Game chair philosopher: A good excuse for a rationale

It’s a sign of the times, whether you like it or not, to see the latest issue of the Economist run a 10-page special report on video games. Consider a mere 25 years ago, when the first mass-market games were released by Japanese nerds trying to make a buck off Italian racial stereotypes, or American geeks letting off some steam via ultra-violence. Back then it would’ve been ludicrous to think that the Smithsonian might run an exhibition on the cultural phenomena of computer games. Did anyone ever think that the fastest form of entertainment media (including movies, television, sports and music) might be an interactive computer game in which the previous incarnation involved the massacre of unarmed civilians as its centrepiece?

Because let’s face it: computer games are on the up and up. For comparison? The final Harry Potter movie (the record-breaker for ticket sales) achieved $169 Million in its first weekend worldwide. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, released just a few months ago, achieved $1 Billion within 16 days. Not only is the video game industry well and truly twice the size of the music industry, by 2015 market projections suggest that video games will rival the world’s newspapers.

These are all good justifications for this contribution to Woroni. Because if it’s good enough for the New York Times, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Guardian or Time magazine to have a Video Games section, well then, dammit, the ANU student newspaper should have one too. But perhaps most importantly, as children of the 80s and 90s, we are the first generation to have been exposed to video games our entire lives. Even if you don’t play, you know people who do. Even if you don’t enjoy gaming, the social and cultural impact of computer games is worth looking at. Unfortunately, computer gaming has always been hobbled by its association with adolescent or childhood entertainment. And maybe 15 years ago that was the case. But that association is misplaced in 2011.

So, fully aware of how presumptuous this makes me look, I thought I’d tap into that part of our generational psyche, and start a discussion on something I think is worth talking about.

Now, let me be clear: unlike a lot of other gaming-related columns, I’m not going to waste your time with reviews. Apart from my minor ranting that may encourage a game here or there, the purpose of this column is not really to rate and compare games on some arbitrary scale (until, of course, my thoughts become corporate sponsored and I get preview copies of the latest games, in which case I will gladly assume the position).

Instead, I’m here to stir up shit, piss people off, and give you, dear readers, a few thoughts from the dark hidden reaches of internet gaming cafes where ‘respectable’ people fear to venture into. It’s clear that a discussion on video games is long overdue, and it’s about damn time we realised that they’re not just for kids any more.

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