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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Virtual Unreality

I am getting old. I am not quite there yet, but I can see it creeping over the horizon. There are many signs that by themselves could be overlooked, but added together spell over-the-hill. For instance, I can't tell you what the number one song on the pop charts is. I no longer enjoy movies whose scripts are entirely comprised of flatulence and homophobic innuendo. I am sometimes confused when old words are used in new and hip ways. But there is one area in particular where my age is readily apparent, and that is the world of video games.

To me, the entire purpose of video games and virtual reality is to be able to experience things that you otherwise could not. As a child, I enjoyed rescuing princesses from large, irritable gorillas who could express their anger only by throwing barrels. I was overjoyed by the simple pleasure of gobbling pellets in my feverish attempt to escape pastel apparitions. I gracefully navigated the jungle depths, swinging from vines, leaping logs and tar pits, and bounding from crocodile to crocodile. These activities tested my dexterity and my imagination. They don't make games like that anymore.

There is a trend in modern video games that confuses me on principle. The goal seems to be to blur the line between virtual reality and reality reality. I understand that this is taking the entire story arc of gaming to its ultimate conclusion. But the advances in technology have been made at the expense of imagination. Where are the creative minds in this business? All the games I have seen or played lately involve one of two things. I am either out to kill everything that moves with ever larger weaponry or more improved ammunition (which I suppose I could do in real life if I were so motivated,) or I am performing some task that I actually can do right outside my door. When people are getting tennis elbow from playing virtual tennis, I think my point is proven.

I know I started this post by admitting to being old, but I'm starting to reconsider. I'm starting to think that the problem isn't me. I would enjoy gaming again if the designers would put a little more effort into it. Graphics and camera angles aren't enough. Sound effects and vibrating controllers aren't enough. I want to be taken on a journey- a journey to a place I simply can't get to in any other way. That's what gaming should be about.

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