Adventures in Digital History

Video Games

It’s that time of the semester! It’s the week I’ve been looking forward to since the start of this class! I’m only sad that I don’t get to lead discussion, because I absolutely love the topics planned for this week! First off, this is the week we get to discuss video games. As a gamer, I love just about any discussion to do with video games. I’m an only child from the country, so the only entertainment I had as a kid was watching The Price Is Right with my grandmother or playing video games on my uncle’s old Atari of PS2. Guess which one I picked? It’s not a hard pick, either. I would have picked video games over Drew Carey any day of the week as a kid, and it has created a lot of fond memories for me.

The first video game console I remember playing on was Sony’s PlayStation 2. Like I mentioned, my grandmother would watch me as a kid and I would play video games to keep myself occupied. My uncle had set up his PS2 in my grandmother’s living room to keep me occupied. Of course, he tried to be a responsible adult and decided to restrict me to more “kid friendly” games. I remember playing games like Gran Turismo 2, ATV Offroad Fury 2, and The Sims 2 (a series I still play today). (The reason I remember all these games is because I still have them! I still have the PS2! It still works and it’s over 20 years old!) However, there was one that slipped his notice: Grand Theft Auto 2. Now, back in the day GTA used to look like a top-down 2-D animated game. The only difference is you could steal cars, find guns, and go on rampages. The more stuff you destroyed, the more money you made. The ultimate goal was finding the tank on each level. The tank was nigh indestructible and was almost always a guaranteed way to progress and explore. GTA 2 was favorite game growing up, and in many ways it defined a genre I would grow up with and continue to love. Once my uncle had seen my playing GTA 2 he decided to give me his copy of GTA: Vice City, and the rest was history.

Vice City is such an important thing in my life. It mind sound ridiculous, but hear me out! It’s because of Vice City that I discovered my love of 80s music. I had grown up listening to 60s, 70s, and 80s songs because my mom used to be a DJ, but this video game took that interest and turned it into an obsession. Nowadays I hear a song I remember from this game and I get nostalgic. That’s without mentioning most are on what I like to call my “Feel Good” playlist. Seriously, why did they quit using synthesizers? I love them so much! It got to the point I could quote the radio stations in-game. I can say, without a doubt, if I were to go power on the game right now I would be able to say the radio lines word-for-word and know every word of every song playing. It’s making me nostalgic thinking of it right now! Outside of that, Vice City also introduced me to satire. One of the most memorable radio stations is VCPR, which features a fictional talk radio that sticks it to literally everyone!

Video with audio from GTA Vice City’s radio station Vice City Public Radio (VCPR), which featured the talk show “Pressing Issues” (no doubt word play on “depressing issues”) which satirized talk radio and many 80s political and social issues. Give it a listen, because it’s hilarious!

VIPPrimo. “VCPR Pressing Issues Talk Radio – Grand Theft Auto Vice City.”, May 30, 2018.

Since then, the video game industry has exploded! I never knew anyone interested in video games as a child, yet these days every other person seems to play them! Communications platforms like YouTube and Twitch have created a place where video games are celebrated by players and viewers alike. Something that makes me happy is seeing the stigma associated with them is going away. However, I have noticed a huge disconnect between popular media and gaming culture. People who don’t participate in gaming culture don’t understand it! There’s nothing wrong with that, but when people try to appeal to gamers they continuously fall flat. And I’m not talking about movie adaptations of video games. I’m talking about gaming culture. Sure, there are issues in the gaming community. Women are typically sexually exploited, violence is a complaint (Which I find ridiculous. Most video games are violent! It’s a place where I can do things I can’t in real life! Why else would GTA be so popular?), and video game addiction is a thing. If sometimes feels like people outside the gaming communities want to focus solely on the negatives and never the positives. Gaming has helped me become more social over time. This is a huge thing for me, because I am a borderline hermit! I’ve also created friends! Individual gaming communities that all follow certain content creators can be amazing. I’m a member of the Neebs Gaming community, which is full of supportive people from all over the world! These are all positives that people outside gaming culture seem to miss.

This is all without me mentioning the potential historical value of video games. Ubisoft has already done something similar, creating historical fiction in their Assassin’s Creed series. I remember playing through these games and picking up historical information, language, and becoming familiar with a foreign landscape in the comfort of my bedroom. In many ways, video games could be utilised in ways historical movies cannot. A video game can create and open world that allows the player to explore and “experience” history. Where a movie is confined to a limited amount of runtime, a video game can last for hours and even be programmed to be replayed for different experiences. This would basically be like combing an RPG experience with historical fiction, which is a genre I would definitely play!

As I stated before, I’ve really excited for this week’s discussion. I obviously have a unique experience with video games, and would like to know what others think of them. There’s so much behind their history and culture, and makes video games one of the most fascinating things to come out of the Twentieth Century.

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