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Opinion

Video game medium pushes TV’s boundaries

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May 1, 2008

By the time you read these words, I will be a different person. I seriously won’t be surprised if—by the time this column reaches press—the majority of my existence depends solely on the digitally-fabricated cityscape “Liberty City” of Grand Theft Auto IV.

This soon-to-be-megahit video game, which is being released simultaneously on the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3, will undoubtedly render most of the gaming community “sick” on Tuesday, April 29, its glorious release date.

Back in September, Bungie Studios’ hotly-anticipated shooter Halo 3 broke the all-time sales record for any entertainment release, ever. Generating profits of over $170 million in its first 24 hours, Halo 3 went on to surpass the record-setting opening profits of the latest Harry Potter book and the mega-hyped sequel Spider-Man 3.

And now, on the brink of April 29, industry analysts are predicting that GTA IV may sell more than 9 million copies at launch, far outselling even Halo 3. These numbers speak volumes about the state of media and entertainment in this modern American culture.

Gone are the days of spending time watching set broadcast programming and crappy sitcoms. The idea that video games are only for young people is also quickly disappearing. Sure, violent, complex games like GTA IV and Halo 3 will obviously appeal to the younger crowd going into the future, but the medium of video games is loaded with the potential to eventually entertain every age.

If you still see the $37 billion video game industry as an entertainment realm meant only for pimply teens and basement-dwelling WarCraft nerds, think again. The medium will eventually redefine mass entertainment; rightfully so.

Video games are unlike any other form of entertainment: many contain vast and detailed landscapes ready to be explored. Other games rely on the interest of casual fans and reward them with addictive, easy game play like the puzzle masterpiece “Peggle” (a game so addicting you might as well inject it intravenously).

Guitar Hero and Nintendo Wii have proven to draw in older fans, and game play appeals to the older generations will only increase as the industry broadens.

No matter what you’re interested in, the video game industry is likely hard at work fulfilling that interest. There are military-type shooters, European racing sims, vast civilization-building strategy games, space exploration sims, Sherlockian mystery/adventure games, story-driven epic roleplaying games and a million others.

Many push the boundaries of complex thought—games like the brain-squeezing Half-Life spin-off “Portal,” prove that video games aren’t always mindless and sloth-inducing. (It’s true Mom and Dad! Video games make your brain more smart!)

Nine million copies of GTA IV will fly off store shelves on Tuesday. If the industry keeps chugging along at this fantastic clip, drawing in new fans left and right, perhaps I can wait in line with my grandparents next time for future installments of GTA.

Well, perhaps they still won’t extract the same sense of maniacal glee from the act of blowing through a police roadblock with a tank and rocket launcher, or gunning down a gang of drug-dealing juicers with an AK-47 and a Molotov cocktail.

Joe Hager is a student at UW-River Falls.