Games are Fascinating: Vice City

Posted: October 6, 2011 in Books, Business Books, Games
Tags: , , ,
neon vice
Vice is nice

Vice certainly sounds naughty, and it is. But when talking about how it fascinates us, Vice is as much about rebelling from the expected norm as it is triggering that “naughty” impulse. Obviously Vice and video games travel hand in hand.

Vice is writ large over the entire industry. The appeal of escapism is frequently a naughty little thrill that you’re saving the universe from the Zerg instead of working on your paper. The Grand Theft Auto series trades on naughty thrills, allowing you to kill hookers to get your money back. Digital evils that intrigue us because they are so far removed from the every day. Marketing pushes for games like Duke Nukem Forever can punch the Vice button so hard that it quickly becomes both immature and tedious.
        There’s more to Rebellion and Vice than just the naughty thrill of doing something bad. There are three pillars that drive Vice and both individual games and the industry are resting heavily on them.
        The first pillar is leading someone astray. This isn’t necessarily leading someone into a sin; it is leading someone away from the usual path. Games like Manhunt, with its violent and brutal killings, are relying on you being fascinated with the vice of violence. But Sony wants to lead you astray from Nintendo. Steam and Valve want you to abandon your consoles for the PC. The entire industry wants to draw you away from your house cleaning, dog walking, and other workday chores. And as consumers we are eagerly looking for that path that leads us astray, calling it escapism or guilty pleasure.
        The scond pillar of Vice is disrupting the status quo. Probably more games than not rely on disrupting the status quo. Youths defying evil empires, rogue cops driven to justice outside the system, disgraced nobility trying to regain their honor, wasteland wanderers, and coboys looking out for number one. And even better than letting us watch someone compelling and fascinating who disrupts the status quo, games let us be that person. All the perks of being a hero who shakes the very fabric of society, without any of the drawbacks.
        The game industry has done a lot of disrupting of the status quo. It is a young industry, but it is a behemoth. It is taking on culture in a toe to toe battle. The battle rages from the heights of art’s ivory towers, to the most crass commercial efforts out of Hollywood. Everyone is watching to see how this shakes out.
        Finally there’s the third pillar of Vice; encourage creativity, get people thinking about alternatives. Games do encourage creative problem solving so effectively, that they are making more and more inroads into education. Dr. James Paul Gee and Jane McGonigal both make convincing arguments for how games help brains develop to learn more.
        A beloved game will encourage fans to create their own content. On the PC the most devoted will make their own mods. Some will use the mechanics of the game to assemble music videos. There are sprays that console gamers can customize use to mark their territory in Left For Dead. Outside of the digital world there’s fanart, webcomics, and more, all created because love video games. Companies encourage this form of fascination by providing the players with tools to exercise their creativity.

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