11 de mayo de 2011

Do we need a reason?

Video games are popular mainly because they are entertaining and fascinating as long as you are playing them. So why would anyone decide to analyse them, besides just playing them? One could say, supporting the aim behind this question, that is not necessary at all to analyse video games. But then we can answer that it is not even necessary to play them.

Well, the most basic reason to play video games is that it is pleasant to do so. The reason to analyse video games? Exactly the same. At least at the most basic level. Indeed, we do not need deep or complicated explanations uncovering a master plan or an essential truth that could be performed through the analysis of video games. We are not trying to save any life or to make world a better place. We are just satisfying ourselves—as any other person in the world. Because, yes, even those who say you that they are actually saving lifes or making the world a better place where to live would not do that if they did not like it. And, therefore, their main goal is not this, but to satisfy themselves. So, yes, the same again. Luckily, we live in a selfish world—otherwise, it would not be like this and we would not have these amazing video games to enjoy by playing them as well as analysing them.

But let us think more carefully about this. If we consider that two ways to enjoy video games just from the perspective of self-satisfaction, we could not have any discussion at all. There should be some appropriate ground to understand our initial 'why'. Because the question does not arise at all if we put such an answer even before it is entirely born. Thus, as self-satisfaction is not a good ground, we should look for another one—one that allow reasons to be given. So it has to be that of virtues.

Playing video games gives you an enjoyable time, makes you think, makes you experience a wide range of emotions and even improve your handling skills. We have almost no need to explain why video games give people an enjoyable time: this is the most evident reason why people buy and play video games. But playing them has another related effect: it makes you think as long as you are playing. This is not a mechanical activity, but one that involves constant improvisation and reaction. Playing video games also makes you experience different emotions: expectancy, frustration, anxiety, excitement, joy, etcetera. This will depend on the kind of video game we are playing. Although our successfulness is very important when it comes to the emotions experienced while playing, there are some other factors—so is testified by this nice comic sequence. Even more, video games improve your handling skills, as suggested by Rosser et al. (2007).

Analysing video games, on the other hand, may give you an enjoyable time, makes you question about the nature and meaning of video games and makes you realise how similar video games are to other cultural media. But, over all, it pushes you to give an interpretation about either one or a group of video games. And this is the primary task for a ludologist. The cultural process involves the production of many phenomena like poems, buildings, paintings, sculptures, roads, etcetera. And there has always been a tendency to give an interpretation for these cultural products. Specially to those which appear to communicate some message. The Humanities have always been "in charge" of doing this. So they have been looking for the valuable meanings hidden inside these attractive cultural products. And this is the most challenging as well as the worthiest task you can undertake when you try to analyse video games. Not looking for social, psychological or political outcomes, but to interpret what is inside the games themselves.

Is this, therefore, necessary? Certainly not. But it is beautiful. As we said before, only pleasure can justify why we decide to do anything. And then we undertake virtues as an instrument to distinguish among the different activities we decide to do. But, as we are using virtues as our approach, our conclusions will only allow us to say that these activities are beautiful, good, wise, fair (or something similar). Finally, we do not need any reason at all. Nevertheless, we have a reason: we feel this worthy to be done. And this argument is enough to justify our intention.