The Promise of Video Games

by on January 15, 2012

Illustration by Sally ScopaIllustration by Sally Scopa

Listening to music I love with someone who doesn’t is a painful experience. It often ends with me turning off the music, sheepishly apologizing for sounds that only the day before inspired raptures ofemotion,babblingsof superlative enthusiasm. This friend, with whom I had desperately hoped to share this experience, is in a different world entirely, obscured from me by a desolate gulf of non-feeling. We become islands, and must ford our way back to the shore of common understanding.

It is a lonesome feeling, a stark reminder that what we share with others—or fail to share—irrevocably constitutes our world, and theirs. For me, music is the fundamental medium through which I have forged countless bonds with people; our hushed amazement at the audacity of certain performers, the turns of improvisation in old recordings, the ecstasy of a live symphony creates canals through which we can float into each other’s lives and more fully understand our own.

A recent New York Times article makes a convincing case for the recognition of a newly prevalent shared medium, the video game. As the article points out, the rise of smart phones and quotidian gaming has subtly changed the cultural approach to this way of spending one’s time: “As games become ubiquitous, they are not only content but also context, context for mundane human relationships among people who don’t even consider themselves gamers.” Where once daily gaming was the province of the wayward child or the adult who refused to recognize adulthood, it now forms a part of the everyday fabric of life for disparate people, of all ages and walks of life. The banker who plays “Words With Friends” is in the same position, existentially, as the child next to him street-racing on his PSP.

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