Are Video Games the New Books?
How Video Games Tell Stories Better Than 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 videogames on a pedestal to be admired for all the integrity they have earned for themselves. In a sense, comparing books to video games is like comparing apples to oranges. However, this is only true when comparing all books to all video games. Not all books are educational, just as not all games are entertaining. It is common knowledge that books and the internet provide a better outlet for educating oneself than videogames do. There is no real debate on this. I am here to state that video games provide a better outlet for entertainment than books do.
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 characters and generally enjoyed the experiences. However, no book has ever grasped my curiosity and filled me with a sense of amazement 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. I will never forget the unparalleled awe of leaving Helgan’s dungeon, only to emerge in the beautiful and untamed lands of Tamriel. I will never hesitate for hours to read a line of a book, as I did before issuing many ambiguous orders as Commander Shepard.
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 videogames. By controlling the protagonist in a videogame, 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 videogames are the stronger medium playing to a broader register of the human mind.” (Book of Games).
Triple A 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. The youth of America has shifted from books to video games for their means of entertainment. 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 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.