Video Games Are the Background Noise Creative Writing

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Video games are the background noise of today's generation. Just as their parents grew up with the constant hum of the television and their great-great-grandparents grew up listening to the radio, today's millennial generation has been exposed to Video games since toddlerhood. Some these games are advertised as educational while others make no pretense at being anything other than entertaining. Many of games are violent -- some very so, some less so. What most of these games have in common (whether they are aimed at teaching toddlers their numbers or entertaining young adults with first-person-shooter tactics) is their highly stimulating effect. There are so many colors, so many flashing lights, so many quick shifts from one angle to another.

The effect of such stimulation is not discussed as much as it should be. While there is a great deal of discussion of the effects of violent imagery on the users of video games (and this should be discussed), there is less focus on the ways in which the constant highly sensory experience of playing nearly every video game affects users. This is an important point, for these effects last beyond the time in which the games are played. In other words, the effects of video games lasts throughout the day in terms of ability to learn, to concentrate, to relate to other people.

Objectives

The objectives of this paper, and especially of the fictional story that is at the center of it is to paint a picture of what it is like to be inside the mind of a video game player while that person is playing the game and then to follow along inside the mind of the person while he goes through his day. As he goes to school, talks to friends, eats lunch, goes to an after-school job, goes home to have lunch with his family, he sees the world as if he were the protagonist in a video game.

This game contains some violence but it is certainly not as violent as are most video games. Because there is so much focus in existing research and commentary on the effects of video game violence, I decided to focus on another area of the gamer experience. This perspective was actually suggested by a high school teacher who remarked that students over the last ten years seem to find it harder and harder to concentrate in class and she thought that it might arise as a result of playing video games. Video games tend to reward not the ability to concentrate for long periods of time or even for short periods of time. Rather, they reward people for being able to react very quickly. This is an important skill in some contexts: Someone who wishes to join the police or the army, for example, might find a first-person shooter game to be good training.

However most of life is not like being in a gang war. This is something that we should all be grateful for. But because life in general is not like this, we should also be aware of the fact that video games can have negative consequences in a range of daily activities. Moreover, these negative consequences have feedback loops: Because video games tend to make people act in less social (and sometimes even more anti-social) ways, gamers have a hard time making friends and other meaningful relationships, which tends to push them farther into the world of playing video games, which in turn makes it even harder to make authentic connections with others.

The highly stimulating nature of video games makes them exciting and highly pleasurable to play. However, it also makes it hard for many people to find the "real" world sufficiently interesting to keep their attention.

Outline of Story

This story takes place over the course of a single twenty-four hour period in the life of what I believe to be a typical "gamer." The protagonist of the story is named Robert. He is nineteen and is in first year at a junior college and works part time after school at a fast food restaurant. He lives at home because he cannot afford to support himself and, in fact, he is not all that interested in supporting himself. He finds it easier to be supported by his parents for the most part. He and his parents get along fairly well, but they find themselves baffled by his attraction to video games and worry that he is a bad influence on his two younger brothers, who are beginning to devote more and more of their time to playing video games as well.

As Robert gets up, goes to school, goes to work, comes home, and interacts with his family, the narrative voice inside his head is that of a being that Robert calls the Game-master. To some extent, the Game-master is Robert's alter ego. The Game-master is the kind of person that Robert would like to be -- smart, hip, and cool. Or at least this is how Robert imagines someone who is smart, hip, and cool would act. But the Game-master is also the voice of the many, many games that Robert has played since he was a young child.

Throughout his day, Robert is asked what he wants to do with his future. He thinks that he has an answer to this question: When you're done with one level, you go to the next level. But what is never clear to him is that there is never a clearly defined next level in life as there is in a video game.

Gotta Get 'Em...

At first Robert didn't realize that it was his alarm clock that was going off. Partly that was because he was very, very tired. Anybody as tired as he was would probably sleep through an alarm about seven times as loud as this one was. But Robert had another reason for sleeping through his alarm: He didn't even realize that it was an alarm. Well, he knew it was an alarm. He just didn't know that it was an alarm clock. He thought it was the countdown clock on the third level of Vampire Stock Car Racing, his latest favorite game.

It was such a new game that only a few of his friends had it. This made him feel good that he was so far ahead of everyone else: He loved to have a game before anyone else did. But it meant that he pretty much had to play it by himself, without being able to play online with anyone else. He hated that, although he had connected with some other players in Russia. That was pretty cool -- to be able to play with someone in Russia. But he thought it was about time to make copies of the game to give to some of his friends from high school. Since he graduated last year he didn't see them very much any more.

Actually, when he thought about it, he hadn't even seen very much of them when they were still in school together. That was probably because he didn't actually show up to class all that much and when he did he slept through most of what happened. The thing was, he was tired then from staying up all night playing games. But mostly he was just totally bored in school. What teachers did in the classroom was just totally dull compared to what happened on his laptop. The teacher's voice just went on and nothing ever happened in class. The thing about video games is you know what you're supposed to be doing. You have instructions. You have directions. There are levels and really, really cool things happen when you follow the directions.

Robert realized that he was still in bed and his alarm was still going off. It wasn't the alarm from the game. It wouldn't make sense if it was the alarm from the game anyway because he was past that level. Except maybe there was the same alarm at another level. Maybe there was some sort of rebirth-type that went on and you kept traveling through the same world over and over again but as a different avatar. That would be pretty cool. Gotta get 'em -- gotta get whatever it is that's coming at him this time.

Robert closed his eyes again. The alarm must have stopped at some point because when he woke up again it was quiet. Quiet except for the fact that his mother was in the room and she was very angry with him. He could tell that she was yelling at him but the weird thing was, he couldn't actually hear what she was saying. It wasn't even her voice that seemed to be coming towards him. It was the voice of one of the Viking Warriors in the game. Not in the game he was playing now, though, he remembered. Sometimes it was hard to remember which game was which. Actually, that happened… [END OF PREVIEW]

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