Values Taught By Video Games

Video games to the general public are simply a form of entertainment, something to amuse yourself with. Some find them to be mind-numbing or a waste of time, while some go as far as blame them for travesties. But what most people don't realize is how video games have evolved to an artistic level. They can now inspire good in people. They can teach people significant values. And that is the purpose of this list. These are ten games that teach a lesson in a certain value. You have a better understanding of that value by the time you've beaten the game.

I have listed the games in a way that reflects the usefulness of the value & the amount the game actually portrays the value. Let us take a look at some of the best things these games have to teach us.

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The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess - "DUTY"

Link is a unique hero. He isn't your typical "rising-to-glory-warrior", where they start out as an underdog & eventually make themselves the savior. Link was destined to save the world from birth. Fate made him the Hero. In other words, it is his duty. And Link goes about it a way a soldier would. In a way, the fact that he doesn't talk at all really makes the way he goes about the quest truly reflect that of someone who has the mindset "It's what I have to do". It doesn't matter that he has to trot through a treacherous dungeon to grab a key to Ganondorf's front door & another one to get a weapon to fight him with. He charges towards it & through it, unquestioning & undeterred. And he is no glory-hog of any form. Most of the time, the only one who knows of his triumphs is Zelda & a few selects NPCs. In Twilight Princess in particular, after the final battle he goes back to being a farm hand in his birth-village with his childhood love interest waiting for him. He completes his divine task simply as if it were his job, & that is why Twilight Princess is a great lesson in the sense of duty.


Left 4 Dead 2 - "COOPERATION"

Most of us would love to be independent. And in actually, being able to do things yourself is a wonderful trait. But, the reality of life is that you can't go through everything alone. Sometimes you have to work together. Left 4 Dead 2 sheds a lot of light on this premise, granted under extreme conditions. Survival is the goal here, & it is only possible through teamwork. For those who don't know, you play as four uninfected survivors of a zombie apocalypse looking for a safe haven. And let me tell you, if you're playing by yourself on anything harder than easy you're gonna have a difficult time. With a full party, the hardest difficulties of this game can be overcome, but only with cooperation. You need to strategize, synchronize, protect each other, & keep up with each other. Otherwise, you're all gonna die. This game really does a good job of what working together can accomplish. It can save your life!

On another note, the Versus multiplayer also has it's own unique premise of cooperation. Since you play as the various special zombies in the game, you have to work together to kill the survivors & try to keep them from reaching safety. This too requires a great amount of precise attack movements that can only be accomplished with cooperation. And since you're facing an entire team of human players, the outcome of the match comes down to who worked together best. Goes to show that the best team wins.


Fable III - "LEADERSHIP"

A leader isn't simply the one in charge. They're not just the one's that make the rules. They're the ones looked up to for guidance in handling other people's well-being. The one's who can handle the pressure of such decisions. For a game that was so recently released it really stands out as a game that shows you what being a leader is like. You start out being a revolutionary to become the King or Queen. You have to convince the people to follow you. This is done in showing that a good leader is not afraid to handle other people's problems. Good leaders bare the weight of the people that support them. They don't just have them follow, they carry them where they need to go. And after the crown has been bestowed upon you, it's you who handle's keeping the peace, safety, & well-being among the citizens intact. But this is not so easily done when that safety is threatened. Things can interfere with the balance of your followers, just how the enemy of Fable III is able to do so. A leader needs to be able to effectively protect & guide with the resources available to them. In actuality, it's a very pressuring position. Fable III does a fantastic job of showing the stressful decisions a leader must contemplate & execute when trying to do what's best for their people. For that, it makes the list as the best game for teaching Leadership.


Final Fantasy XIII - "FAITH"

Having faith in something can be a real...hard thing to do sometimes. Uncertainty can be a scary thing, & relying on faith alone can seem impossible. But yet, all of the feats of the characters of Final Fantasy XIII are accomplished simply by believing they should keep going. The characters are bequeathed a divine purpose to fulfill. Success earns salvation. Failure sentences damnation. They are hated by all others because they are assumed a danger. They are despised & hunted down profusely. Despite the dreadful situation, the characters strive to do what they believe is the right thing to do. Even though the demands & expectations of them are overwhelmingly high, they try to keep going & accomplish what needs to be done. They struggle every step of the way to attempt what they want to accomplish, but they manage to do it anyway because they have faith it will be worth it. And in the end, their anguish wasn't suffered in vain.

We've all had hard times doing what we thought we should. More often than not, when we've done it anyway we felt good about ourselves, or that we've done something right. This game reminds us that we need to stick to what we know is right, no matter what. Things will be better in the end if you believe it will be. This is why it makes the list as the game with the best lesson in faith.


Mass Effect - "HEROISM"

To me, to be a hero is to obligate one self to protect AND improve the life of others. Commander Shepard of the Mass Effect series is one of the greatest "life-savers" ever imagined. (For the record, I'm referring to the "good" Shepard throughout this insert & will also be referring to him as a male) Shepard hits all the marks of being a hero. When learned that an unfathomable, seemingly invincible enemy was to arrive & endanger the entire galaxy, Shepard makes it his priority to find a way to stop them. He makes it his duty, all on his own, to protect & save the life within the galaxy. He has the valiant ambitions of a hero, but he isn't just talk. Throughout the games, he gets closer to defeating the enemy (or atleast figuring out a way to defeat the enemy), which, considering what the enemy is, is a feat that no ordinary man can accomplish. He's saved lives, just like any cop, fireman, or doctor would do.

But, there's more to being heroic than just simply protecting people from harm. Shepard also makes time to figure out the problems of all kinds of people, alongside protecting the galaxy. While he's on a space station trying to find people that can give him clues as to how to save the galaxy, he's somehow able to make criminals blackmailing a clinic on the station back off, stop an angry client of a well-reputed consort from spreading bad rumors, & figure out what a family should do about treating their expecting baby for a heretical disease. He helps people with their personal problems as well as the immense galactic ones they don't even know they have. He protects people, he helps people, & all out of concern for others instead of himself. The people you can thank for a number of things are the ideal heroes, & Mass Effect is an ideal lesson on how to go about being one.


Gears of War 2 - "PERSEVERANCE"

To rise up & overcome in the face of hopelessness is a feat a fair share of the world can relate to. Most people, at one point or another, hit a part of their life when all seemed lost. Enter Gear of War 2, where as opposed to the original Gears of War, we see exactly how bad humanity is losing the war with the Locusts. Every day that goes by that they're alive seems like a victory in more ways than one. They are genuinely losing, & the turmoils of war have rendered life but a misery. But they keep fighting & living because they know things will be better if things do somehow turn out in their favor.

To differ from the faith lesson, faith is to look uncertainty in the face & try to work around it. But perserverence is something else. It's more direct. They have no doubt that if they win the war, things will be better. But, they also know the odds are against them. The enemy is stronger & ruthless at that. It's like humanity trying to win the war is humanity trying to change fact. Gears 2 is odd in the way that the more you go through it, the more destruction & suffering you see that seemingly can't be stopped. But...you're still winning battles. And if you can win battles, you can win wars. Gears 2 shows you through the characters & the game play to keep fighting. The protagonists are losing friends & loved ones but still willing to try & defeat the Locust. We're shown the travesties the war has done & will continue to do to humanity, but, through playing the game & winning the encounters, are shown that we could end up the victors & end them.

When you have hope that things will be better...when it seems like a possibility... moving forward seems a lot easier. But when you know things will be good if they turn out like this, but at the same time realize it's probably not going to happen that way it makes it a lot harder to try. That's why Gears of War 2 gets the Medal of Perseverance, because perseverance is to fight against what you think you know in attempt to change.


Shadow of Colossus - "RESOLVE"

Resolve is something we will all always need. That, & Shadow of the Colossus has a very interesting, yet epic, portrayal of what resolve can allow us to do. The premise of the game that you start out with is the woman you love is dead, & you want her back. In order to revive her, you must find & defeat sixteen Colossus scattered about a forbidden world for an omnipotent deity. With all that said, you set out on your quest. The colossus are massive, building-size monsters. Imagine yourself fighting a 6-story building(wielding a 3-story building) with a bow & arrow & sword. Seems pretty damn impossible right? Well, through determination, you manage. You climb upon these immense beasts & look for where they're vulnerable & attack there. Trying to maneuver a giant, living monster is, as you can imagine, rather difficult. It shakes & stirs to prevent you from ceasing its breath & achieving your goal. But you keep trying. You can't give up. You have to climb back on & try again.

The game is a metaphor of what it means to resolves to something. If what something accomplished, you go for it. Charge towards it! If you get knocked down, you get back up & try again & you keep doing that. Eventually, what you're trying to achieve will happen. We all need to know that we can reach our goals as long as we never stop trying to obtain them. For reminding us of this, Shadow of the Colossus deserves to be the best game to teach us resolve.


Red Dead Redemption - "SACRIFICE"

How often do you think about what you would give up or allow to be taken away from you for the sake of someone else? People don't like to think about what kinds of sacrifices they need to make, but we always end up needing to make them. The typical ones are small. Sacrifice television for a small electric bill, a sports car for something with better mileage. Common sense kind of stuff. But in Red Dead Redemption, sacrifice of the largest scale is portrayed. The kind that pushes the limits of how much we value the people we know.

John Marston lives entirely for his family, who has been kidnapped by the federal government. They are held hostage until Marston kills or brings in the old gang mates that formed his former band of outlaws. All of this takes place during the end of the Wild West, when lawlessness & uncouth behavior was the preferred norm. He has the option to turn away & abandon his family(which during the time, wouldn't have been a surprise amongst most men). Instead, he puts his life at risk regularly on a mission to reacquire his family. His gang-mates have reformed new gangs, some even small armies. In order to even get close to them, he has to form alliances with the right people that can help him. More often than not, to form these bonds requires Marston to do tasks for these people that are beneficial to them, but of ill-repute to us. After that, we must murder our way through to our gang-mates(casualties along the way). What would we be willing to allow others to think of us to help the ones we care about? What sins are we willing to bare in order to take care of our loved ones?

But the true sacrifice in this game that stands out from all others is the climax of the game. After winning back his family, the government he helps betrays him. They've come for the last gang member. He fends off the American Army long enough to put his wife & son on a horse & tell them to ride & don't look back. He walks out of his ranches barn, surrounded by soldiers. He commits the ultimate sacrifice. He dies so that his family can live. Very few people can attest that they'd sacrifice there life for another. Dying for somebody else. It's simple to say, difficult to go through with. Yet John Marston does it without a moments hesitation. That is why Red Dead Redemption earns the spot as our best came to teach about sacrifice.


Dead Rising 2 - "LOVE"

This one is particularly hard to describe, but anyone who knows the premise of Dead Rising 2 shouldn't need but so much detail to figure why this is my lesson in love. Dead Rising 2 has our protagonist Chuck Greene in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. His daughter Katie is unfortunately infected, needs constant doses of "Zombrex", a supressant of the infection. The entire point of the game is to keep Katie alive. In order to do this, you must navigate the zombie hordes & participate in a zombie-slaughtering game show known as Terror is Reality to be able to purchase the expensive drug your daughter's life depends on.

It sounds like one hell of a devoted father just reading that, but when you actually play the game you really see what kind of hell Chuck goes through for the sake of his daughter. And it's not like the situation John Marston was in. His death saved his family from death, but Chuck's death would condemn Katie entirely. You have to go through hell AND back, * repeat the process a number of times. Love is the only emotion that can define this kind of action. The only thing that could propel Chuck forward is his love for Katie. Even in the extreme fiction of the game, you can sill relate the bond of a father & daughter. Dead Rising 2 gets the lesson of love spot for this reason.

But all of these values have an origin. In my opinion, this value gives access to all other virtues...


Okami - "BENEVOLENCE"

Selflessness... the ability to disregard ourselves & worry about others...it is what allows us to do right by other people. No other game comes anywhere close to portraying benevolence as Okami.

You play as God. Granted is has the aesthetic of Japanese culture, but it does not take away from the sense that you are playing as the "Almighty One". God, in our world, is supposed to be the most benevolent & holy being ever. On a personal note...this game's protagonist is the best portrayal of the God most widely accepted by our world ever made in a video game. Most of the game's that I've played that featured "gods" portrayed them as tyrannical beings, rulers with secret ambitions, & even power-hungry monsters. The God of this game, which is referred to as Ammy, is nothing like that in any way, shape, or form. She (yes, it's a goddess) exists for us. Evil, or Darkness, threatens our land & as soon as this is a reality, she's on the scene ready to clean house. Now, that sounds like your typical "defeat the bad guy" plot, but it's the interactions with the people in the world, & the world itself, that show off the benevolent nature of Ammy. She doesn't just seek to rid the world of darkness & evil. She seeks to appease to the personal needs of every inhabitant of her world. Almost everyone you encounter in the game has something that you can help them with. They all need help. And it's your desire to help them. It can range from smiting minions of evil for a young maiden seeking to avenge her father's grizzly death by them, to finding a piece of chalk so that a little girl can express her artistic visions, to simply making a withered, desolate land bloom in flora.

Everything you do in the game... it's for the benefit of the inhabitants of that world. Upon completing this game, you can walk away from the console knowing how to be a better person. This is why Okami is the most benevolent game ever made & earns the number one spot on our list of lessons that can be taught by video games.

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Games have evolved so much over the course of their existence. We can pack so much humanity & reality into these virtual worlds now. And because of this, we can learn how to be better(or atleast certain types of) human beings from them. We just have to look in the right places.

I hope that if you haven't played any of these titles I listed, that you'd consider giving them a try. You'd be surprise to find what kind of things you can learn about the world & maybe even yourself from paying attention to what you're playing. As far as video games being able to have a positive, significant impact on the player's life, I think there is only more to come. I invite you to join me in taking in the greatness they have to offer.

Honorable mentions are Bioshock for REDEMPTION and Psychonauts for SELF-RELIANCE.