Nautilus

Video Games Are Changing the Hero

Whenever the Kingdom of Hyrule has been in danger, a young boy named Link has risen to the challenge of saving the land from all manner of pixelated evil. The latest chapter of Link’s ongoing quest in the video game series The Legend of Zelda is about to be released. And while the graphics have improved since the 1980s, Link is still an empty vessel for players to inhabit, only facing danger with a push of the joystick. Videogame heroes take up a larger amount of people’s imaginations today than they ever have before. In the cultural economy they are as big a force as the heroes in books and movies. But as relatively new as videogame heroes are, some still question their ability to impact us on the level of more traditional art.

In 2010, the late great movie critic Roger Ebert argued that video games can never be art. “One obvious difference between art and games,” he wrote, “is that you can win a game.” By comparison, literature and movies emphasize the contemplation of their subjects. “Prose gives you the chance to do what no other medium can, which is dare to represent the contours of human consciousness,” says Tom Bissell, author of Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter, as well as short stories, narrative non-fiction books, and big-budget blockbuster games including Gears of War: Judgment and Battlefield: Hardline.

Imagine it: The hero of the Legend of Zelda game series, Link, about to battle three snakes.Nintendo

But videogames do explore the consciousness of their players in ways that other media do not. Whereas literary or cinematic heroes are locked in place by the time you consume their tales, game heroes rely

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