A difficult question to ask to say the least, mainly because some fear the answer, but it’s been an underlying question in the gaming community ever since the release of Super Mario
I came across this question myself when I was trying to understand what made video games so popular: they’re a great escape from the stresses of everyday life, they bring people together, and they help keep many of us from being bored. But unlike the escape of a book or movie, video games put you in control of a character that can do things you most likely can’t do in real life. A good example is Mirror’s Edge, a game I immensely appreciate due to its addictive gameplay and fresh approach to a first person perspective, a free running game that has you running along rooftops, jumping across buildins and hanging from helicoptors. Free running is something very few of us can do in the real world and only a select number of brave and physically fit souls have the courage to attempt such high rise stunts.
Games like Oblivion immerse the player in a medieval fantasy world where there they can equip platemail armor and swords, ride horses and explore the land while battling monsters. A game like Way of the Samurai allow players to go back in time to feudal Japan. It would be impossible to recreate these scenarios in our modern day lives, which is why the games previously mentioned are so popular. Moving closer to the realm of possibility is a stretch with games like Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2; an FPS set in modern day, you play as both an SAS member and Army Ranger, and while you can join the military in real life, for most people the game is the closests they will get to special ops training.
It’s a given that you can do things in video games you couldn’t do in real life, at least not without a degree of risk, so it would seem that video games in a way are much better than our mundane and boring lives, but that isn’t the case. I’ve come to the conclusion that while you may not be able to find treasure and fight bandits in Uncharted or race ATVs in Pure, but it is possible to go mountain climbing, race cars on a track, or go to the shooting range and I would argue that the satisfaction you receive from doing those things in real life would far outweigh an experience in a video game.
Video games can get as close as they can to virtual reality and life-like graphics, but I feel they will never compare with what you experience in the real world, whether it be mountain biking with friends, or playing in a band in front of a group of people. Video games are beaten and put on a shelf or an auction website, but the experiences someone can create by going out of their comfort zone and doing something adventurous can stay with them indefinitely.