Let’s talk about video games! As a gamer I know well enough the pressure of defending the habit. I’m well versed in all manners of excuse -- they’re cathartic, it’s escapism, it’s just fantasy. But I’m tired of defending video games. I think our excuses have either fallen on deaf ears or, more likely, the argument really means nothing at all. But I’m going to talk about one defense of video games that I’m not just tired of hearing, but am now demanding the video game industry live up to. That excuse is that video games are fully capable of tackling tough subjects just like any other media. So far? That’s not a complete lie.
Not every good or great game has to address social issues or have a deeper meaning to them but if we’re going to successfully use this excuse more of these games need to exist than currently do. There have been really well made games that address such issues, for instance, in the current console generation we’ve seen Assassin’s Creed use religion as a back drop and BioShock critique Objectivism.
The Third Crusade is at the core of Assassin’s Creed as three groups battle for the future of the Holy Land. However, developers Ubisoft shied away from saying anything meaningful about the warriors on any side. This may be out of fear of criticism yet the final twist of the game is likely more inflammatory than anything they could have done by adding character depth to opposing sides. In BioShock a man named Andrew Ryan sets up a fantastic underwater society with the world’s greatest minds ... and it quickly descends into hell. In that regard it’s a belated, but fun, rebuttal to Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged where the world’s greatest minds pulled out of society which then collapses without their wondrous presence and guidance. BioShock shows how arrogance, greed, and ultimately naivety lead Ryan’s ideal society into a broken rusty horror show.