The video game industry has never been bigger. It grew to over $90 billion during 2020, making it one of the few industries that have grown and thrived during the lockdown. There are games both big and small out there making statements about the world we live in as well as video games in general. Technology is becoming more and more a part of our lives, so it makes sense that video games will continue to grow and adapt over the years.
Some games are sprawling masterpieces of social commentary, such as Hades from Supergiant Games, which take bold moves toward making the game mechanics an important part of the story. Other games are much simpler but still rely heavily on good artwork and branding. Take the range of online slots featured on Gala Bingo as an example; they include titles such as Game of Thrones: Power Stacks and The Goonies which are artistic rethinks of existing imagery and digital media. There are even games for mobile, like The Talos Principle, which is a simple puzzle game but uses the act of solving those puzzles to tell a deeply philosophical narrative.
Why are games, as an art form, growing at such a rate? A big answer to that may be in the way that they interact with those consuming the story. While films and books seek to tell a story to the viewer or reader, games have the opportunity to involve the player in the narrative. Games like The Stanley Parable showcase the importance of decision-making in the narrative design process for video games, as is giving the players agency to make their own decisions through their actions, making the act of breaking the game a core part of playing it.
Other games look to make social commentary and, using the fact that players hold a key role in the narrative design and outcome, ask them to make difficult decisions. Papers, Please, which casts the player in the role of the border guard of a fictional country, asks them to make decisions on who may come into the country and who can’t. Even people with excellent reasons to be let in might be rejected for simple technical issues with their paperwork while others might try to bribe their way through the system. How the player chooses to play the game impacts the ending as they are forced to choose between their own family’s safety and their duty to their country.
Finally, there are games like Doki Doki Literature Club, which seek to make commentary of who the player views the characters in the game. Discussing this one in too much detail risks ruining the experience for players, but this is a game that takes the entire concept of video games and turns it on its head. It forces the player to choose what constitutes a person and how their actions impact even those who are fictional and digital in nature. Despite being a free game for the PC, this remains one of the best-written video games of all time.
Video games continue to grow and evolve more than forty years into their existence, but they certainly belong in the same discussion as art that mediums like film and novels enjoy.