Why is that when we see someone reading we automatically assume they’re a scholar, whereas if we see someone gaming we assume they’re wasting their time? It doesn’t seem right to paint with such broad strokes in either direction. I want to dig in a little bit to my personal experiences with these two mediums.
Is one medium more intellectually valuable than the other? The argument I often hear is that books are carefully crafted and pieced together, but I look at games like The Last of Us from Naughty Dog and I see a narrative that is put together with care and meant to make you think and feel largely in the same way a book might. Video games have come a long way since the days of arcade games or mindless shooters. They can present compelling stories and evoke feelings in ways that feel similar to television or movies. You feel invested in the world because you are physically moving a character through it and experiencing the story firsthand through their eyes, I believe this interactivity is the number one advantage games have over books.
On the other hand when I read books I feel as if the act of stopping and reflecting on what I’m reading is important to me and is something that is usually not replicable in gaming. At their core, books inherently cause more critical thought and introspection; while games want to entertain in some aspect so you would usually need to be engaged with them at all times while playing. The feeling I get after finishing a book is different from how I feel when I complete a game. When I put down a book I am drawn into a reflective state of mind where I think back on what I just read and what it means to me. I think about what message the author was trying to convey within those pages and what that message means to me.
Considering the way I feel when I complete a game, whether that means I just roll credits or I get the platinum trophy, I usually feel a sense of relief or accomplishment as if I had just overcome an obstacle of some sort. With most games there is some sort of pushback against you as the player in order to keep you engaged and pushing through the game. You don’t experience anything like this with a book, there is nothing pushing against you while reading so there isn’t this same feeling of overcoming something. It might sound like I think of this as a negative but in reality I see it as positive that only video games can provide. Video games are the only medium you interact with in such an intimate way.
I’ve experienced stories in both mediums that have stuck with me through my life and obviously I find both to be worthwhile. I would never tell someone to stop playing games in favor of only reading, or vice-versa. If I had to lean toward one being more influential in my life personally though, I would choose books. Books have a lower barrier of entry across the board and are something that just about anyone can enjoy. If you can read then you are able to be transported to an infinite number of places throughout the world (or other worlds) and have experiences you never would have otherwise had. I love to find new perspectives on life and honestly there’s no better place to find those than in the pages of a book.