I cannot live without books
– Thomas Jefferson
Video games are fun diversions, a good way to connect with friends and family, and a marvel of technology. They also pale in comparison with the human mind, are lonely, often have weak stories, and cannot communicate grand ideas nearly as well as books. Books are simply much better.
Books Are Far Cleverer
Strategy games sometimes engage players to found, grow, and expand an empire over time. The well-known Civilization series is one such example. Yet a perennial problem with these games is the inability of the artificial intelligence, or AI, to realistically mimic human behavior. AI cannot mimic diplomatic encounters in a human way, but it only responds to human interaction in specific, mathematically informed ways. AI makes game moves on the basis of logic, of ifs and thens. When Civilization emulates international diplomacy, its AI mimics human emotion by mathematical calculation.
When you play a game, you can only suspend your disbelief for so long. Sooner or later, you realize that you not playing an opponent but a calculator.
Books, though not always even in quality, are far more clever than games. A writer can carefully, construct characters whose interactions with each other both satisfy and perhaps even uncover human emotion to a depth that you have never experienced in life.
I remember reading Cormac McCarthy’s The Road some time ago, expanding my ability to feel the indelible devotion that a father can have for his child. Had I not read McCarthy’s work, I would not have stretched my emotional ability and grown in my ability to experience life as I now can.
C. S. Lewis speaks about real life in his Screw Tapeletters, about how people never question what is real. And yet the word of books, of ideas, can sometimes teach you things that are more real than so-called real life. So-called real life may simply teach you to accept cultural norms, which are in fact not true, not real. Books may dissuade you of your willful unknowing by stretching your stubborn mind to experience a taste of reality, a taste you would never have had without first having read a book.
Books Are Far Less Lonely
Video games are lonely. If you win against a computerized opponent, you’ve won against mathematical logic. No one knows, nor cares that you won. If you win against another player online, a statistic is lodged, loot is won, and then an expansion pack is released and nobody cares anymore. Your glory dies with the release of the next MMO, with the death of your online clan who no longer play, and with the death of carefully crafted competition, something which online video games often so sorely lack.
AI doesn’t care if it wins or loses. MMO Players are transitory. You are, in effect, alone. The illusion of community lasts for a while, constantly re-hidden behind the veil of new expansions, patches, and other kinds of releases. Newness often covers the obvious loneliness of it all.
A book is your friend. A book cares if you read it, at least its author does. A book can portray humans with all their real interactions in ways that a game never can. They are carefully crafted words, which an author infuses his soul into. When you read, you are in a conversation. You write notes in the margin or argue with the author in your head about the book. You imagine worlds never before seen through the eyes of a point-of-view character.
In short, books are a better friend than a game can or will be.
Books Tell Better Stories
Some video games tell beautiful stories, but stories need to be adapted to gameplay. The great detail of Tolkien’s Middle Earth or King’s Mid-World will never be unearthed in the same way in a video game. Digital representations of worlds may appear in a game but only as slaves to the player’s gaming experience.
A good game needs good gameplay. Story is often secondary to the quality of a game.
In a book, story is king.
I am sucker for a good novel. Fiction, fantasy, and science fiction are among my favourite genres. The power of fiction, the power of a good writer is to create a new world for you to visit. You can sit in your backyard reading books all summer and visit more places than you ever could have had you traveled the world by air.
A good writer not only opens up a new world for you to experience but also a new way to understand people. One of the realities of being human is that we are situated in one geographical location. We learn and live on the basis of what is front of us. A good book lets you see through someone else’s eyes, to experience a culture different from your own, to experience a kind of suffering or a kind of elation that you may never experience had you not read a book.
I can think, for example, of Corrie Tenboom’s story The Hiding Place, in which she details how her family hid Jewish persons from Natzis. Or, I consider how Joseph Conrad so powerfully narrates the ivory trade in the Congo in his Heart of Darkness. Each story transfers you from your own place in the world to somewhere other, somewhere outside of yourself.
Books simply tell better stories than a game does.
Books Are Far More Beneficial
Some games communicate great ideas of life, of death, of friendship, and of struggle. But the ideas are sometimes wasted because the primary goal of a good game is entertainment, of gameplay. The game Deus Ex may portray the real issue of corporate control over the state, of technology and humanity, but it does so in service of a game—to be fun. The ideas are subservient to the gameplay, and are often muted.
A good idea takes time to ponder; it takes time to reflect on what the idea might mean to you and to life. A game does not provide you that luxury, because a bug monster will attack in you two minutes after you are exposed to a grand idea.
I remember reading J. I. Packer’s The Logic of Penal Substitution in college, being caught up in the grand ideas of the cross and redemption. The idea of penal substitution continues to inform my thinking and my emotional life. In the main, a video game could not have the same impact or present the same grand idea as such a book.
Books are simply better than video games. Please feel free to play video games and enjoy them. But do not rob yourself of the wonder of a good book.
dont care still gaming and theres no way ill quit gaming
thanks for replying. sorry for late reply. i love gaming still and never stopped. i dont support reading. thanks,
There are flaws to this claim/argument. For example, you assert that “Books Tell Better Stories,” but you must acknowledge that it all depends on what book you’re reading or game you are playing. I can name games that are horrible in general when it comes to if the game is appealing to the gamers, but I can also mention a variety of books that lack a good story, and failed to entertain the audience. Also, you mention that games primarily focus on gameplay rather a compelling story for the consumer. I want to note that this is true to a certain extent. Games have multiplayer modes as well as campaigns with a story that attaches players emotionally, and other ways. Honestly, problems go both ways, and I’m not going into detail, but I can see where you’re going. 🙂
Agree to an extent.
A good book is a good story. The point of a novel is to tell a good story. This is not always the case with games. They occasionally tell good stories. But these games are far and few between.
And yes: world of warcraft can draw readers emotionally. They can create relationships and in-game relationships. But I’d suggest that books that take 15 years to write over the crucible of life will challenge you to grow emotionally whereas tying yourself emotionally to a game may or may not grow you emotionally. More could be said. Just my 2 cents.
Well ain’t that one-sided and subjective as shoot.
Fair enough. I’d love to hear why you disagree!
It seems you have decided that games “only” set out for good gameplay, only followed second by story. It is clear you have not experienced nor considered, games that uses gameplay mechanics to further the story, not the other way around (Last of us, What Remains of Edith Finch, Her Story, Limbo and others).
Miles G.R. Lewis says
I think I should read a lot of books, because I think they’re more fun to read that way for me! Wouldn’t you agree?
How about games with multiplayer and real life people?
How about games with -cinematic- character development?
And games where you have a role instead of riding with the main character?
Also games also have a clearer image of the story.
Not against your topic, just saying there are also reasons for the opposite side.
Lit Boi says
Books can give you a great imagination or even a expand it!
Lit Boi says
Though you bring up some interesting points, I believe your argument is flawed because you failed to acknowledge the point of view from the gaming community.
Reason 1 you said Books Are Far Cleverer
“A writer can carefully, construct characters whose interactions with each other both satisfy and perhaps even uncover human emotion to a depth that you have never experienced in life.”
To this I agree, but you fail to acknowledge that in a story driven video game, it is the same way. A video game creator can carefully, construct characters, whose interactions with each other both satisfy and show human emotion. What you call a “mathematical algorithm” is a form for which the video game creator conveys his message to the player. Similar to the way words convey an author’s message to a reader
Reason 2 you said Books Are Far Less Lonely
“ No one knows, nor cares that you won” “A book is your friend. A book cares if you read it, at least its author does. ”
Sidenote: both video games and books are inanimate objects. So neither are capable of caring for the reader or player.
To your point, I would like to say that here you failed to acknowledge the point of view of the gamer. Both video games and books have creators. You say the author cares if you read his book, similarly a video game development team cares if you play their game. In fact video game development teams spend hours reading fan forums and going to Q&A sessions in which, they talk to their fans face-to-face so that they can construct a fan driven game, because developers care about their fans.(Here I am choosing to ignore the EA situation)
Reason 3, you said Books Tell Better Stories
“The power of fiction, the power of a good writer is to create a new world for you to visit.”
“ A good book lets you see through someone else’s eyes, to experience a culture different from your own, to experience a kind of suffering or a kind of elation that you may never experience had you not read a book.”
To this I ask, have you ever played a video game? Every video game has to run in its own world, from Grand theft auto to fallout. Unless games run on a similar engine, they are coded to work completely differently. Therefore every game you play(excluding call of duty) will feel different from the last. Every game expresses art in its own unique way and caters to different types of players
To the second point, Every game lets you play as something or someone. In most cases you play as a character, or multiple characters. In some games, you play as a an entity that is capable of watching over all characters in a game. In this sense, I might argue that video games have the upper hand, because video games acknowledge YOU, the main character more often than books do. therefore driving the story to cater more towards YOU the player.
Reason 4 you said Books Are Far More Beneficial
“A good idea takes time to ponder; it takes time to reflect on what the idea might mean to you and to life.”
To this I say video games are full of satire and choices. YOU the player are the one who has to make the choice, YOU the player, have to live with your decision.
In the game Life is strange, I was tasked with stopping a friend from commiting suicide. I failed and it was a decision the game threw in my face several times throughout the story. It was something I had to live with. Had I read a book, I would not be the one making the decision, but because I was the one who pressed the button, it was my fault. Many video games give you the option to kill someone(Black ops,Fallout,GTA), and YOUR choice is something you chose to live with.
Just like you can ponder your interpretation of a book after you read it, you can interpret a game you just played. You could ask yourself why the creator put a certain aspect in the game and what it means to the work as a whole, just like a book. In video games Easter eggs are huge, they are like allusions, they are side puzzles, that once solved, reward YOU the player.
Overall, neither book or game, is better than the other, because it comes down to personal choice. Don’t rob yourself of the opportunity to play a good game.
Gold for you, i couldnt say any better than that, books are great, i wont deny, but this post is heavily one sided and probably written by someone that never played a good video game, i would like to see him/her play Detroit or as you mentioned already, Life is strange, god, that game made me cry my eyes out, and that’s not easy at all for me, few things caused this impact on me in my whole life. And the big bonus games have that books can never have, is as you said, YOU are the focus, you make the decisions, you have to feel and deal with their consequences, even if its that choice that leads to the same end (like most telltale games), you will feel the consequence anyway because you are the one making choices, books can never adapt to that, feeling you are part of the story is much better than reading about someone’s else doings
Garret Rodriguez says
Reading pro’s compared to video games & movies, lot’s of content to keep you entertained, you literally absorb so much information compared to a video game / movie, usually books are more creative because less money is required to create a good book, so the author can take more risks, it’s very common for video games / movies to follow the foot steps of other successful video games / movies not much room for creativity. When you read time seems to go by at a decent pace instead of it feeling like you just went into a time machine & skipped hours of your life from playing a video game or watching a movie, so you usually feel more satisfied with your time that was spent when reading. Reading helps your memory & it’s good for getting better at reading faster. Video games can help with motor skills, decent story line, beautiful graphics, online community for socialization / team work skills, sense of accomplishment from learning advanced techniques that are hard to pull off or grinding to reach a really high level.
I hate to admit it but these are compelling arguments. As someone who loves tv and video games, I’ll say that books take you down a beautiful path of a wonderland just waiting for excitement. While video games and tv are fun, at the end of the day, they dont produce a vivid image in your head that keeps you coming back for more as opposed to reading books. Imagination seems a lot better than reality. I hope one day to be obsessed with books.
Books are less lonely? Where’s coop/multiplayer books? HAHA games do tell wonderful stories, less detailed than books, more detailed than movies/tv shows, games are the perfect balance, of course, when they are done right, yes, entertainment is the focus, but so are books, at least story books, or do you think people like to read books because they are boring? Of course they are a form of entertainment, same as videogames. Book are only “cleverer” because they have more details, but not everyone is crazy about those little details if they dont change anything that matters in the story. Also games can have the same beneficial effects than books, you are assuming people dont absorb the lessons many games teaches you, while that depends on the person playing it, same as the person reading a book, if they dont pay attention or just shrugs off the philosophical parts of the story, they are absorbing nothing the same way. Games are the perfect balance, books take too long to engage the user, i admit that once they do, they are great, but the hard part is getting there.
There’s a game called Nier:Automata which has a beautiful story, you should consider checking it out.
Needless to spend many words to this subject, it’s obvious you have no idea, first of all you should not talk about the things before you examine them very deeply but just learn this: Games are written, books are written. There is more information written for a game than a book just learn to compare them. YOU HAVE NO OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE MISTAKES IN A BOOK! and LEARN TO READ A GAME AND L2P!
You don’t know what you are talking about.
Games are just more fun and immersive for me, and they allow you to create your own story. Especially open world games. Games are also cheaper in the long run. One game can last for 2 years even if you play everyday. Online games allow you to verse other people, so you dont always have to verse an AI
A one sided, biased article from someone who’s clearly never dabbled in video games. There’s been scientific research done on the effects of gaming on the human brain and the results show that gaming affects the brain in a positive way. In fact, gaming helps the brain grow. Reading has its place too. Why choose one or the one when you can do both. There’s actually quite a bit of reading in video games..a fact you would have known if you played.
Gavyn Withaar says
he says games are lonely… i disagree there are games that can be lonely but what about the games that are actually played by the most of the gamer community like COD and battel royal games. The popular games require communication and i don’t play competitive. I do enter tournaments and stuff but i have a separate squad for fun for laughs. we are joking making our characters do rather funny things if u know what i mean. but books are lonely. you are bye you self and you build a bond with a character you cant control.
Life is small Don’t fret as life is too small, We all have a role to play, The words that come from your mouth, All the things you say, Should be positive to enlighten the soul, Because that is the ultimate goal, So, stay positive in whatever you do, Whether the situation is old or new, Keep the hope!
I couldn’t disagree with the points in this article more. Every one of them was incredibly subjective and focused on very specific parts to try to define the whole of gaming. For example the argument that games are lonely, I’ve played far more with my friends than by myself, and have met a lot of people online too. A book can’t interact with you at all, while when playing video games you can have real social interactions. As for books being far cleverer, you brought up a single game, and again referred to it being just against a calculator and everything you did against it being pointless, while if you read a book you don’t get to make choices at all, you are unable to do anything clever, all you can do is read a set out story. Your point of books telling better stories also had many flaws, not only was it solely based on opinion, but it claimed that gameplay limited video games. Most story based games use the game play and special mechanics that further the story. They may have less details than some books but they can tell incredible stories and are far more detailed than something like a movie. Finally you said books are more beneficial than games, well both have many benefits, studies have shown games can reduce pain, ptsd, and stress, and can also improve things like reaction time, and coordination. One study even showed that playing video games increases the size of parts of the brain that control things like memory and strategic thinking. Obviously books can help improve stress and things like vocabulary and nonfiction ones can teach you a lot, but most of the claims you made are completly false, and the ones that aren’t are just opinions not facts. This article showed an extreme lack of knowledge on video games and I doubt the author did much or any research on them or their benefits before writing it.
Casual HunDev says
In my opinion video games are absolutely the best form of entertainment, no contest whatsoever. Literally NOTHING can match their beauty. They’re extremely engaging, and thus, your brain gets to think and strategize every single step you make. Let’s say You’re fighting a powerful boss. Before you depart on a mission, you have to plan everything. Learn its moveset, prepare supplies, or if you’re an elite-class player even calculate damage outputs you’ll deal. During bossfight itself, there is no second to look around. You’re in a constant focus and keep an eye on boss and probably thousands of other things as well like HP bar, items, openings, status conditions and etc.. Heck, you may even start sweating. But guess what? That’s great. Your adrenaline and dopamine levels rise like a razor-sharp spike, your heart starts to beat faster (increased blood flow) and when you get to a finishing hit you get insanely high amount of satisfaction. No book can give you such incredible feelings because they’re just static pieces of paper with no interaction elements whatsoever. Oh, and in contrary to your “video games are more lonely” argument… Really? Do you consider reading a book ALONE in your room less lonely than playing a multiplayer game with other real people? Fine, I guess…
Alex Game Developer says
The book develops the imagination, teaches grammar and replenishes the stock of words and phrases. The book conveys knowledge. Games have existed for more than a decade, but knowledge in any field of science is transmitted by articles and books. Books convey knowledge as quickly and efficiently as possible. Can you imagine scientists recording their discoveries through video games? Also, the book can convey real knowledge. For example, physics. The game is very dependent on the gameplay and the gameplay is designed to captivate the players, not to teach important things. Let me remind you that roulette also captivates people. Often, through books, the author wants to share his life experience, suggest some solutions, or support the reader in difficult times.
Let’s talk about stories. Let’s start with the fact that a narrative game is not created just like that. The studio also takes part and the writer who writes the script/book. However, the story may be cut off or not negotiated due to gameplay or marketing. The story can be of poor quality as happened with Horizon Zero Dawn / Forbidden West. However, a very good plot turned out in “The last of us”. A good story is not the achievement of the game, but the fact that the studio has a good writer who reads books.
As for me, I have played many games and read many books. After 16 yo, I stopped perceiving games which bored me and didn’t bring any benefit. When you start to study the game, it is still interesting, but then the game turns into a routine. Routine in games: find an object in a puzzle that has been repeated for the hundredth time, bring/give it, kill the thousandth monster and so on. When I started working in game development, it was no longer interesting to study games, since this is part of the job. I’m not interested in earning some points in games, and more, I’m not interested in talking about imaginary problems in some game. There are real problems in the real world that you can talk about with other people and they will be interested. It is unlikely that anyone will be interested in hearing about your problem in some game that your opponent doesn’t play. If a game came out and I’m interested in the story, then I use memory inject to implement endless lives, bullets and so on to skip boring gameplay for me and get a story quickly. If the movie “The last of us” came out, then I would choose it, and not play the game.
The gaming industry is all about getting as many people interested as possible. Not to make the product useful and interesting, but to make the product make people pay. Unfortunately, people are full of shortcomings and one of them is a gambling addiction. Artists and designers make a beautiful bait, and the monetization department pumps out all the money to the last penny.
And don’t confuse physical games with video games. Physical games develop the physical body. All the excuses about the benefits of video games sound literally the same as pumping muscles with masturbation. Play real ping-pong and you will develop a better reaction than playing CS:GO.
There wasn’t a single game that made me cry, but there were books and movies.
you are RIGHT
Excellent article. Books stimulate the intellect and enrich the imagination. They invite us to think deeply. Books can transform one’s life.