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ZippyDSMlee's picture
Joined: 2006-09-30

[QUOTE]Being a better gamer: a guide to changing the world

By Michael Thompson | Published: July 30, 2008 - 11:35PM CT
Truth, Lies, and Video Games
Apathy is for losers. Fine, you don't have time to start a charity or fight Jack [Thompson], then let your work do the talking. Your collective creative output is the real ambassador that touches millions on a global basis. Games have the ability to transform the world. Don’t lose sight of that. You create culture. We ARE culture.

Like it or not, you are all already ambassadors for games. So, better make the most of that responsibility! Award or not, I can’t ever do that for you.

These words were spoken by Jason Della Rocca as he won the Ambassador Award at the Game Developers Conference this year. Della Rocca has done wonderful work for the International Game Developers Association, but his speech was inspiring: it's everyone's job to put a better face on gaming, because whether you're a hardcore shooter fan or you simply enjoy a few rounds of Peggle, you're taking part in an industry that many don't understand, and some would like to control. We've recently had the pleasure of speaking to some of the best minds currently working to help the gaming industry grow up, and to some very giving people who seek to put a human face on the suffering of many and alleviate some of that pain. Their instruments? Video games?

The video industry is growing up. Luckily for us, many gamers are growing up with it, and we have many capable hands guiding the art form and protecting it from the misinformation about what gaming is, and the type of people who enjoy it.
The battle won't be won in the courts

If the mainstream media is to be believed, video games are about as healthy as cigarettes, except they cause psychotic breaks instead of cancer. Politicians use this artificially created fear of games as an excuse to pass legislation to criminalize the sale of certain games, although so far, each of these pieces of legislation has been successfully challenged and overturned in the courts. While more people than ever are playing games, and the audience for those games is expanding to include people of both sexes and all ages, the media's reporting on the industry and its effects on children remains reactionary and woefully misleading.

Being a good person and a gamer is easier than you think.

One of the biggest misconceptions about games is that they're the domain of adolescent boys. According to the Entertainment Software Association, the average age of gamers is now 35. Approximately 60 percent of gamers play video games with their friends, 40 percent of gamers in the US are women, and almost a quarter of all video game players are over the age of fifty. If video games are so popular and widely enjoyed, why are they still vilified in the media?

Who actually plays video games? The ESA's findings might surprise you.

The full answer to that question is complicated, but the short-and-simple version is that, all survey data aside, video games are still a new form of media that older generations by-and-large rarely see or experience first-hand. Human nature is simple: we fear what we don't understand.

"[The demographics for the ESA survey] would mean that for every 16-year-old kid there's a 50-year-old guy to average out to 33, and that’s just not what I see when I go to GameStop or when I read comments online," said Dennis McCauley of GamePolitics when he talked with Ars. "I think gaming is still largely a youth culture thing, at least in the sense of the most involved gamers." McCauley's logic makes sense: enjoying games like TextTwist, MineSweeper, and Solitaire might make older players more amenable towards video games in general, but that doesn't mean they fully understand the nature of the industry. Will Wright gave a speech where he pointed out that games aren't the first new trend to be distrusted. He told us about how he came across an article where the writer described a young man engrossed in some unfamiliar handheld object, apparently to the point where he was out of touch with his surroundings and didn't want to interact with others because it distracted him from his new obsession.

It turns out this account came from a medieval monastery; the object in question was a book in the hands of a young monk. Everything, when it's new to society, has to prove its worth.

Games are still perceived by many as toys, and toys are meant to be played with by children. But the idea of little tykes playing with mature content is more than enough to get concerned parents up in arms. "I think [this attitude is] due in part to the misperception that video games are primarily intended for kids," said Patricia Vance of the ESRB. "When you juxtapose that mis-perception with the presence of mature content in a video game, it causes concern. The more games are thought of in the same way as movies and TV shows, the more acceptance they’ll gain, and that’s been happening more and more in recent years."

Some of the biggest opponents of games in recent political history (clockwise from top left): Hillary Clinton, Elliot Splitzer, Andrew J Lanza, and Leland Yee.

These two ideas about games are at odds: one group sees them as toys with inappropriate content, and the other sees an emerging art form that is giving movies and music a run for their money, quite literally. Now that games have managed to infiltrate the popular culture at large, the politicians are becoming even more alarmed, and the expensive campaign to pass laws controlling the content of games and their sales may find new allies.

Still, some in the industry are hopeful, and they think these attempts will trend downward. "[The political climate]'s still dicey, but a little better than it has been. The good news is that the number of serious legislative attempts to regulate games at the state level has dropped off over the last two years," said McCauley. "Right now, only Massachusetts is pushing legislation, and that bill seems stalled. The California law is still under appeal by Gov. Schwarzenegger, and we're waiting to see if Minnesota decides to take its bill to the US Supreme Court. They have exhausted their other avenues of appeal. New York had a bill that looked to be on the fast track to passage until Gov. Spitzer got caught going the GTA hooker route." Since McCauley talked to Ars, the New York bill has been signed into law by Gov. David Paterson (Spitzer's replacement), and the industry is potentially going to challenge it in court.

Politicians have made a point of trying to limit the sales and content of games they find morally objectionable, but the industry has managed to legally overturn every piece of legislation with an undefeated record of 9-0. This intimidating track record might not stall every attempt, but it sends a powerful message. The fact that gamers are making up an increasing percentage of voters might have a little something to do with it, too. At least part of this recognition is due to groups like the Entertainment Consumers Association, the Entertainment Software Association, and the ESRB making an effort to educate both the general populace and elected officials about the reality of video games. The gamers themselves have stepped up, and have become their own PR machine, showing the world that our favorite hobby is enjoyed by good, upstanding people.
Interesting read.


Ah modern gaming its like modern film only the watering down of fiction and characters is replaced with shallow and watered down mechanics, gimmicks and shiny-er "people".
Incoherence is my friend and grammar my bane, which is the fulcrum of suffering I place upon others!:ZippyDSMlee

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