Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Myths of gaming
Gameresearch has an interesting article which discusses a set of myths about games , where Jonas Heide Smith "kills off" 6 myths.

Some of his strikes are well-aimed, it is for instance possible to check whether games are a bigger business than movies, and the numbers he presents indicate that they are not. Some are not quite as well considered. "5: Games have yet to mature as a medium" is for instance a statement which cannot really be checked. Heide Smith's argument rests on the assumption that radio, television and film is mature:

But to put it bluntly: Games are mature. It is odd to compare computer games with the development cycle of books. If you should compare with something, it should be other visual media in this century, where the technological evolution has speeded up considerably compared to earlier centuries. And neither the television nor the radio took centuries to mature – there seems to be a romantic vision of computer games becoming something more than the established genres of today.

The computer is rapidly changing film, video and radio. Digitalising information opens up for formerly unimagined options, and breaks the very strict linear, chronological publishing line of television and radio, not to mention what computer animation is doing to film. Television, radio and film are obviously able to develop further, to change and to become something more and something new. Now this might be a sign of decomposing in their dithering old age, but I hardly think so. I think it is a sign that electronic media is still a young technology where we don't yet know the limitations of the future.

And if the computer is changing already established genres, which are considered mature, who knows where the games can go? Heide Smith's argument that story is the measuring stick in academia for the maturity of the medium is not valid, he should look a bit further for academic debate before killing off that particular myth. Structure, immersion, social interaction and relations, spatial perception - it's all a part of what is discussed in relation to gaming, and there is still as much if not more to explore and develop there as there is in film, television and radio.

His argument against myth "6: Games are great educational tools", is similarly quickly put together. He points to a study of games by Eva Liestøl, where he finds that the educational games are bad games. Does that prove that children can not learn from games? What that proves is that educators have not learned how to develop good educational games.

I agree with Jonas Heide Smith, there are a lot of myths about computer games, and I would like to see some of them squashed - particularly the "games are dangerous" one. That will disappear in time though, just like the "radio is dangerous", "television causes the brain to shrink", "video will lead to chainsaw massakres in every home" and "colour television is dangerous to the perception of reality". All we need is a new medium and for the current gaming generation to move into positions of power and have children who explore and understand a medium their parents never imagined. Once that happens, computer games will come in from the cold and probably be something pretty close to high art.

No comments: