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Why computer games aren't just for children

First Impressions: Game origins and functions
Target Audience: Game developments and genres

Could it be the words "game" and "play" themselves? Perhaps some people look down on any kind of "game" or think that only children "play", associating the words with a sense of pointless frivolity or lack of depth, despite the challenge they can present to the player. Some games are more than this, more than an application of reflex or strategy. Some games take the form of interactive stories, in which the player takes the role of the main character. Instead of simply observing the events happen to the character as one does in a movie or book, the player is able to identify more deeply because they are directly involved in the success of the character's navigation through the gaming world. A feeling of accomplishment is gained not only by furthering the story, through interacting with the environment and the characters that populate it, but also by discovery and overcoming obstacles through the solving of puzzles. These puzzles range from a physical puzzle, to the creative use of inventory items in the game world, or simply conversing with an in-game character in the right way. Through such games we can see that games are capable of dealing sensitively with mature themes, having incredible depth of story and character, and possessing touches of very clever humour. All this conveyed through engaging graphics and stunning music can be an immersive dramatic experience.With games such as this, how is playing a role in a game any more childish than doing so as an actor in a play, or sympathising with a character in a film or book (a passive role-playing)?

Perhaps it is their early forms, which were limited by the computer technology of the day, that contributed to stereotypes in part. Despite the presence of early text-based games, which were commonly referred to as "interactive fiction", the gaming technology was foused on development of graphics and graphical interfaces. Early graphics, because of their simplicity, may have seemed cartoon-like and childish to some, but this was due only to limlitations of the medium at the time. Games with simple graphics sometimes hid a well-told story or more complex mechanics. Certainly today that limitation is gradually becoming non-existent.

The misconception may also be related to the setting of games. Computer games frequently take place in science-fiction or fantasy settings. There is still a certain mentality that sees anything "unrealistic" or smacking of fairy tale, no matter how complex, well-thought-out, or intelligently conveyed, as "silly" or for children. That by enjoying such things you must believe it to be true, and only children believe in fairy tales and magic, or spaceships and aliens.

There could be any number of other reasons for the initial misconeceptions that games are only for the immature and not worthy of serious consideration, but with all the development of the industry, and a good two decades to remedy misperceptions, it really is time for them to be re-examined as a mature form of entertainment.



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