There is no longer enough time to travel. Work, stress, and various other constraints prevent us from packing a bag and heading off on a spiritual adventure to find ourselves. We are often too tired to even go for a walk around the neighbourhood. In fact, even if we have the energy for it at times, it could be raining or snowing or insanely hot outside, making even small trips impossible. But what if we could travel without actually travelling? Well, the thing is, we have been doing so for decades and we have not realised it!
[Tennis for Two on an Oscilloscope(Source: Wikipedia)]
Virtual travel came into existence all the way back in 1958 in a game called Pong: Tennis for Two, which was a visually interactive tennis game that had to be played on an oscilloscope. It was designed by an American physicist named William Higinbotham. After that, the travel in the video gaming world has just grown and improved. Travel has been an integral part of video games since the very beginning, and it is so common in all of them that is taken for granted! Studies on the effects travel in video games has on the human mind are uncommon. However, if we compare the effects of travel and the effects of video games on people, a lot of them are common. A lot of people get out of video games what one would usually get out of real world travelling. Video games and travel have both been known to relieve stress, heighten concentration as well as make people open their minds and learn new things.
Though the initial video games had 2D graphics that were of a poor quality, they were still a huge success. Games like Nintendo’s Pokémon and Super Mario Bros. which were released in the 1990s and 1980s respectively, are still evolving and selling today! Video games are becoming more realistic, interactive and interesting every day! The detail and realism brought into the game makes the players engage with them better. “Each and every locale is designed with such panache and detail that you feel a connect with them.” Said Santhosh, a second year Engineering student, on the game Witcher 3. “It is a magical experience; like you want to explore; find everything, all the secrets!” Nitin, a third year design student, added, on The Legend of Zelda. When I first interviewed people and asked them to give me their take on travel in video games, they did not understand. It took me a while to explain my question to them before I got the message across, which shows just how much it is taken for granted. For almost all video games, some amount of travel is necessary.
[Portal (Source: Wikipedia)]
Travel is used in unique ways in many different games. For example, the game Portal by Valve, requires the players to move around in a laboratory and open up portals in appropriate places so as to clear one level and reach the next. Although there is not much of a scenery, there is air of uneasiness in the game that is heightened by having to move around and explore each level. A first person perspective makes the game all the more realistic, like the player is really in the lab and trying to escape! Other games like Mario Kart give you control over a character within the game but the excitement of driving a cart and racing on a track is vividly felt by the player. Other games like Temple Run and Subway Surfers that are targeted for mobile gamers help boost presence of mind and concentration abilities. It also improves the players reflexes.
Karthik Harish, a student in Gaming Animation, threw some light on why a game creator included travel as one of the element. “The player will be able to interact with the game and its environment.” He says. “Since it’ll be a whole new world they are playing in, travel helps them to explore the place and it helps the game developer to put in more side quests to make it more interactive.” This gives us a sort of insight as to why game developers include travel in the game. It adds to the overall appeal of the game and makes the experience a lot more personal. The best part is that gaming can be fitted into any time slot. Be it a five minute break or holiday, gaming helps the player feel rejuvenated without having to go outdoors. This is especially beneficial for people like myself who dislike travelling, as virtual travel is an easy replacement for real world travel. “Travel is what reality involves , so involving travel is what makes video games have their own world, which is when people indulge in them.” Says Srikrishna Vanam, a third year Engineering student, when Iasked him how he felt about travel in the game Counter Strike: Global Offensive.
[Counter Strike: Global Offensive]
Another advantage of travel in video games is Time Travelling! It is something one simply cannot do in real life. Time travel could be taken in a literal sense, where you have the ability to go back and forth in time like in Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, Super Time Force, etc. Alternatively, the game can also be set in the past, like Assassin’s Creed I. Prince of Persia: Sands of Time is both set in the past and gives the player the ability to reverse time, employing both senses of time travel in one go. This is one of the charms of travel that only exists in video games!
[Assassin’s Creed I (Cover Art)]
Contrary to this, however, is the new, hit game by Niantic Labs, Pokémon GO! Unlike other games that work as a replacement for travel, Pokémon GO forces players out of the house and makes them travel in the real world to progress within the game. This encourages players and fans of the franchise to exercise while giving them a reason to go outside. While most video games discourage physical activity and can lead to several health issues if people get addicted, Pokemon GO encourages exercise and ensures the player’s fitness as they play. It also helps the users meet new people as they play and helps them connect because of the game. As the game is accessible to everyone with a smartphone, people from various walks of life end up interacting with each other. This leads to an exchange in ideas as well as a better understanding of the people in our society.
A Screenshot from Pokémon GO! (Source: Me!) Mario Kart Wii! (Source: IGN.com)
People have now even started making video games based off their travels contrary to the usual travelogues. They make the things they have seen on their travels elements of the game. An example would be a man named Jordan Magnuson who has a video on YouTube called Game Trekking: An Introduction, where he does this and reveals samples of the games he has made based off his experiences.
With advancement in Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) technologies and 3D modelling, video games have become more realistic than ever. Travel and video games go hand in hand with each other and technological advancements are slowly starting to equate them. It is like the fusion of two worlds we never expected would touch each other. Video games let people experience the thrill and joy of travelling even if their reason for playing the game is not for the travel itself. It helps players get introduced to new ideas, new people and new culture, both real and fictional. Travelling in video games in a wonderful experience, with many positive but subconscious effects on the mind. It is a unique kind of travel that everyone (who can afford to do so,) should experience at least once in their lives.