Three Games That Assert Gaming’s Cultural Importance


If I ever have to fight someone about why gaming matters on a cultural scale, these are the games I reference.

As gaming evolves and changes, its advocates are faced with increasing challenges. Whether it’s a conversation about gaming and violence or gaming and success at school, gaming is usually under attack by someone, somewhere, and it’s those advocates that stand up for a media that has no voice of its own.

If you’re curious as to who these advocates are then all you have to do is look hard at whatever screen you’re viewing this on and find your reflection, or a mirror…maybe a TV screen.

All dramatics aside, chances are if you clicked on this article and you’re interested in what I have to say, you’re one of the advocates for gaming culture. If you’ve read some of my other stuff, you probably know how important I think it is to elevate the conversation about video games to the level of conversation we have, culturally, about movies, television, music and any other kind of art we critique on a regular basis. Point being, anyone who is really invested in seeing gaming succeed and improve in the future is as much an advocate of gaming as I am, maybe even more so.

I don’t care if it’s seeing newer, more awesome levels appear in the next Angry Birds title or if you’re more interested in the future of virtual reality or even discovering the next bigger and better thing to bring to gaming after all this VR hype dies down, if you are even remotely invested in where gaming goes, you are as responsible as those who make them for the impact they have on our society. You are as responsible as those who make them for the impact they have on our society.

Now that I’ve finished with my soap-box speeches, I would like to take some time today to provide some ammo to those fighting the good fight. What I’ve tried to come up with today are three titles that I believe could have major cultural impact if they were more appreciated by society at large.

These are the games you show people when they doubt the importance of our community and its cultural impact. These are not the best games ever but the ones I think may be shining examples of what gaming has to offer.

the-unfinished-swan

1. The Unfinished Swan

Hey…let’s be honest…there is no possible way I can be anything but biased about this game. I usually try to maintain an air of objectivity but The Unfinished Swan is so damn charming that I just can’t do anything but drool over this game any time someone brings it up. I will try though. Also no spoilers.

The Unfinished Swan has some of the most engaging, interesting gameplay that I’ve experienced on console.The Unfinished Swan has some of the most engaging, interesting gameplay that I’ve experienced on console. The simple mechanics of launching balls of paint or water from a first person view to interact with a beautiful artistic world makes for an experience unlike many others.

It’s a story about a young orphan and his adventure through a magical world after loosing his mother. The story is told in chapters of a children’s book by a motherly narrator whose voice brings all the comfort of childhood memories.

It’s a game that brings warmth to an otherwise cold, cynical gamer’s heart with a soundtrack so sublime that I still listen to it on occasion a year after finishing the game. I actually deleted the game from my dashboard a while after beating it but re-installed it later on because I missed the music it played when I stopped briefly on the icon.

This may not be a review but this would be the first game I showed someone who doubted the importance of gaming. It’s not about killing or violence, fast action or methodical strategic gameplay, but its narrative, the characters, and the score make The Unfinished Swan an exceptional piece of gaming history.

My wish is that someday, The Unfinished Swan is as relevant and well known as Shakespeare’s plays or Elvis’ hips (or that music thing he had going on). It should be experienced by everyone both within and out of gaming culture because of how different it is from so many games today, and how clearly it shows what games are really about: stories and fun.

spec-ops-title

2. Spec Ops: The Line

This title makes the list, not because it is a favorite of mine (though it is), but because I think it’s one of the few games to unabashedly address societal issues like war and what it does to the soldiers involved. Sometimes it seems we overestimate those that willingly put their lives on the line for our safety without considering the effect these combat situations may have on these heroes.

As Mitch Dyer of IGN said “For the first time, a game with guns doesn’t want you to be the hero — it’s wants you to feel terrible about trying to be one.”“For the first time, a game with guns doesn’t want you to be the hero — it’s wants you to feel terrible about trying to be one.”

I’m not here to take a stand on war or supporting the troops but I am impressed with the nerve it takes to release a game that almost criticizes the casual nature other games take regarding war and the soldiers involved.

A game that flies in the face of so many others and asks it audience to really consider real-world events is truly something special and is a proud example of why games matter.

Portal-2-Full-Size

3. Portal 2

Portal 2 is, from top to bottom, an exceptional game. If you haven’t played it already, I humbly request you get off your ass, get that game, and come back once you’ve finished it.

What has made the entire Portal series special is its intelligent approach to level design and puzzle solving. These games tell you how you can interact with the world, creating portals, and then throw thousands combinations of tools and scenarios at you until you can finally reach the end.

As many gamers and critics have said, Portal games are 90% tutorial. The developers are always teaching you some new way to make the tools available to you interact with one another through the use of these portals. What makes Portal 2 so incredible, even compared to the original, is the strength of it characters and the obvious care that went into creating this narrative.

Characters like, Wheatley and GLaDOS are two of my favorite characters across all mediums of art and they are just so amazingly funny. GLaDOS’ deadpan deliveries and Wheatley’s nervous, self-concious nature help to create extremely well-rounded charaters for the main character to interact with.The fact that there can be interesting and entertaining dialogue in a game with a mute protagonist speaks to the skill of the game’s creators.

When someone questions [gaming's] status as artistic work, these are the games you can bring to their attention.

A game that contains within it one of the most amazing narratives in modern culture and characters that you could easily fall in love with, despite their status as obstacles or enemies or bumbling idiots, deserves a place among the great cultural work of our time.

When someone questions whether or not gaming is just for kids or doesn’t deserve status as artistic work, these are the games you can bring to their attention, perhaps along with a few additions of your own to show them what this community can really do.

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About Jack Rooney

I am a truly avid video game player with a critical eye and an internet connection. Loud opinions will be shared. Check my stuff out by visiting Gamemoir.com and by listening to Gamemoir's Couch Co-Op Podcast. Follow me on twitter: @JackofCouchCoOp

There is one comment

  1. ceekyuucee

    Portal 2′s co-op also brought a lot, I felt, to the genre. There’s this one puzzle where one person has to stand on buttons to raise or lower platforms in a vertical maze thing in order to get progress. I played with my brother and we had way too much fun accidentally and “accidentally” messing up and smashing each other, especially with GLaDOS chiming in the background. And that’s not even talking about the necessarily collaborative gameplay itself. My brother and I also played Halo co-op way back when. Thing is, it’s not explicitly collaborative. Two or more people can do stuff, but it’s just the same thing. It can help, but it’s not the same as teamwork towards a shared objective needing teamwork.

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