This doesn't particularly fit into any other thread (the only other truly video-game oriented threads are either totally anti [as is expected] or not general enough), so I'm making a new one - mods, please feel free to move this to a more fitting thread if you remember there being one.
I have exams starting next week, so I've decided to go sober for a while. Doing this always gives me very interesting insights, as the copious amounts of substances I've ingested over the previous month or so gradually wind their way out of my body. I've just been struck by the thought that, contrary to my previous belief, all of the time that I have spent playing video games has not been wasted. I generally prefer games which have good stories/gameplay over those which merely look cool (which seem to me more like interactive movies). Some of the best games I've ever played - Morrowind, Terranigma, Secret of Mana - have actually imparted to me very valuable ideas, either through the dialogue/storyline put in by the developers, or because my ruminations during play have led to new discoveries. Principally, though, the time has not been wasted, because I actively engage with the game as the character I am playing, and really try to immerse myself in the story/setting.
The best video games should be as artistically viable as the best books, the best music, the best films, and so on. The problem is that the days of video games being seen as creative endeavours are past us, and now they have been relegated to "entertainment". In short, we're right back at square one: Call of Doodie: Modern Wankfare 16 is Pong with swanky graphics/controls (team based combat is team based combat). However, a brief Golden Age (around the early '90s, funnily enough) yielded a number of titles which were far less concerned with scores, special effects, and variations on a single gameplay mechanism (e.g. killing someone), and more focused on providing detailed and thorough worlds wherein the player had "real" goals and difficulties. Final Fantasy etc. was probably the start of this kind of game, though the style became more sophisticated with later, often more action-oriented RPGs (so that the story was not separated by/from the battles, and killing things was no longer the main goal).
Consider that, throughout time, Men have created stories about their worlds, their people's pasts, their Gods, and so on. In many cultures, these stories eventually take the form of plays - essentially, ritualised reenactments, in which both the actors and the audience must "suspend disbelief" so as to reap the benefits of what they see and hear (the same benefits as would befall someone who read the play as a book or poetry, let us say). In Japan, it was customary for Lords (and some of their retainers) to dabble in acting; I should think there are analogues all over the world, wherein the higher castes, with loftier gazes, recreated the actions of the past so as to gain a better understanding of the world.
Here I am reaching my conclusion: video games could have become the "individual's play", just as books became the individual's fireside narratives. By this, I mean that we could have developed programmes which allowed users to fully adopt (or even create) the role of a certain individual, play out that role, and learn all of the lessons learnt by that individual in the game, albeit from the comfort of a sofa. Instead, we've just spawned ridiculous amounts of eyecandy on which to waste hours of our lives attaining Double++ rank by shooting angry twelve year olds.
There are some games with which the above can be done. Play any of the three games I listed up there, and make a solid attempt at "identifying with the character", or however it's said. It's as much "escapism" as reading a book is, and the only reason you won't get quite so much out of it than you would from reading an Epic or somesuch work is that nobody's had the vision or the balls to create something that good within the medium (yet!).