Video games are not just fun and games; they are an art form, an industry, and a part of our culture. They have been misunderstood and mistreated by the public, the media, and even their own industry. The public sees them as a waste of time, the media sees a dangerous influence on our children, and the industry sees them as a license to print money. The terms "video game" and "gamer" often produce derision among those who do not understand them.

Games are an adventure. They expand your mind by placing you in another world, one with its own rules and environment for you to explore. They let you place yourself in someone else's shoes and experiment without fear of the consequences. Much like a good book, a good game will pull you in and let you experience something you never could in your normal life.

Even the best of books can't match a game's flexibility. What would have happened if Gulliver had brought a Lilliputian to meet the people of Brobdingnag? If Captain Ahab had quickly found and killed the white whale, would he have been able to redeem himself? Could the Capulets and Montagues have learned a less tragic lesson, had Juliet woken only a little sooner, or was death truly the happiest ending for that play? Other artistic mediums are fixed, telling only one story, but in a game, the player can explore and tell their own story.

Sadly, this potential is often lost. In a medium where the audience could be allowed to choose their own path, the daunting task of creating all of those paths is often too much for the artists to bear. Where thousands of options could have been, the player is often forced to follow the one true story, no matter what they want to do. Often, the story is neglected even further, serving as a thin film to tie together the game's action, which itself can be reduced to simply pressing buttons as fast as possible.

Yet can we blame video games for our own failings? When bland books are written, or generic music produced, do we count that as a failing of the medium, or the artists? The depths to which video games sink cannot be allowed to blind us to the heights which they can reach.

This is what it means to be a gamer: to be able to sift through the legions of games produced each year and savor the few gems which appear in the dirt. No game is perfect, but the gamer thirsts for perfection regardless. And from time to time, a game comes along which, though flawed, is truly a work of art.

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