You only have to look back at the last 30 years of video games to see how much the industry has developed. From the days of Pacman right through to the Xbox One, graphics, online technology and ‘kinetic’ games, our humble video games have been transformed, and they’re immersing themselves into our lives more than we could ever have imagined.
Today, video games are recognized for their potential to help us in real life situations, so much so in fact, that even the US army uses them in training situations. We can also use our real lives to influence games, with virtual simulators like Second Life being prime examples of this. But the lines are continuously blurring – as video games become more advanced, is it really that easy to tell where real life begins and fantasy ends?
One facet of video games entering into our own reality is the rise of simulation games. Games such as The Sims have been giving us the power to play God for more than a decade, and are scarily similar to real life too. The ‘sandbox’ game – in which players have no set goal and are instead free to roam around limitless lands, is very much like real life, whether we like to admit it or not.
We use these sorts of games to create better and bigger versions of ourselves – we can edit our weight, facial appearance, and even personalities to create our own perfect avatar, and there is something strangely alluring about creating our own perfect lives in virtual form. The mundane tasks of finding a job, cleaning the kitchen and even paying the bills are made fun by these games, and sometimes it can be hard to draw the line between fantasy and reality.
This ‘virtual alter ego’ created by the aforementioned simulation games can also be seen on social media. While our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles are all technically based on our real lives, just like our Sim avatars, our social media identities are much more inflated versions of our real selves. We only let our friends see what we want them to see, which is more often than not a collection of photos showing us partying or generally having a good time. As we all well know, life is more than one big party, so are we kidding ourselves by using the internet to create our own fantasy?
From real life to online
Another way in which real life and gaming are becoming a gray area is online. Games such as Facebook strategy games are slowly immersing themselves into our lives – for example, remember the Farmville phase?
Microsoft and Sony are also jumping on the bandwagon, taking more and more of their Xbox and PlayStation games online. As we playing online multiplayer games with friends, it can be easy to forget to make the effort to go out and see them – blurring the line between virtual and reality once more.
Using the internet to replace our everyday tasks can be another way in which the internet and real life become intertwined – for example, grocery shopping can easily be done with the click of a button. This isn’t the only case of people going online to replace their real life experience however – online casinos, for example, can offer today’s gamblers all the glitz and glamour of walking into a casino, with very real life prizes, but negate the need to actually go out and interact with others. While some might criticize sites like these for their lack of a personal touch, others praise them for solving common problems associated with online casinos.
Where do we draw the line?
The real question, then, is where to draw the line when it comes to virtual realities and real life situations. While the benefits of gaming have proven themselves, it’s important that we acknowledge the value of real life human interaction before we trade in our everyday lives for fantasy altogether.