Games are Art.
For a long time now, Video Games have been looked upon as something which kids indulge in, or a past-time for geeks. Over the years, Video Games have evolved to much richer experiences. Studios are spending millions of dollars making a Video game, even surpassing the budgets of Hollywood flicks. Video Games have truly evolved to a form of sport, art, and everything else in between. There are a few gems which hold a special place in my heart, which made me emotionally invested in these experiences, which made me feel.
Web-based Flash Games
Although this is a wide spectrum, kids of the late-90s era have started their gaming with web-based Flash games. I still remember asking my mother to connect me to the Internet, just so I could play the latest game on the Cartoon Network website. Since an Internet Connection was expensive, I would find ways to cache the Flash content just so I could access them offline. Sometimes, it would work, sometimes, not so much. The rise of Miniclip breathed fresh air into this, and games like Club Penguin would be some people’s first foray into online/social gaming. And don’t forget to turn on filtered chat.
Need for Speed
I remember the days where I would visit my cousin’s place just to see him fire up NFS2:SE and play the game. I was too intimidated to try it out, fearing that crashing in the game would injure the real-you too (c’mon, I was 4 years old). Finally mustering up the courage to play a race meant the world to me and soon I was competing with my cousin in split screen one-on-ones. Entering various cheat codes resulted in hilarious results.
Underground 2 would be the next Need for Speed game I would get my hands on. The fact that I could go ANYWHERE on the map blew me away. Also, customizing the vehicles was pretty interesting. I had never played a game with so much degree of freedom.
No list is complete without the most well-known shooter of all time. There used to be a day where I was afraid of the arcade light-gun games (maybe it was those gross vampires). I could never muster up the courage to go and lift one of those light guns up and shoot them in the face. I noticed a lot of people playing this shooting game in Internet Cafe’s, and got hold of Counter Strike through one of my cousins. At first, I would only play with the AI bots, even going so far as to strip them off the weapons and leave them with a knife, just so I would win. I slowly, started increasing the competition and finally started playing online. The exhilaration one gets from one of the games is priceless. The disappointment of a loss by 1 point, or the excitement when your team is on a streak. It truly invoked my competitive nature, and the fact that people can be completely different in their playstyle. Years down the line, I would go on to play Source, whose physics blew my mind, and Global Offensive, in which I would obsess over weapon skins.
Modern Warfare series
Call of Duty was probably the first game with a story I got invested in. Before this, I only saw shooters as another genre of multiplayer games. It was Call of Duty 4 which first made me realize, that games could make you emotional. From the Nuclear Explosion, to running away from Zakhaev, I realized that Video Games too can give you some of the best experiences, sometimes, even better than a movie. I could probably go on for days about “All Ghillied Up”. I could feel the hopelessness during the scene after the Nuclear Explosion and the sorrow of Gaz being shot down.
MW2 and 3 only carried these forward. The stealth missions truly made me feel like someone on a Spec-Ops mission. I was shocked to see Price as the Prisoner, and felt betrayed as (spoiler) Ghost was shot down. The mission “No Russian” still sends shiver down my spines. I won’t go much about MW3, but it was the perfect climax to a brilliant trilogy.
I have been playing FPSs for a long time, but it was until I stumbled upon Mirror’s Edge that I realized, that even Video Games have to take risks sometimes. It was a completely new experience unlike before. The parkour concept was brilliant, and was a breath of fresh air on the First-Person formula. The art-style stood out, too, giving the environment a futuristic/flat look. The music too was brilliant, and I still catch myself humming the theme every once in a while. Even though it isn’t the best mechanics for a game, I really have to give DICE props for taking the risk and bringing something unique to the table.
I still remember saving up money to get the game, just so I could experience the multiplayer and the destruction elements. On a technical level, BF3 blew everyone away at it’s time. It required a beast of a rig, so I bought it for PS3 instead. The multiplayer relied heavily on teamwork, which was quite new to me, and the maps were HUGE for a FPS. The destruction element brought up new styles of play, which was excellent. I am still surprised how DICE was able to pull it off, given the specifications for the PS3 and X360. I would be proved wrong again on this aspect again and again by more games. They just kept looking better.
This is where I was convinced that Video Games can rival movies. The Uncharted series is a pinnacle of cinematic gaming with one epic set-piece to another. Other than the story, the technical feats this game achieves are pretty remarkable. I’d never thought a character could feel more realistic, and environments could look so lush and feel full of life. The fact that even the birds flying above generate shadows is just the icing. Naughty Dog has really pushed the PS3's hardware to it’s limits with their games, and Uncharted is no exception.
THE LAST OF US
This is where I was convinced. Video Games are art. The Last of Us was truly a game which made me care about the characters, and many a times, made me tear up. It captures the instinct of survival beautifully and how humans can react to them. The post-apocalyptic environments and the beautiful music by Gustavo Santaolalla made me believe I was in this world. There are no good or bad people in this, just survivors. An enemy, begging for mercy when severely wounded, makes you think again before putting them down. The climax really highlights the bond you feel with characters and it just looks outright beautiful. Both, technically and creatively, Naughty Dog got the better of themselves. They created a masterpiece.
Let me know which ones changed your perspective towards games!