Grand Theft Culture

Here's an interesting little article on video games breaking into the ivory tower. They call it "ludology" from the Latin word "ludus", which means "game" and also, interestingly, "school". I'm an avid gamer, and it has been obvious to me for a long time that games can be art—how could they not, when they encompass all the media in which the majority of art is created?

Video games can combine elements of all of the communication mediums. You like plain text narrative? See Zork, Planetfall … or a book. Want juxtaposed static pictures and text? See Max Payne, Civilization … or comics. How about moving pictures and stereophonic music and sound? See Command and Conquer, Emperor: Battle for Dune … or TV and movies. Crave direct voice communication with other humans? Try Unreal Tournament 2004 … or a phone.

Video games can also surpass the capabilities of the above mediums. Zork reads like a book, but it can play out in hundreds of different ways. Movies and television also have the same limitations—they are static and passive. The artistic experience of a game is necessarily a collaboration between the author(s) and the audience. Computer games can be generative experiences, where the designer puts elements into place, but cannot know the shape of his creation until gamers adventure within his invention.

It is also obvious to me that video games teach valuable skills and meta-skills, such as attention to detail, abstract problem-solving, arithmetic, risk-benefit analysis, scarce resource management, logistics, tactics and strategy. In massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs), like Everquest and Star War Galaxies, you can also learn social skills such as bargaining, human resources management, teamwork, and diplomacy—you can even run a business within some of these online universes.

And those are just the skills you can acquire by playing video games. There are games like Neverwinter Nights, Half-Life, and many, many others, where players can create their own content to use in the games—in fact, a user-created modification of Half-Life, Counterstrike, is the most popular online game, period. An interest in games can result in gamers learning 3D modeling, graphic arts, computer programming, networking, narrative writing, musical composition and performance, and dramatic oratory.

I tend to agree with David Deutsch in that the only evidence some people need to prove to them that video games are bad is the simple fact that children love them. However, very soon the majority of parents will be people who grew up playing and loving games, and most of this ignorant kerfuffle about games being addicting and worthless will dissipate, and the only argument among Mom, Dad and Junior over games will be whose turn it is to use the Playstation 5.

Link to Yahoo! News article via GeekPress.
Special thanks to my husband Harry Coin for his contributions to this post.

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If you're interested in some

If you're interested in some serious academic writing about video games, you might check out Espen Aarseth's Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature or Hyper/Text/Theory, edited by George Landow.

Yess. The more intelligent

Yess. The more intelligent gamers who make excuses for the multitudes of slackers and idiots they are among, the better. If someone has a bone to pick with this country's values, or its system of government, it loves to see kids using all these "risk-benefit analysis" and "problem-solving" skills towards nothing useful. The Russians dumped all kinds of money into Internet porn ten years ago to try and get our minds off of real-world stuff, and now we got games, reality t.v., and shit, who knows what else is down the pipe. Maybe we'll all just start acting like those guys on King of the Hill; just stand around and say "yep" back and forth towards each other.

Yess. The more intelligent

Yess. The more intelligent gamers who make excuses for the multitudes of slackers and idiots they are among, the better. If someone has a bone to pick with this country's values, or its system of government, it loves to see kids using all these "risk-benefit analysis" and "problem-solving" skills towards nothing useful. The Russians dumped all kinds of money into Internet porn ten years ago to try and get our minds off of real-world stuff, and now we got games, reality t.v., and shit, who knows what else is down the pipe. Maybe we'll all just start acting like those guys on King of the Hill; just stand around and say "yep" back and forth towards each other.