Yep, that’s what I said. Video Game Selfies. I’m going to pause for a minute and let you breathe in those three words.
Right. So if you’re not a gamer you’ve probably never heard of this. I am not a gamer really either and so I heard about it a few weeks ago over at Kotaku. Apparently more and more video games now have the option for you to take a photo of the character you’re playing. I’m not sure what you do with this picture but I presume you share it on Instagram, especially if your character is eating. (Still don’t quite get why people share pictures of food.)
Is this stupid or does it make so much sense that…
I grew up at a time where video games were fun, but rarely beautiful. The hardware of the day didn’t allow for a whole lot of beauty. Today’s video game hardware, though, could render a film like Jurassic Park in real time. And I’ll admit that some of the scenes I’ve looked at lately are positively cinematic. So I guess preserving some of that imagery makes sense, the same way we older folks preserved our favorite movie images. I’ll admit that games are getting pretty artistic.
They’re also getting looser. In games like Red Dead Redemption 2 you can do pretty much anything you want. You can wander the countryside, see a movie, be the good guy or the bad guy. Sure, there are goals, but you can ignore them. This certainly isn’t the first game to let you do that. Late ’90s hits like Grand Theft Auto and Carmageddon let you drive around doing more or less whatever you wanted. But from what I’ve seen of RDR2 it’s taken the concept to a completely new level. You can just live your life there with nothing to do, and some of it can be incredibly boring.
There are also really freeform games like Minecraft where you can build practically anything. I suppose if you built a working calculator in Minecraft you’d want to document that. And if you could put yourself in the picture, why not?
Video games as an expression of self
Believe me, I did not think I’d ever say this, but I think video games are the future. Or at least, the things they morph into. Linearly plotted entertainment like books, movies, and TV really got dominant in the 1900s. Of course there were books before that but the advent of cheap printing and a more educated public made books a mass-market thing. Later we had radio, movies and TV but there was always one thing in common: you were taken on a journey from the point of view the author wanted you to have.
Today TV shows like Westworld show us what a real-life open-ended game could look like. Red Dead Redemption takes it further, giving the player ultimate possibilities. The number of online universes is expanding, and it’s even looping back to TV with rudimentary Choose Your Own Adventure style shows like Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. The 19th and 20th centuries were dominated by entertainment that told you what to see. I think the 21st will be dominated by entertainment where you see what you want.
And if that means you see a selfie, I guess I’ll have to be fine with that.