Gaming as a piece of popular culture is in a healthier spot than it has ever been. The rising popularity of games such as “Overwatch” and “Fortnite” have permeated the walls of dimly lit basements and cramped bedrooms to appeal to a much larger breadth of people than some might have originally thought possible.
To put this into perspective, I was listening to ESPN Radio recently, and one of the personalities on air, a regular suburban father in his late-30s to early 40s, casually made a good 30-second bit on the game “Fortnite.”
When looking at the bigger picture, this all makes sense. When it comes to entertainment media, video games are one of the youngest forms one can take to push his or her artistic boundaries.
During the ‘80s and ‘90s, people scoffed at video games, deeming them mere children’s toys. Now, those same kids that were playing video games then are still playing them now, and we are seeing a lot more Triple-A games being geared toward the 17+ crowd (four of the top 10 selling video games of 2017 were rated “M,” and three of the last five game of the year winners were also rated “M”).
With gaming growing so much and so quickly, the topic of video games has been thrust into the spotlight and is even glorified in some instances. Games like “Tekken” and “Counterstrike: Global Offensive” are having their professional eSports leagues broadcasted on TBS and TNT. More and more movies based on video games are coming out to varied successes despite all odds (“Assassin’s Creed, “Tomb Raider”).
Although all of these elements contribute to the rise of video games, it is Steven Spielberg’s latest film “Ready Player One” that may lead to a turning point among gamers and non-gamers.
“Ready Player One,” based on the novel of the same name, was released at the end of March, and it includes most things that gamers would appreciate. The premise follows a young Wade Watts in the not-so-distant future, where the virtual reality game world known as “The Oasis” has taken over as the primary way in which to experience life. After the creator of “The Oasis” passes away, he leaves a video message to all the inhabitants of his game, sending them on a literal Willy Wonka-style Easter egg hunt for the keys to “The Oasis.”
This begs the question of whether living in this virtual world is actually living. The question is the essence of what the film stands for. Many other forms of media have dealt with this same subject, but it’s the way in which “Ready Player One” conveys this information that offers a broader understanding of what people get out of video games.
“Ready Player One” is a film made for hardcore gamers packaged to be a commercial hit. Its flashy effects and standard movie tropes will get the money of pretty much any casual movie-goer looking to fill the void between now and the year’s biggest blockbuster, “Avengers: Infinity War.”
Spielberg is welcoming the general populous into the world of gaming by showing that virtual reality has more potential than simple entertainment. The film underlines many positive responses elicited by gaming, such as the strong relationships that people build across the airwaves simply by being able to exist and collaborate in a place built around specific escapist experiences. This is most gloriously represented in the character of the creator of “The Oasis.”
Now, the name “Spielberg” certainly doesn’t hold quite as much clout as it used to, but getting these ideas out into the masses can only benefit as video games become a much more prominent asset within the entertainment industry. The stigma of video games being just a time-waster for children is gone, and “Ready Player One” shows the true value of gaming as long as it is kept in moderation.