By Will Rosson
Staff reporter

In 2006, a video game was released, and within one month 700,000 people were playing. Thousands of letters were sent to the White House, and people were able to play out the life of a refugee victim of Darfur in the video game “Darfur is Dying.”

Video games were once viewed as only being a form of entertainment. However a major shift in the video game industry has been occurring. Why are games only seen as far out realities to entertain its’ players?

Players now get the chance to build their own empires, cities, and worlds. Players can also decide what is moral, just and evil. Almost every aspect of video games today can be played out by video game player. Much thought and process is put into making these types of situations available in the games we play today.

The game developers who make this all possible spend countless hours building virtual worlds for people to explore. In order to create these worlds, imagination is required.

Tom Jacobs division chair of computer science and communications, said, “We have a class where the whole objective of the class is for them to make connections among things they might not ordinarily make. We play games in there, but the games are particularly aimed at stretching mental horizons, making connection one might not normally make. It’s part of what game developers need to do.”

A leading researcher has made claims that game developers are some of the most collaborative people on earth. Game developers have the ability to make simulations of current reality crisis, like the one in Darfur. Games give the players a chance to play out a situation. In the process of playing out those situations, one can learn new abilities, or knowledge they did not have previously.

Clint Wicker, game development senior agrees that collaboration skills are essential. “I think it’s true. Video games are a combination of almost every art form out there, so there has to be some collaboration to get that to work right.”

Games are now being used not only to entertain, but we learn from them. People grasp on politics, war, business, health, and more through to the games being developed today. Wicker said, there’s actually a company in Oklahoma that is working on a medical game for kids with diabetes. It’s fun to play, and it teaches them how to keep track of their insulin levels and that kind of thing. It’s going in a lot of different directions besides entertainment.”

There are some ideas in games used to help aid in a mission, goal, or objective in the game that may only seem like it will never happen. However why can’t the things that are made in virtual game worlds become a later reality? Can a game developer’s ideas be used in a real world situation?

Jacobs thinks they can. “We have seen that happen in science fiction haven’t we? Star Trek; a lot of things from that make us go ‘say maybe that would make something,’ and they come up with an application in the real world. I think that it’s hard to predict what farsightedness in someone who is creating a science fiction piece, a game, or a movie about the future may actually turn out to be real, but it does happen. It’s just very hard to predict what.”

Wicker agrees with that possibility of game development fantasies can become a reality.
“There’s a lot of ideas out there, and people, especially people who create video games, or work in any kind of creative medium like art, have ideas coming of out the pores I guess,” said Wicker.

The thought process put into video games, more complex and lifelike virtual worlds are being created by game developers. Games like “Darfur is Dying” have brought attention to the fact that some ideas in virtual worlds should be applied to the real world to make a better reality.

“If everybody were to have as much imagination and creativity and work ethic, or team work, to be able to cooperate with each other as well, then a lot of problems would be solved a lot faster,” said Wicker

Game developers are making worlds with incredible ideas in them, and it’s obvious that the ideas are being used, at least in the virtual world. The video game market is one of biggest in the world. In the U.S alone there are an estimated 183 million gamers.

Josh Hall, communication sophomore, is part of that estimate. “It’s fun. It’s something to do when you don’t have anything to do. It’s more than just passing time. You actually enjoy being in it, kind of like being in your own world sometimes,” he said.

Will Rosson is a senior majoring in mass communication. You may e-mail him at will.rosson@sckans.edu.

Edited by Alejandra Rojas