Video Games Are Good for You

Blood, Guts, and Leadership Skills?

The SimCity series could scarcely get more complex, but it will. This winter, the game creator, Will Wright, will unveil The Sims, which was the talk of this year's industry convention, E3. In it, Sim players will be able to drop to street level to walk among their creations. It's like living inside Legoville, only this time around if you don't tend your tracts you end up with ghettos. How do you finish a SimCity game? You don't. The garden just keeps growing or going to seed.

In a way, that's also the biggest problem with video games—endings are not exactly the medium's strong suit. After spending 20 hours collecting keys in PlayStation's Resident Evil 2 or rings in Dreamcast's Sonic Adventure, you're left only the thinnest excuse for closure. As someone who cribbed cheat-sheets and harangued friends to get through the zombie-fest of Resident Evil 2, I can tell you the satisfaction of completing a video game never really comes. Just when the undead are all certifiably out of commission, the underground research facility explodes, and you're riding the gravy train to the surface, you start wondering why you played in the first place. Video games may contain vitamins (systems thinking, social accountability), but they are still not quite meals.

Then again, TV has been serving us fast food for years, and nobody seems up in arms about Charmed or Suddenly, Susan. If anything, video games are drawing audiences away from the tube, which is full of endings over which you have no control. Gamers sense that constrictedness and flee. You hear it over and over again when you talk to them. "Basically, I play these games instead of watching TV," says Nachumi. "I find TV kind of irrelevant," says Half-Life's Laidlaw. And if games are thieving time away from TV, how much of a crime could it be?

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