Video Games and Our Imaginations

Something I enjoy about playing video games is how I am able to create my own stories while simultaneously playing the game. 

Mario cleaning the weird green thing in Sirena Beach
Mario cleaning the weird green thing in Sirena Beach (Super Mario Sunshine)

When I was a kid and did not really understand everything I was supposed to do on a game I used to create my own stories in my head for the world I was in. For example, I remember playing Super Mario Sunshine on Game Cube and getting stuck on the first level of Sirena Beach. I used to pretend Mario was hired for the cleaning of the place and would clean all the weird muck thing that was everywhere. Then, after cleaning, instead of actually engaging in the level’s mission, I would leave the place and do something else. I got used to doing things like that for every game I played, especially if it was an open world and I could just explore around for as long as I wanted to (that’s one of the reasons I love open world games so much).

There are even more possibilities for creating your own stories in multiplayer games. For example, Nerd3 makes his own mini games and rules inside GTA V with his friend. In the video below their only goal is to successfully jump across the buildings with a car. This has nothing to do with the actual GTA V game story or missions but they use what the game provides to create their own experiences.

I believe this is something that makes video games unique and that I cannot do with other mediums, like books and films. Of course we can imagine background stories for characters or imagine them in situations other than what we read or watch. However, we cannot do it simultaneously to reading or watching, since we are focused to what is happening in front of us.

0 thoughts on “Video Games and Our Imaginations

  1. That’s really interesting what you did with Mario. I liked to do similar things with my favorite game, Fable. The main character is essentially mute so I liked to project meaning onto the character and imagine the reaction of the general populace to his actions. The game did a decent job making one feel part of its world, so the mental exercises I did felt like they were just working on what was already there.

    I would like clarification on you last point. What do you mean when you say that we can’t “imagine background stories” as we view film and literature? I know I’ve actively theorized while reading and watching things before, constructing my own narrative reasons for characters to act the way they do. Is there something inherently different about the medium of gaming that allows for more thorough exercises of the imagination?

    1. I guess what I meant is that, at least from my experience, when I’m watching a movie I am totally focused to everything that is happening. So I’m mostly receiving and interpreting information. The same happens while reading a book. I feel like I can only imagine and think about different narratives when I pause the reading or the movie ends. However, with games I feel like since I am the one in control of the character, I don’t need to pause the game to do that, I can do it while playing. So this feeling of being in control that gaming provides would be what allows more exercises of the imagination. But this is not a rule of course, maybe it just varies from person to person, as you said how your experience has been different.

  2. I think it’s really interesting that while you’re not playing the game for the developer’s intended purpose, you’re still having a fulfilling experience. I think it goes to show the flexibility of video games as a medium. I remember doing something like Nerd^3 did in GTA IV with my friends. When we read that there was a heart within the “statue of happiness” we tried for hours to get inside to see for ourselves. I remember crashing the helicopter over and over until we finally succeeded. Even though we weren’t playing the game as it was meant to be, perhaps, we had a lot of fun. I guess this situation is a little different from yours, because obviously the developers expected people to try to find the heart, but still. Thanks for this post!

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