The “Reality” of Video Games


Here’s a thought puzzle that perhaps you have already asked yourself once or twice before: Are video games real?

Now, obviously I am not going to argue about whether or not the virtual worlds inside video games occupy physical space. That would be absurd, probably. I’m not going to argue about how the physical hardware needed to make games are real either. That would be too easy.

What I really mean to talk about when I ask about reality in video games is the impressions made upon us as people. Are those real? And if so, do those impressions make video games real by association?

I’ve always thought that video games occupy this strange imaginary space, and that that space is the same as the space that other thoughts occupy. It’s the same space that you imagine when your friend tells you her story about last weekend, and it’s the same space that everybody in the theater shares when they watch Jurassic World.

This imaginary space has been with the human race for as long as human consciousness has existed. It has been used between people for verbal music and storytelling before it evolved to pictographs, then to the written word, then to film, and now to video games. As long as two or more people (and, honestly, maybe even just one) share this imaginary space, there exists an impression left on those people, and those impressions give the imaginary space the certification of reality.

Most people will agree that words are real, because they act. Saying certain things to certain people in a certain context will cause them to react in a certain way. These words create and destroy certain bonds. Whether these words are spoken, heard, written, read, or even just imagined, these words do things. Pictures, videos, and sounds act in a similar way. Basically, these things leave impressions on people, and it is those impressions that make them real, even if they do not necessarily occupy a physical space.

Video games are much the same, but they are also unique in that they allow us to directly interact with that imaginary space. That interaction is often the dividing line between video games and other medium. More to the point, though, is that video games leave an impression on each of us who play them.

One of the best examples of leaving impressions is in the fact that video games create memories. With the advancements of multiplayer and online games, these memories can even be shared with others. Often these memories are some very strong emotional binds that keep some people together.

2 comments on “The “Reality” of Video Games”

  1. Interesting question, and one I’ve never heard before. I definitely agree with the validity added by memories created. I would think that anything with the potential to generate any actual, emotional response would be considered real enough, at least for me.

Leave a Reply