Sunday, July 21

Joy Sticks: _Video games actively engage consumers_

Record-breaking financial success of "˜Call of Duty' reflects growing popularity of the interactive entertainment industry

Credit: Activision

Credit: Activision

Matthew Overstreet / Daily Bruin

Not everyone considers him or herself a “gamer,” but almost everyone has had some kind of interaction with the form of entertainment known as video games. Some people follow the industry and try to keep as up-to-date with news and hype, while others are more casual, picking up free games on their iPhone or playing browser-based Flash games on their computers.

These are the things that will be discussed in this column: the hype and news of video games, the competitive side, the escapism present in the form, how video games help players see themselves better and how they sometimes fail at this, among other topics.

Why is this subject worthy of a column, though? Because video games have the possibility to hold a mirror up to a consumer in a way that no other form of entertainment has before. With books and films, it’s impossible to change the content of the work (except, maybe for “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, but those will be ignored for now).

In a video game, though, the content exists only so far as a player is willing to experience it. Without a player, video games can’t tell their story. It’s the first real entertainment medium driven exclusively by the person consuming it, and it is because of this that games have a heightened ability to make players reflect on themselves.

After all, when given complete control and absolute freedom, will someone choose to be a renegade thief, or will he or she choose to be a valiant knight? Or perhaps, a player will choose one of hundreds of paths somewhere in between these two extremes, and how a player proceeds down this path says a lot about who he or she is.

More importantly, though, games matter because they are having a massive financial effect on the entertainment industry. In 2010 alone, consumers spent $25.1 billion on video games, hardware and accessories, according to the Entertainment Software Association.

This isn’t a fluke or a trend that’s going away any time soon either. One of the highest grossing and continuously fastest-selling franchises of all time, “Call of Duty,” puts out a new installment each year that garners more attention than the previous one. The latest game in the series, “Modern Warfare 3,” grossed $775 million worldwide in its first five days according to the game’s publisher Activision. This number effectively made the game the highest grossing product in the film, music or video game industries in terms of five-day sale records.

Video games are new and exciting media that are growing into one of the largest in the entertainment industry and are only now beginning to find their place.

Because of this, it is important that we as consumers within this industry open up a discussion about where video games have been, where they are going and what we want from them.

We have the power to influence change, and it is up to us to debate and decide how we want to wield that power.

I hope that anyone who’s interested will join me in that debate, and I hope that those who aren’t will find something here that makes them interested.

Matthew Overstreet has been a video game fanatic since his parents got him a Nintendo 64 in 1998. Email Overstreet at [email protected] “Joy Sticks” runs every Thursday. ­

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