Monday, July 02, 2007

Understanding And Changeing The Perception Of Video Games

I watched A Scanner Darkly earlier, a film based on a story about control and paranoia. In the special features section of the DVD, there is an extract from an interview with the writer and one of the things he said was rather enlightening to me:
The position which writers such as myself hold in Americaare... Those positions are very lowly... Science fiction is considered to be something for adolescents for, just high school kids and for disturbed people in general to read in America. - Philip K. Dick
Several things struck me about this statement. Firstly that it is true, more so then than it is now, but still true today. And that it also applies to video games. And that lead me down a though path about this.

Science Fiction is widely misunderstood. If you where to ask the average person if they liked Science Fiction they would say "certainly not" with the picture in their mind being one of a Star Trek convention. Not to speak ill of Star Trek conventions, but an in character Klingon Warrior can be seen as very silly to a layperson.
Ye if you asked the same person about the films that they like, you would find that several of the films they consider highly would indeed be Science Fiction films, probably Aliens and Termanator would be mentioned by them. And I think this same kind of denial is found more so for Video Games as our nature for curiosity automatically makes us all game players, video or otherwise.

Storytelling is important from an evolutionary perspective because it is the medium whereby experience is passed from one generation to another. Indeed if a tribe once existed that didn't tell stories, they would find their survival harder than a tribe where storytelling was a tradition. And it is for this reason that I believe we all have a genetic predisposition towards enjoying works of fiction and storytelling in general. I also believe that it is a genetic disposition that makes us enjoy playing games.

Ye the types of stories and games that are considered useful for survival is where Science Fiction and Video Games luck out. As even a trashy romance novel will seemingly communicate more important life skills than even the best Multi-Dimentional Time Travelling Serial Killing Ninja Science Fiction story would. And the game of Monopoly could be considered to teach far more useful life skills than any game of Quake would.

So here is where I get to my point. Games that seemingly teach useful life skills, day to day useful knowledge or have further reaching influences beyond the game world will always be considered a good game by your Mom and be the type of game she will play. So if we want Moms of the world to start playing Gran Theft Auto, then Gran Theft Auto needs to start incorporating learning into it's structure, maybe make negotiation, teamwork and paying taxes as part of the core mechanics. Until then Video Games are going to be considered a superfluous and silly wast of time by most people. Just like Science Fiction is as stated by Philip K. Dick.