Media Beat: Video games rise to level of literature

In the past decade, video games have become increasingly popular, complex, and detailed. Video games can be played on multiple consoles, as well as computers, and a lot of young people even participate in multiplayer modes to play with friends online. With the increasing popularity of video games and the decreasing number of books being read by young people, we as a society need to realize that video games are literature just as much as books, movies, and art are.

Of course, some video games are more literary than others. Games like Fortnite and Valorant certainly have their strengths, but I want to focus on the games that really push the boundaries of what video games can be in the future.

FromSoftware, the developers of the SoulsBorne series, come to mind as the best competitor for literary video games. When Dark Souls first came out, it was one of the first games of its kind. The whole world connected, the plotline was subtle yet complicated, and the gameplay made the player feel like they were participating in a historical event. The game was praised by all as being not only a difficult game, but one of beauty and artistic style. FromSoftware specializes in Neo-Romantic art — often the dark and dreary — that builds melancholy and awe for the player as they move through the world.

Another game that could better follow a literary plotline is the Last of Us series. This game not only offers solid lesbian and Jewish representation, but also completely throws the player into an emotional spiral. The player will cry, yell, and beg the game to bring back brutally murdered characters. It’s a heartbreaking game that can only be compared to the darkest of literature.

And then there are story-based games that communities will pick apart until the very end of time. When I think about good literature, I often think about some loose ends that readers still mull over years after reading the book. Then, I think about games like Five Nights at Freddy’s, which has millions of fans dissecting every single game in the series just to figure out basic lore. The mystery attracts gamers, literary critics, puzzle-solvers, and even some famous YouTubers, like Markiplier and MatPat.

All of these games hold literary merit in comparison to the media that we consume in everyday classrooms and life. Yes, I do think Dark Souls could hold its ground against Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.” We need to accept that video games are not just for teenage boys playing Call of Duty. Video games can be poetry.

The final video game that I want to discuss is Okami, a game much older compared to the rest I’ve mentioned. Okami first came out on the Playstation 2, and has since received a remaster on the Switch and Playstation 4. There is also an incredible sequel on the Nintendo DS called Okami Den. This game symbolizes the Japanese Shinto religion, particularly in representing Okami as Shinto’s beloved sun god. This game has the most spectacular art style and gameplay I have ever seen, but its selling point is its literary merits. In my Japanese art class here on campus, I was actually able to connect this game to what we were learning about Japanese religion and art.

Video games are real life. They can tackle real issues like religion, war, and love. As we move more and more into digital media, we cannot keep ignoring video games as a valid form of literature. I hope that in the future students in schools will feel comfortable writing essays about video games, because video games can be life changing.

If you want more recommendations for literary video games, I recommend Ni No Kuni, Subnautica, The Walking Dead, Shadow of the Colossus, and Final Fantasy XII. 

larion1@stolaf.edu

 

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