You know that saying: ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’?
It’s a pretty profound statement, vague and evasive as it is. It suggests that beauty, the intangible idea, unique to each of us, takes many forms. Beauty becomes as special and specific as each individual inhabiting our world. The significance of this concept doesn’t lie within what is beautiful; it dwells solely within the why – and to whom. In regards to video games – and, even, to this series of features – what is beautiful, what is good, and what is worthwhile all falls within each specific gamer. For me, I don’t enjoy Grand Theft Auto or most Call of Duty games, but that doesn’t make them worthless (and just because I love RPGs doesn’t make those any more valuable).
No, a game’s worth can be defined in as many ways as its beauty, and it can change in as many ways as there are gamers who play it. This concept is, most likely, not new to most of our readers. If it is, that’s okay; think about what I’ve said. I am writing this particular feature, on the heels of, perhaps, the most pessimistic article I’ve written, because I’ve happened upon a recent revelation. It’s something that I’ve had on my mind for a few weeks now, and I’ve finally been able to put pen to paper. Writing for a website like Bit Cultures, in theory, makes me a ‘professional’ at game theory and/or criticism. I’d like to think I do a decent job providing as unbiased a viewpoint as possible when considering games. By this token, my word, to the right reader, holds weight.
Outside of Bit Cultures, I work in the field of education. I’m a licensed English teacher for grades 7-12, but this year, I’m working in a very particular scenario. I spend the school day with a student diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy, a rare form of muscular dystrophy that causes the atrophying of muscles due to the lack of motor neurons in the spinal cord; most of the body’s voluntary muscle movements completely vanish. As such, my student is confined to an electric wheel chair, with only mediocre arm movements and the ability to swing his legs. My job involves tutoring this student, carrying and lifting him multiple times a day, stretching his muscles, working on range of motion in his arms, and making sure he makes it from class to class in time and safely. Of course, I juggle other tasks, too, but these are at the forefront of my daily life.
But there’s one thing about this student that I admire – his positivity. I suppose you could argue that, dealt the cards he has been, positivity is the only means for a happy life. Yeah, he’s got a great personality that helps, but what are the causes behind his joy of life? The number one thing is certainly family. My student is a momma’s boy; he and his mother share an extraordinary bond. In fact, he has a very special family, indeed. His friends, too, help brighten each day. Yet when he gets home each afternoon, what does he do?
He plays Call of Duty. This is, of course, not his main source of happiness, but it certainly provides him with escape, with adventure, with a boost to his imagination. It provides him with an obtainable challenge, something he doesn’t need his entire body for. No, quick wits and thumbs provide the means for success. Call of Duty offers my student something that sports, exercise, routine activities, and more can’t. This is the same Call of Duty that I swore off as worthless months ago. Specifically, my student adores the Zombies maps, but the game itself is special to him.
I mean, this hit me full force; it was something I had never fathomed. A game that I had found frustrating from a company – Activision – that I believed to be one of the worst examples of video game greed. Maybe, just maybe, they weren’t the bad guys anymore. Maybe, just maybe, there aren’t many bad guys left. Maybe a game that delivers this level of enjoyment and comfort to a kid who’s already been subjected to two spinal surgeries and at least one broken femur isn’t all that bad.
In this case, I’m not the beholder.
After reading this brief-ish feature, one I’d like to not become loquacious, I only ask of you to cast aside your negativity and judgments. I’m not asking you to like the things you don’t, but it wouldn’t hurt to examine them from another perspective. The next time you curse Activision for producing another Call of Duty game, think about my student, who finds astounding happiness from the franchise. When the next Assassin’s Creed title arrives, consider who else has been overjoyed by a simple game.