There’s a regular tendancy to bemoan the time kids play with video games. They should be outside, you’ll hear, they should be reading books. What that line of thinking misses is that video game play can hone the most important of skills for the 21st century: creativity.
You never know what kind of experiences throughout your life later will become either a creative inspiration or a reference for solving things visually. For me, a lot of my touch-points were video games. I can remember being engulfed by their presence ever since kindergarten. Remember Number Munchers? Great game. It was an educational game designed to teach basic math, such as multiples, factors, prime numbers, etc. As the Muncher character, you build up points by eating the correct numbers. For instance, if it’s multiples of five, munch away all numbers that end with a 5 or 0, and avoid numbers like 7. Very intuitive and easy to learn, yet it was addictive.
Although online ability wasn’t there at the time, the idea of challenging and inviting a person was already there; you just had to do it in person and take turns on the computer. As games have been evolving over the years from consoles to online social games, it has become easier for gamers to personalize, compete, and share their accomplishments from the game with others. With advances in technology, motion control has become the new popular breakthrough for interacting with games, as with the Wii.
But I appreciate how the gaming world is still keeping it classic, following the notion of “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” regarding the concept and overall functionality of the game. Fighter, role-playing, sports, and first-shooter games are still going strong. Along with increasing the difficulty and complexity to the game, I enjoy seeing the visual/audio execution and art direction of the games that separate them from the rest, and continue to push the game to its next level.
It’s fun to analyze, learn and try to apply this whenever I’m creating engaging interactive interfaces such as social games. It’s just ironic how the one thing that caused me to spend a lot of time — time that many people might have said was wasted — would end up helping me in my day job.
Hiroaki Ito is an art director at Big Fuel Communications, a marketing and communications company based in New York.
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