and empower your whole life.