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‘Super Mario Kart’: Skill in Simplicity

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Mario Kart is a franchise often considered by fans to improve with each entry. In a sense, they aren’t necessarily wrong. The very nature of Mario Kart– the recycling of former tracks and the lateral development of core mechanics– signifies that the series understands how to logically improve itself while also catering to the attachment fans are bound to have to individual entries. Of course, this isn’t to say that each installment is inherently better than the last, but that Mario Karts gradual, game to game, improvements are ones rooted in a fundamental understanding of the core concepts at play.

Every kart need not be created equally, nor should they be; tracks should teach a player just as much as they challenge them; and controls should be tight and precise so that gameplay flows as naturally as possible at all times. These principles are as relevant today as they were in 1992 when Super Mario Kart originally released for the Super Famicom. Initially designed as a multiplayer counterpart to F-Zero’s single player focus, Super Mario Kart’s track design had to simplified in order to accommodate the Super Famicom’s hardware limitations. With two players actively playing on the same plane at once, Nintendo needed to show moderation with their level design.

Which, in itself, is quite the blessing. True creativity flourishes under limitation. While Super Mario Kart’s tracks are simpler than F-Zero’s on a surface level, they are by no means worse. The simplicity at play in any given track’s design is a massive boon in the game’s favor. Beyond simply twisting and turning or going with the flow of the race while trying to speed past other racers, Super Mario Kart placed an emphasis on a degree of dynamic gameplay that the racing genre had been lacking in 2D.

super mario kart

With simpler tracks comes shorter tracks which, in turn, result in a gameplay loop where players are perpetually drifting as turns come fast and frequent. Of course, the game does ease players in quite generously. Mario Circuit 1 in the Mushroom Cup effectively opens the franchise and does so with a grace. There are only five major turns per lap, allowing players the opportunity to learn the controls, understand the importance of drifting, and acclimate themselves with the use of items.

By Ghost Valley 1, the first cup’s third track, the safety net has more or less been removed as racers now have to deal with pits and tight turns with tighter curves. The early tracks showcase that although Super Mario Kart is easy to play, it is not easy to master. This is pushed even by the cc system. Split across three separate classes, the cc system determines how fast the game plays. In 50cc, karts move at their slowest possible fastest pace, allowing players quite a bit of time to think ahead and react; 100cc speeds up the pace considerably, highlighting the importance of quick reflexes; and 150cc ups the speed to its possible max, acting as a player’s final challenge.

While these are universal truths for the whole franchise, Super Mario Kart not only has its own design oddities, its brand of difficulty is quite different when compared to later entries. 150cc in particular, when compared to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe’s depiction of the class, is in a league of its own. There is next to no room for error in Super Mario Kart’s version of 150cc. What 200cc, a bonus mode, is for Deluxe, 150cc, the final intended tier of challenge, is for Super. Later entries in the series offer a bit of leeway when it comes to 150cc, but Super Mario Kart demands a master’s level of skill.

super mario kart

This is to say nothing of Super Mario Kart’s control scheme. There is a sensitivity to the kart’s movements, one that might not be noticeable on 50cc. In later classes, it becomes quite clear just how much control the player has and just how precise they need to be in order to maneuver properly. A genuine amount of skill is required to clear tracks in 100cc, let alone actually place well in 150cc. Super Mario Kart’s skill ceiling is far higher than any other game in the franchise, at least in terms of mandatory content.

Although it can be argued that Mario Kart 8 Deluxe’s 200cc class is the greater challenge, it is important to consider its nature as an additional mode. MK8 was not designed with 200cc in mind, only releasing after the fact in a free update. As a result, while 200cc is a greater tier of challenge, it is not a part of the core experience. Super Mario Kart, on the other hand, actively builds up to 150cc as the game’s end goal. Super Mario Kart isn’t truly over until players complete 150cc’s Special Cup. Which in itself speaks to how unique SMK’s role in the series is.

While, of course, every entry in the series is designed with a dedicated single player mode in mind, Super Mario Kart has its fair share of eccentricities to flesh out a solo player’s experience. For starters, CPU racers actually have their own, distinct items that cannot be used by the player (for the most part.) Bowser can shoot fireballs; Yoshi can shoot out eggs; and while players can also grab their own stars, Mario and Luigi both have their own unique stars to trigger when in a pinch.

super mario kart

This may seem like a trivial distinction, especially considering how later entries simply have the CPUs use their own set of items, but it’s a distinction that gives Super Mario Kart a very specific identity. CPU racers are not homogeneous and are, more often than not, actively antagonistic towards the players. They target racers with their own unique abilities meaning players can strategize around which CPUs are racing well. If Peach or Toad are doing particularly well, players know to look out for their poison mushroom, as touching it will shrink them and cause them to lose speed.

It may seem simple, and it is, but that simplicity is exactly what makes Super Mario Kart such an engaging racer. It doesn’t have the depth of its successors (both in terms of physical space and mechanics,) but it isn’t lacking in depth either. Rather, Super Mario Kart’s depth comes from what could be done with the Super Famicom’s 2D space. In fact, SMK is almost arcade-like in its design when compared to later entries, Mario Kart 64 especially.

The shift from 2D to 3D for Mario Kart was an important one as it marked a definitive end to Super Mario Kart’s very specific formula of gameplay. While the series would briefly return to 2D with Mario Kart: Super Circuit, the franchise would never quite again center itself the way it once did during the Super Famicom era. This is not to say that later entries stray away from some gold standard that the original game set, but that Super Mario Kart’s arcade-like structure— the emphasis on progressing difficulty, CPUs using set abilities that can be planned around, and reflex based gameplay that depends an understanding of each track— was never quite revisited with the same fervor.

super mario kart

In changing so little between console generations, Mario Kart changed so much. It goes to show just how different 2D and 3D game design can be. Mario Kart 64 is more or less a perfect interpretation of Super Mario Kart in a 3D space. All the core concepts translate well, creating a racing game that lives up to the spirit of the original while taking advantage of a 3D plane. At the same time, the shift to 3D meant that certain 2D sensibilities wouldn’t necessarily work. Or at the very least, were no longer necessary in any sense.

A 3D plane allows players to interact with the space with more freedom. As a result, turns, while certainly tight, are inherently less demanding. There is more room for error just on a geometric level. This doesn’t make either style worse or better, but it does create quite a difference. It’s also worth noting that Mario Kart 64 is difficult in its own right, and compares better in challenge to SMK than other entries in the series. At the same time, is isn’t as difficult nor is it difficult in the same ways. Super Mario Kart’s challenge relies staunchly on just how much Nintendo expected its audience to master the mechanics at play.

Mario Kart as a whole tends not to carry a skill heavy label, but the franchise is rooted in a need for skill. It’s important to consider not just how a title’s core mechanics work, but how a game is structured. 50cc may as well be a borderline tutorial given just how much 100cc ups the difficulty in Super Mario Kart. 150cc isn’t even playable until players conquer 100cc, meaning that it genuinely is the final challenge. One that needs to be earned; built up to. It’s an incredibly simple structure, but one unique to Super Mario Kart in all respects. Later entries offer 150cc from the get-go (rightfully,) and aren’t inherently designed with players tackling each cup in each class one at a time to better themselves.

super mario kart

In that sense, Super Mario Kart is designed as a more traditional single player experience despite the fact that it was specifically designed with multiplayer in mind. But that, in itself, speaks to the changing of generations, the shift from 2D to 3D design sensibilities, and the very nature of progression within the medium. Why shouldn’t a modern, competitive racing game allow players access to every mode right from the offset? Logically, fans of Mario Kart want the full Mario Kart experience right away as expected from the eighth entry in a decades long franchise. That’s the thing, though, Super Mario Kart was its own, new beast entirely, unburdened by fan expectations.

Without anything other than F-Zero to look back on for inspiration, Super Mario Kart was essentially creating the modern kart racer, a genre still alive to this day— albeit primarily through Mario Kart itself. Naturally, no first step is going to be completely refined and will often feature its fair share of oddities. Along with the aforementioned qualities more or less exclusive to the original, Super Mario Kart was also home to: perpetual split screen due to a mini-map that took up half the screen even when playing alone; item blocks that would only respawn after every single block on the track was triggered; and five tracks split into five laps each for the available cups.

Since item boxes wouldn’t just respawn at the end of a lap like in later titles, players either had to use their items strategically or alter their course to seek boxes once they started dwindling. What seems like a design oversight on Nintendo’s part actually lends itself to a more dynamic style of racing. Items aren’t a given, they’re a legitimate luxury the longer a race lasts. As races are five laps long, it can be nerve wracking to miss that one remaining box all while knowing that CPUs have their own unique items they can call upon at any given moment. It’s quite the stressor and it makes sense why Nintendo would fine-tune item boxes (technically item panels in Super Mario Kart,) but it nonetheless makes for gameplay loop unique to SMK.

super mario kart

The mere fact that laps and tracks are both longer than average when compared to the successor games is also worth noting. Cups in Super Mario Kart feel like endurance matches where the tides can and will turn from lap to lap. Of course, five laps and five tracks are done mainly to mask just how short some tracks are, but even Mario Circuit 1 is long enough where a genuine back and forth is bound to happen. Once players hit 150cc, chaos naturally erupt and each race turns into a battle to not just reach first place, but stay in it. Carelessness is relentlessly punished at every literal turn.

Which, frankly, is what makes Super Mario Kart so engaging twenty-odd years after the fact. Super Mario Kart is a game so clearly limited by its hardware and by its genre’s infancy where it might make mistakes that seem obvious at a first glance. At the same time, these “mistakes” more often than not lead to creative solutions and outcomes which allow SMK to flourish in a way completely specific to itself in the context of the greater Mario Kart franchise. There have been decades of Mario Kart games since, but Super Mario Kart remains in a class of its own.

An avid-lover of all things Metal Gear Solid, Devil May Cry, and pretentious French lit, Renan spends most of his time passionately raving about Dragon Ball on the internet and thinking about how to apply Marxist theory to whatever video game he's currently playing.

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What are Some of the Switch’s Best Indie Devs Making?

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The Nintendo Switch has quickly become the preferred platform for some of the most talented indie studios in the industry. Its pick-up-and-play form factor and Nintendo’s concerted effort to court smaller developers this generation (complete with indie-specific Directs) has resulted in a library that’s positively flourished.

Despite the eShop falling victim to some of the discoverability and shovelware issues that long plagued Steam, there have been some real standouts over the years. Since video games take quite a while to produce, there’s often speculation as to what some of the premier developers have been working on. Let’s take a look at four of the most recognized indie studios on the platform and have some fun trying to figure out what they might be up to.


Sidebar Games

It’s hard to believe that 2017’s Golf Story was Sidebar Games’ first project as a studio. The two-man team from down under balanced a delightful dose of Australian-tinged humor with clear callbacks to the Mario sports games of old to deliver one of the best Switch exclusives in 2017, bar none.

Unlike the other studios on this list, Sidebar has been extremely silent on development progress; we can only glean bits and pieces from the few interviews they’ve done. We know the game has been in development for roughly two years and that Sidebar was still in active development as of March 2019 when they put out the call for a pixel artist for their next project. There’s also a fair chance that the new game will either be Switch-exclusive or target Switch first, seeing as how Golf Story is still one of the Switch’s top 10 best-selling indie games to date as of Spring 2019. If exclusivity worked so well the first time, why not try it again?

What Can We Expect?

Whatever Sidebar is working on, it’s almost guaranteed to be single-player and story-focused. One half of the dev team, Andrew, has gone on record multiple times saying that he’s “very partial to story modes.” This also players into one of their strengths; though there was a great time to be had with Golf Story’s golf, it was all elevated by the game’s ridiculous-yet-lovable characters and wacky situational humor.

Since the team has already deconfirmed a sequel as their next project, there’s really not much to go on. While I’d personally love them to tackle something Mario Tennis-inspired next, there’s a good chance they’ll avoid sports altogether. As long as the wit found in Golf Story is alive and well, though, their core audience is sure to be interested.


Fabraz

Despite being incredibly simple from a visual standpoint, the deceivingly charming Slime-San is still one of the best platformers to come out in recent memory. The game’s striking three-color art style isn’t just unique, but it’s also ingrained into the platforming mechanics in inventive ways. Beyond having a look all its own and a stiff challenge for players who wanted it, however, Fabraz went the extra mile to build a fun cast of characters and even a hub world to explore outside of the main game. It was a pleasant surprise from a relatively unknown developer at the time.

Fabraz has been anything but complacent since Slime-san’s launch. The studio released two free content expansions, ported the game to other consoles, and even got into the publishing business. No matter their other ventures, however, the team has made sure to tease their next project every so often since the start of 2019.

What Can We Expect?

Fabraz speculated that their new game was already roughly 60% complete at the start of October. Since it only began production in December of 2018, it’s safe to assume that the next game will be relatively small in scope. It’s also likely that Fabraz’s next outing won’t be “Slime-san 2,” since the original game received such heavy content additions months after release (including an expansion literally titled “Sheeple’s Sequel.” The team certainly knows how to make magic from very limited resources, so it’ll be interesting to see what they can do with a bit more of a budget, a new art style, and tons more experience.


Game Atelier/FDG Entertainment

It feels like Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom came out of nowhere. The team at FDG Entertainment had published indie darling Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King just the year prior and the console port of Oceanhorn before that, but there wasn’t much talk about FDG’s capabilities as a developer. As it turns out, however, Game Atelier’s choice to bring them on as a co-developer was the best thing that could’ve possibly happened to Monster Boy. Five long years of development later and fans were treated to one of the best platformers in recent memory.

Though it launched on all consoles, Monster Boy famously sold eight times more on Switch than PS4 and Xbox One combined, reminiscent of the sales of Blossom Tales on Switch. Needless to say, FDG’s next title will be targeted squarely as the Nintendo community. But what could that next project be?

What Can We Expect?

A Monster Boy sequel. FDG recently celebrated their collaboration with Game Atelier on Twitter and announced that they’re collaborating once more. The commercial and critical success of Monster Boy can only lead one to believe they’re hard at work on a follow-up together. Thankfully, with such a solid base to work off of now, this one shouldn’t take nearly as long to release.


Chucklefish

Chucklefish has garnered a great deal of respect in the indie community as both a developer (Starbound, WarGroove) and frequent publisher (Stardew Valley, Timespinner, the upcoming Eastward, and others). Their eagerness to bring so many of their top-notch titles to Switch has made them one of–if not the–most lauded indie studios on the platform. If it’s coming from Chucklefish, there’s a good chance it’ll be of the highest quality.

What Can We Expect?

Witchbrook! Chucklefish announced the game way back in 2017 and instantly had both Harry Potter and Little Witch Academia fans foaming at the mouth. It’s a magical school simulation/RPG where players will attend class, learn spells, make friends, date, and work towards graduation. The company’s CEO and lead designer, Finn, has been incredibly open about the game’s development from the beginning. In fact, he made the ever-changing Witchbrook design document public in August of 2019 to give some insight into the game design and planning process.

Since there’s already so much we know about where the game’s going, this is going to be used as more of a “Hopes for Witchbrook” section. To keep it short, let’s keep it to two of the most make-or-break elements: dating and world-building.

Dating

One of the things many RPGs struggle with is making dating feel meaningful after the relationship starts. People love romancing in Stardew Valley, but the experience itself is really rather shallow; bring characters their favorite items, talk to them daily, experience a few touching cutscenes and voila! All that’s left is to put a ring on it and have a baby.

My hope is that in Witchbrook, the real fun starts after the relationship begins. Being able to have lunch together, go to festivals, celebrate anniversaries, plan outings, and even introduce them to the player’s in-game friends would go a long way in making the relationship feel more than a ribbon to be crossed.

World-Building

When someone asks the seminal question “What fictional world would you love to live in?” the world of Harry Potter almost always tops to list (right next to Pokémon, that is). It isn’t just because of magic itself or the emotional ties people have to the cast, but more so because of the immense amounts of personality and lore J.K. Rowling infused into the world. From the dark history of Hogwarts to the vast array of magical beasts to the establishment of Quidditch, there is a whole movie and video game series that has been created based on mere slices of the Harry Potter universe.

Naturally, it’d be silly to expect Chucklefish to achieve as much depth in an indie project as one of the most successful authors of all time did over the course of seven books, but there’s still plenty of potential. Since the game will primarily take place at the school, exploring why the school was created and how it’s changed over the years could be quite interesting. Then there’s how different populations of the world at large feel about magic, how various magical species play a part, the favorite magic-imbued pastimes of students in the world of Witchbrook, and so on. The key will be to infuse magic into every element of the world (and gameplay) as naturally as possible. And after reading through the extensive design doc, I’ve no doubt Chucklefish will be able to pull it off.


The indie scene on the Switch is thriving more than ever. New talented developers are making the platform their home every day, and those who’ve already proved themselves are hard at work on their next premium experience. The next wave of releases from these studios can’t come soon enough.

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‘Death Stranding’: And Now for Something Completely Different

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Death Stranding Slow Connectivity

Video gaming as a medium has often been perceived as little more than a toy. Even with Nintendo pushing the NES as a part of the home and more than just a toy– a strategy they’d adopt again for the Wii– there are still many who see games as toys, rather than an expression of an art form. It makes perfect sense, though. If there’s one thing modern video game culture has pushed front and center this past decade, it’s instant satisfaction. As big-budget games embrace homogeneity, the medium’s priorities have shifted from capitalizing on its inherent interactivity to making sure gamers are never bored with their $60 toy. Reggie Fils-Aime famously said “If it’s not fun, why bother?” for a reason, but when every big-budget game is paced the same, structured the same, and plays the same, where’s the fun to be found? 

About Death Stranding…

It’s far too early to even assume what kind of impact Death Stranding will have on the medium & industry (if any), but as one of the last big budgets games to release in 2019, Hideo Kojima’s first crack at the “strand game genre” is a nice note to cap the decade off on– one that serves as an almost necessary palette cleanser as the medium heads into the 2020s. Death Stranding offers audiences a chance to breathe, to look at themselves in the mirror, and to reconnect. Not just with the world and others, but with a medium built on interactivity. 

Hideo Kojima is often criticized for his cutscene ratio, to the point where it’s not unusual to see critics suggest he just make a film, but the fact of the matter is that most games do need a story. Not just that, video games have the potential to present a story better than any other medium. Readers and viewers can place themselves in the shoes of their protagonists, but a game makes the player become the protagonist. How we control our characters, how we play, how we interact with a virtual world– all this is a reflection of ourselves, one that only the gaming medium can offer. 

Not that it often does, at least not meaningfully. Modern developers are afraid to lose consumer interest, and the increasing shift towards the “games as a service” model has ensured that gameplay loops are simple to pick up, simple to get into, and simple to stay into. Games are something to be played with– toys. And there’s immense value in that. Video games can be a fantastic way to reduce stress & clear one’s thoughts regardless of how they’re designed, but such an approach means that the average gamer is going to be accustomed to gameplay loops that are structurally derivative of one another. 

On the flip side, there are the games that prioritize narrative too much, or simply devalue their own gameplay with extraneous content. From Hideo Kojima’s own gameography, this is a mistake he clearly made with Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. Even from this decade, it can be argued that what little importance Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain placed on the story ended up hurting it in the long run because it distracted from the core gameplay loop. There’s a reason so many developers follow similar game structures and build off similar foundations: they’re reliable, they get the job done, and it does result in great games. Both The Last of Us and God of War (2018) are clear examples of how mechanically homogenous & predictable games have gradually become this past decade, but they’re still great games.

Death Stranding is one of the slowest AAA titles to release in quite a long time.

Death Stranding is most comparable to Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain and perhaps The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but really only on the most surface of levels. Death Stranding has AAA backing, but it has the creativity and ingenuity of a modern indie. While AAA developers have lined up for uniformity, the indie half of the medium has arguably never been better. Those who grew up alongside video games are now developing their own, calling back to and even evolving forgotten genres. All the while, AAA games only move closer to the Disneyfication of movie production– hit all the key demographics, make it “accessible” for everyone, and make sure there are no real ideals or beliefs. No need to upset potential consumers, right? 

It shouldn’t be forgotten that Death Stranding was backed by Sony and developed by a massive development team, but Hideo Kojima’s direction is far more in-line with the modern indie scene than that of his AAA cohorts. Death Stranding is one of the slowest AAA titles to release in quite a long time. It’s slow to start, slow to pick up, and even the core gameplay loop is slow. It takes hours before players get their first vehicle, and even longer before they finally get a weapon. Death Stranding saves its actual core gameplay loop for so late in the experience that it’s not unreasonable to suggest the game sees an entire genre shift halfway through. But that’s missing the point. Death Stranding’s “genre shift” is only going to feel so for those who don’t want to engage with the first half’s crawl– those who just want to play with a toy. 

Of course, just wanting something simple and immediately engaging to play is fair enough. For working adults with limited time to play a game, in particular, but not every game is going to resonate with everyone, even if a game like Death Stranding is designed for anyone. Death Stranding seems inaccessible & foreign in a generation where every big genre release plays like the last, but between a myriad of difficulty options and an online system designed to make the player’s life easier– one that works & works well– Death Stranding takes the medium’s interactivity to its next logical step: connectivity. Real connectivity, though. A connection that goes beyond playing against or with someone for a few minutes. 

In Death Stranding, players can leave a tangible mark on, and in, the world. Players can build structures for others, share with others, and just do something as simple as “liking” others. Those opening hours are incredibly valuable as– without the means to kill or fight back– players are forced to interact with the game world on a deeper level beyond combat. Death Stranding takes its time developing its gameplay loop, drip-feeding weapons, and concepts. Even the online component opens itself slowly, forcing players to understand what it means to be alone before they can forge real connections– with the world, others, or themselves. 

This is what Hideo Kojima understands better than the majority of modern AAA developers: games can connect a feeling directly to the player. Death Stranding’s best moments (as any should be) stem from gameplay. Kojima’s storytelling is engaging as ever, but it exists to bolster the gameplay– as does the slow pacing, as does the aggressive enemy AI, as does locking out weapons for hours on end– everything in Death Stranding is ultimately in service of connecting players to Sam in a way that feels genuinely meaningful. Through Sam, audiences can observe an America that’s in ruins, but one that society is rebuilding.

As Sam reconnects America, opportunities arise to finish bridges for others, leave supplies in remote areas, or just warn of dangers ahead. It’s very Dark Souls-esque in nature, but with a gameplay loop that minimizes traditional action, Death Stranding is the rare AAA game that’s bold enough to embrace the medium and everything it represents, for better or worse. A video game interacts with an audience in a way that books and film can’t. Controlling an avatar is an intimate act and reflects us better than most might realize. Death Stranding recognizes this fact, turns its back on modern gaming mainstays, and attempts to reconnect the medium together. 

Death Stranding is a slow game, but the longer path walked only presents an opportunity to reconnect oneself to the heart of gaming: interactivity. 

AAA gaming and the indie scene shouldn’t be divided. A gameplay loop doesn’t need instant satisfaction to be engaging. Story and gameplay shouldn’t feel disconnected. Standard online multiplayer can be more rewarding when PvP elements are tossed to the wayside or even just outright ignored. Death Stranding resembles the average AAA title in many respects, but it allows itself to be eclectic, off-putting, & sincerely unfiltered– in regards to politics, human nature, video games themselves. Only time will tell if “strand games” will take off, but keep in mind that the stealth genre didn’t exist when the hit “action” game Metal Gear released for the MSX2 in 1987. As Death Stranding makes abundantly clear, everything changes with time. 

The 2010s have not been a bad decade for the medium, far from it. The past ten years have seen truly legendary consoles and games come out of the woodwork, but it’s impossible to deny the shift that occurred (and had been occurring) in AAA game development– one that’s driven the medium far away from meaningful interactivity, where flavor of the month games long to be played for all eternity, like Toy Story-esque monstrosities given form. Death Stranding is a slow game, but the longer path walked only presents an opportunity to reconnect oneself to the heart of gaming: interactivity. 

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From Escape to Inspiration: How Video Games Promote Creativity

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Video Games

Escape

The stresses of everyday life are often enough to put heavy strain on even the sharpest and most durable of minds. No one is immune to the pressures of work, school, or even the personal struggles that weigh down on everyone. Now more than ever, with advancements in technology and the increased prominence of fantastical immersion, video games have become more of an escape for people of all ages.

No longer are video games considered the medium for children looking to “waste time.” Rather, these virtual worlds have transformed into an integral part of how a grand portion of the globe’s population interacts with each other. Moreover, video games offer a much-needed respite from one’s struggles, drawing people into a fictitious realm in which they journey with a hero on their adventures in a compelling fable, or compete with other players worldwide.

Whatever one’s reasons for playing, video games are an outlet through which gamers alleviate stress, anxiety, depression, anger, and a myriad of other emotions, giving rise to joy and relaxation alongside a sense of accomplishment. This escape provides users with an opportunity to not only temporarily get away from whatever troubles them, but also inspires them and promotes creativity.

Inspiration

The old ways of acquiring inspiration (books, role models, school, friends and colleagues, etc.) are still tried and true. However, just as humans have evolved over millennia, so, too, have the means of stimulus and influence. Alongside these traditional sources of encouragement comes video games—visual, interactive stories and competitions that stimulate one’s mind and get hearts pumping and adrenaline rushing.

From betrayal to romance, the most traditional storytelling tropes have been plucked from novels and cinema to create these immersive, interactive worlds. Video games offer lessons in commitment, dedication, persistence, and so much more. Repeatedly, fans see their favorite heroes get knocked down, and then those same fans take control of those heroes and take them through the journey of picking themselves back up.

Assassin’s Creed II has players take control of Ezio Auditore da Firenze, even after they witness half the character’s family murdered before their very eyes. They join Ezio on his journey to avenge his family and develop into someone who refuses to give up, who uses ingenuity to learn and expand his own horizons to accomplish his goals—a tale of hope for anyone struggling to bounce back after trauma and tragedy.

Furthermore, from a technical standpoint, the advancement of video games in terms of how much they have evolved over the years is enough to inspire any aspiring video game developer. Taking one look at the beautiful worlds companies like Ubisoft, Bethesda, Square Enix, 343 Industries, and so many more create does wonders to convincing a plethora of gamers to learn how to code or write a compelling story.

Despite previous misconceptions that video games only give people a space in which to waste time, this hobby (or often profession, if one considers the earnings of the top eSports competitors) has shifted opinions to a more curious perspective. It’s difficult to ignore something so popular that promotes so much creativity.

Creativity

Initially, video games were a mere medium of entertainment. Simple games like Pong did little to foster the mental acuity of their users. However, since the 1980s, video games have surpassed their meager, albeit fun, precursors. Solving puzzles, exploring vast geographies, and overcoming challenging obstacles are just some of the facets of modern video games that force players to think a little deeper about the game’s objectives.

Sometimes, the direct path isn’t the answer, and video games teach players how to come up with alternative solutions to their problems. For example, titles like 2018’s Kingdom Come: Deliverance or 2001’s Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic give gamers the ability to choose how to complete certain missions, forcing them to deal with different consequences depending on the choices they make. Not all problems are easy, and video games can help equip players with the tools they will need to think about multiple possible solutions to a challenge.

Beyond ruminating about alternative solutions, the creativity avid gamers develop through video games will help them in other ways, such as their ability to think critically about certain concepts and form their own perspectives on complicated situations. Is the Dragonborn character gamers control in Skyrim defined only as the Dragonborn, or does that character bring more to the table than being a slayer who can communicate with mighty, scaly, winged lizards?

Video games keep fans’ minds churning with ideas for their own stories, whether those tales are reflections of their own lives or the inspiration for elements of their own literary or cinematic endeavors. Fans often draw courage from the heroes in their favorite titles, looking to them to help them out of a rut or learn how to deal with their own troubles. 

Whether learning how to use a little more diplomacy to negotiate through a bad situation or finding the gumption to learn martial arts to stay in shape or for self-defense, much of gamers’ motivation can be traced back to the inspiration they garnered from the heroes they see in all forms of media, and video games are no exception.

Evolution

Just as humans have to crawl before they walk, video games had to start small and gain traction before the world was ready to advance them to their current state. No longer are these virtual, interactive worlds a backdrop that people use to merely pass the time. Rather, they are the catalyst for courage, inspiration, creativity, and entertainment.

While video games have come a long way since the early days of Pong, they have still only progressed to a state of adolescence. Technology is advancing at a more rapid rate than ever before, and companies are no longer limiting themselves in terms of what they can achieve with one of the fastest-growing, financially prosperous, emotionally charged industries the world has ever seen. 

Dylan Warman

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