Video games have dominated news headlines for years, with a focus on addiction, gun violence and the predatory nature of microtransactions. While these are serious issues that need to be addressed, and should be given ample airtime, it's also important to remember that games are, at their core, a force for good.
Last week, I was flown to Auckland as a guest of Grinding Gear Games to attend the very first ExileCon, a celebration of all things Path of Exile. I'd never been involved with the game's community, but it was still fantastic to see how a game like Path of Exile could open up new experiences and communication channels between fans.
Waiting in line for a drink at the VIP dinner the night before the con, I met a man that had flown down from Texas with no point of contact outside the game. He flew to New Zealand to meet people, and by the end of the night, he was surrounded by chatting friends.
When I joined a table later into the dinner, it was fantastic to see Path of Exile fans gathered around discussing unique items, trades and boss techniques. As someone who'd only recently gotten into the game, a lot of what they spoke about went over my head, but what was clear was how passionate they were about the game, and how that passion had brought them together.
Two days later, I saw another man wearing an ExileCon shirt in a board game shop in downtown Auckland. He was chatting enthusiastically about the game, and the con, with a staffer.
While issues of classification, video game violence and microtransactions remain important, the simple fact is that video games are designed to be good. They're designed to be social. They're designed to be fun. They're designed to bring people together. We've said it before, and we'll say it again.
Spurred on by the recent discussions of video games and violence, and spurred on by the emotional and often downbeat tone of that discussion, a user on Twitter posted a simple thought exercise. Rather than talking about the misery and pain of the week, what if people shared all the times Nintendo games changed lives instead?
Video games are a force for good, and sitting in a room full of ARPG fans. Listening to them chat and share stories, I was happy to be reminded.