Video games being naturalized?

/ 25 February 2009

Interesting reporting in the NYTimes on the DICE (Design Innovate Communicate Entertain) Summit, where the video game industry gathers. Among other notes,

most people don’t refer to “movie watchers” or “television watchers” (or “music listeners,” for that matter) as distinct demographics. Rather, there is a recognition that people of all ages and incomes and from all walks of life consume all sorts of films, television and music as a part of their regular media diet. Similarly, “gamer” is losing its meaning as a demographic or sociological identity except in the sense that all different kinds of people now play all different kinds of games.

The game developers who are doing best these days are the ones who recognize and embrace that. The products coming from companies like Nintendo (the Wii and portable DS), Activision Blizzard (Guitar Hero, World of Warcraft) and Rockstar (Grand Theft Auto) are very different in style, yet they are the same in that each has been conceived, realized and marketed not as games for gamers, but as mainstream lifestyle entertainment. Just as Miley Cyrus and 50 Cent are both mainstream, so are both Wii Play and Grand Theft.

I can't help thinking that one aspect of video games that is so appealing is the ability to "make something happen," whether that means following a quest to gain Pokemon, escaping the police in GTA, or playing guitar. But I wonder when we'll start to pair that kind of agency, with developing agency in the wider world? I'm thinking here of the Pew Study that focused on teens, video games, and civic engagement.