Friday, July 17, 2015

Why Do We Game?

RIP Satoru Iwata 1959-2015
To be honest, I didn't have a post like this prepared because I wasn't necessarily thinking about topics relating to this, but in light of what has happened not too long ago, I figured that now would be a good time to go into great depth on a question that I think many of us, and hopefully all of us, have asked ourselves while we take our journeys through video games.

Satoru Iwata, the president of Nintendo, passed away on July 11, 2015 due to bile duct cancer. He had been battling cancer for some time, and he even had surgery last year to remove the cancerous bile duct tumor. It's a health condition relating to the liver. Iwata's passing comes as a shock to many within the gaming industry, and within the span of a few days, so many people have paid tribute to Iwata for all of his contributions to the Video Game Industry.

Having read all of the accomplishments of Iwata in his career and having read all the interesting facts surrounding this man, it does give aspiring game developers pause to think about just how much a single person can work on making games for a living. It truly is remarkable when you realize just how successful Iwata was in his 30+ year involvement in game development. In fact, I am working on an ebook dedicated to Iwata, which will hopefully get out to people soon enough.

Now the question that I think most of us have asked ourselves would be this.

Why do we game?

This question takes on many forms, in my opinion. We play video games because we generally want to have fun. We play video games because we want to be challenged. We play video games because it's one way for us to socialize with friends and family. Perhaps, though, we should look into this question a little more. Why? Why do we spend our spare time playing video games? We could choose to do other things with our spare time, such as picking up a basketball and shoot some hoops, putting on running shoes and go jogging, or go get a camera and work on our photography skills. So we choose to game? Why?

1) Our imaginations develop while we play

I think this one is pretty obvious because the development of video games stem from the imaginations of the fame developers themselves. It takes quite a bit of imagination to create the characters that Satoru Iwata created for Nintendo. The same thing goes for all the other characters that we have grown to love over the years, such as Sonic the Hedgehog and his friends, Ratchet and Clank, Jak and Daxter, Sly Cooper and his gang, or even characters in the past like Banjo and Kazooie, Crash Bandicoot and Mega Man.

It doesn't take much to create the initial concept of a video game character. Some characters really stick out and shine while others fade away because their foundations aren't sustainable. It depends on how developers handle their imaginations. There is a good way to handle your imagination, and of course, there is a bad way to handle your imagination. Always try to use the good way.

2) Gaming improves hand-eye coordination

Believe it or not, this appears to be the case. Studies have shown that efficient pressing of buttons on game controllers lead to improved hand-eye coordination. I believe that you can make a stronger argument for improved hand-eye coordination when you take into account what Iwata helped create in the console market. Just look at the Nintendo Wii and the Wii U. Motion-control gaming has been Nintendo's bread and butter for a good chunk of time now, encouraging players to get up and move around. While motion-control gaming won't be everyone's cup of tea, it has certainly left an impression on many people.

If you are good at swinging a baseball bat and you also happen to be a gamer, then by all means, don't stop swinging the baseball bat. If you are a professional baseball player going places then don't stop doing what you love to do. The same thing applies to tennis players and golfers. However, it never hurts to just sit back and relax while you focus on achieving goals in a video game. While you play a game, you will be tested and you will need to react, which is why button-pressing isn't as farfetched of a hand-eye coordination tool as you might think.

3) Video games can be educational tools

Brain Age and Nintendogs are two examples of what Iwata presented to gaming audiences as far as educational tools are concerned. Not every single video game you see on the store shelves are just beat 'em up, blow 'em up, slapstick fun time games. Once in a while you will find video games that are strictly educational even if they have some fun elements tied around the educational content. How much different are educational video games compared to basic computer programs that teach you school lessons?

Satoru Iwata himself worked as a game programmer before he became the president of Nintendo. What did he need to study in order to properly program video games? Computer science. This is a subject that people need to go to high school and college in order to learn, and that's what Iwata did. Video games do tend to encourage people to get into the gaming industry themselves because of how educational they can be. If you can make a game that can teach people how to speak a different language, for example, then you are doing something good. Why wouldn't that be considered honorable?

Conclusion

There are probably more things to list as to why we play video games, but I will keep it to these 3. It's not hard to understand why game developers like Satoru Iwata were important to the landscape of the Video Game Industry as a whole, and it's the passion that people like Iwata had for this industry that drives and motivates the rest of us to achieve similar goals. I didn't know Iwata personally, but I knew from what I saw that he loved video games, that he was a gamer himself. You don't fake the kind of passion that he had.

Satoru Iwata's story of how he got into game development is one of many stories that I'm sure drives the rest of us to excel and realize our own game development dreams. Having a passion for something isn't something that you can artificially develop. You either have it in you from the start or you don't. We all have different ways to be motivated, but as long as the end result is clear, I'm sure some of us will get to tell our stories to each other soon enough.

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