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Video Game Designers

Do Video game designers have a responsibility to be socially responsible and NOT design games that are overly violent, or should video game designers just let the market decide? In order to answer this question, I feel that it is important that we look back upon the predecessor of today’s violent video games. Yes, there was once a time when movies were considered to be in the position that the videogames are in now. That is that movies are an uncontrollable purveyor of violence and the movie makers, according to certain cause oriented groups, have a responsibility to make less violent and more socially responsible movies.

Movies after all should reflect real life and be an educational too. Nobody really knows when the video games took over in popularity from the movies. In fact, video games are so popular that Atari CEO Bruno Bonnell has proclaimed that the golden age of movies have come and gone. People prefer video game now because unlike in the movies where one is simply a spectator who cannot participate in the unfolding story, a video game allows the player to participate and create his own storyline each time he plays the game. The outcome of a video game is not predictable unlike the movies where plots are standard and endings are predictable.

The problem with the video games is that designers tend to go overboard with their storylines simply because the computer graphics available to them these days are tremendously impressive, allowing the designer to get as crazy as he wishes to be. A video game can use computer drawn effects that cannot even be used in movies yet. The issue this all boils down to is when and how the designers should draw the line with regards to the games they are designing. After all, video games are receiving a lot of flack about how it encourages violence amongst the populace.

One thing we have to understand is that creating a video game is the same as developing a movie. It requires research, analysis, story development, and finally, the artistic consideration for the look and feel of the game. Video games have a two fold function in the world of entertainment. The first is, to give people a few hours of fun and relaxation by allowing the players to immerse themselves in a totally different world and becoming part of that world by engaging in the storyline. The other is to educate the players regarding the real world.

Ralph Koster, in his article “ Video Games and Online Worlds as Art” explains how entertainment carries a communicative element in its presentation. He goes on to say that: Mere entertainment becomes art when the communicative element in the work is either novel or exceptionally well done. It really is that simple. It has the power to alter how people perceive the world around them. And it’s hard to imagine a medium more powerful in that regard than video games, where you are presented with interactivity and a virtual world that reacts to your choices.

This is a medium with amazing potential, though I must admit that it suffers on the abstract level in a way that simpler media do not (film has many of the same issues though). That said, we now know that when the first video games were developed, the designers actually had an objective in mind that was not necessarily dictated by society. The designs were driven mostly by their imagination, interests, and literary readings. The primitive game of Pong was meant to improve a person’s hand and eye coordination using a video game version of table tennis.

While Karateka told the story of a kingdom in danger and a princess in need of a savior. As a game though, Karateka was also designed to entice the player to develop and interest in the sport of Karate both in the video game and in real life. These days though, most of the video games I have seen can be called no-brainers. They all carry the same storyline and concept and do not engage any other part of the game players brain except the part that deals with violence. It also does not require much to play the video games except a cushy seat and hour thumbs to control the control pad.

Thank the heavens for Nintendo Wii, now people at least get some exercise while relaxing with an enjoyable video game of their choice. Mr. Koster, in the same article has noted how the videogames on the shelves these days are either rehashes or simply knock offs of other fame concepts. One can say that the current crop of video game designers have gotten lazy and no longer recognize the tremendous responsibility that rests on their shoulders. Mr. Koster explains that:

The public already discusses and treats games as an art form, and uses the same standards of judgment for them as they do for films or novels or any other artistic medium. They just aren’t comfortable with considering them to be art. Thus, I come to the conclusion that video game designers have a social responsibility to design video games that respond to the events of the current time and additionally, educate the game player towards becoming a responsible human being. Video game players do not necessarily have a specific idea in mind when it comes to the kind of video game they want to play.

Just like an author writing a novel, the game designer has full control of the kind of video game he wishes the public to patronize. What would really be nice is if they would be responsible enough to realize that there is more to video games than just violence, loud music, and realistic video images on screen. Video game designers have the freedom to choose the kind of games they want to create. The public has been proven to patronize a game that shows the good work of the designer rather than the violent video games that rehash one another’s storylines. Just like Mr.

Koster, I agree that the video game patrons these days are becoming more discerning and therefore more responsive to the way a game is written or designed. In this day and age of senseless violence in real life, video games must take advantage of the way it can bring a message of peace, understanding, and tolerance in society. Mentioning the likes Will Wright, Shigeru Miyamoto, Sid Meier, Peter Molyneux, and Richard Garriott, he opens my eyes to the fact that there are socially responsible video games out there created by some of the best names in the field of game design.

He relates that: Right now, the vast majority of games don’t really have anything to say. Some do, though. It’s worth wondering, I think, why so many of the games and game designers that are considered legends are those with something to say. Nobody can deny that there is a clear artistic vision behind the work of say Will Wright, Shigeru Miyamoto, Sid Meier, Peter Molyneux, or Richard Garriott , And it’s not just about entertainment. There are subtexts and implicit messages, and sometimes overt preaching, in these games.

I therefore would like to reiterate and conclude this paper by reminding everyone that video game designers most certainly have a social obligation to produce responsible video games that do not slant itself towards violence alone. Video game designers have forgotten that the market does not dictate the content of the video games, the designers do. They are the imaginative driving force behind the storylines carried by the video games. People look to video games for relief from their daily lives. That does not mean that they want to play senseless games that simply require knee-jerk reactions to situations presented by the game.

People will always appreciate any mental stimulation that they can get. The youth also appreciate being taught lessons in a fun way that does not seem like they are learning something. This is something that the video games have mastered. The non violent games already exist. The game designers simply have to develop that market area. Such enjoyable interactive games fall mostly under the sports and educational section an under developed area of the gaming field.

Work Cited

Dee, Jonathan. Playing Mogul. 21 December 2003. The New York Times.18 July 2007. <http://www. nytimes. com/2003/12/21/magazine/21GAMES. html? position=&ei=5007&en=e864fa0836543631&ex=1387342800&adxnnl=1&partner=USERLAND&pagewanted=print&adxnnlx=1185810754-lR1+Q1s+1gTKY1s330q0mA>. Koster, Ralph. Video Games and Online Worlds as Art. 11 October 2005. Designers and Artists Corner. 25 July 2007. <http://www. gignews. com/raph1. htm>. Phelps, Andrew. Ethics in Computer Game Content?. 13 September 2004. Corante. 29 July 2007. <http://gotgame. corante. com/archives/2004/09/13/ethics_in_computer_game_content. php>

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