I enjoy reading. Many people do. The act of reading is enjoyable. Reading a book that emotionally involves me in it’s story, that immerses me in another world and holds my attention – these are all marks of A Good Book, and a book that I enjoy reading. I like to read. I read cereal packets and the backs of shower-gel bottles and other people’s newspapers over their shoulders.
I read Room by Emma Donoghue. In case you haven’t heard of it, Room is an absolutely horrible book. It’s about child abuse and rape and despair and all manner of really, really unpleasant things. It’s upsetting, distressing and disturbing and I wish I had never taken it out of the dratted library. I occasionally have nightmares about it. And I recommend it to everyone I meet. It’s A Good Book.
But don’t just take my word for it. It’s been Shortlisted for the Man Booker and Orange literature prizes and its just been made into a film. So, what gives? Room is good because it tells a good story – it got my attention and it didn’t let go. It made me empathise the with characters, took me places I have never been (and fervently do not want to go) and it made me think. It made me think about women’s rights, about domestic violence, about child abuse. Room, in it’s own small way, changed how I think about the world. Reading Room, like going on an exotic holiday, or experiencing a major life event, gave me memories.
As video-games grow and mature as a medium, some (not all) games creators want to explore whether games can tell stories with the same affecting power that books and films can. After all, in a game, you are present and interacting, doing things and having things done to you; a book, and a film, are both passive experiences – a video-game is lived.
Sometimes, those developers want their player to experience something frightening, or something that makes them angry, or something that makes them curious. They might even want to make their player feel aroused, or disgusted, or disturbed. Or they might just want them to have a bit of a laugh and a relax. All these feelings are possible within games, and all these things are games. If you take the time to open up your idea of what a game can be, you might be surprised by what you discover. And you might find that maybe video-games are not that different from books, and films, and TV, and board games, or theatre or sports or art, after all.