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Video Games Writ Large on Game and Player

Video Games Writ Large

Michael Ubaldi  //  March 18, 2009

The next big thing on our minds.


t's a strict threshold that public consciousness maintains. Historians try to record culture intensifying and attenuating, but between you and me and the water cooler, all of that just pops into and out of view.

On our minds: the video game. Once reserved for special reports — or specials altogether, shown an hour after prime time — it is today a staple of the newsbeat, the psychology department, and the address to the legislative floor. It wasn't three years ago, let alone five or ten. Now we can't go a day without a topical headline.

An encouraging volume of media coverage is accurate or expert, coming from publications in the financial, retail and entertainment industries — libraries budgeting for Guitar Hero and families dedicating a gaming night are getting noticed. Some commentary is terrible. There is Cooper Lawrence's unforgettable paralogism on Mass Effect and smut, and then the current procession of post hoc ergo propter hoc whenever the criminally insane happen to have flicked on a console at some point before attacking people.

An encouraging volume of media coverage is accurate. Some of it is terrible.Or just this week, a story by Jacqueline Lapine of central Missouri's ABC 17 deserved to be bronzed for installation in the halls of journalistic abomination. Assuring her audience no cause to be "paranoid," Lapine divided the user base of Nintendo's Animal Crossing into two categories: youngsters and pederasts. "This character," she said, apparently gesturing toward an animated turtle wearing a top hat, "could be the man" whom California police caught in the predation of minors. Cut to Andy Anderson, agent of Missouri's own cybercrime dragnet: "I cannot think of any legitimate reason why any adult would be playing that particular game."

Game and Player's Ed Kirchgessner assailed station management in a letter pointing out that the game's adult players are women in their twenties — a demographic possibly including Jacqueline Lapine, and one which, in perpetrating abductions or worse, trails. ABC 17's ombudsman responded to Ed politely, but then so does L. Ron Hubbard when somebody calls him a fruitcake.

For all his innocence of what he is actually meant to patrol, Anderson is correct when he advises that children are best protected by their parents. Before academes can appraise video gaming's contribution to, say, Western art and literature, they must first determine whether it will transmogrify children into boorish clods, or Jack the Ripper, or Hitler, or whatever. Educated opinions are split — unreasonably. Scourges visited by modern distractions on unsuspecting youth remain at zero, and yet the evidence and implications of this seem to get left out of researchers' notes.

Example: a recent study by the Criminological Research Institute of Lower Saxony ululated that teenagers average 130 minutes playing video games each day — half the total time spent by the children's parents when they were adolescents themselves and warned of anarchy from watching four hours of sitcoms on school nights. Where the video game industry could be measurably at risk — or kept under an aegis — is from Washington, DC and any number of state capitals.But in socio-politics, only modern media trades as currency. And besides, the next entertainment invention could really be mankind's undoing. Television who?

Journalists and scientists inform and influence, but don't execute, public policy. Where the video game industry could be measurably at risk — or kept under an aegis — is from Washington, DC and any number of state capitals. The party controlling Congress favors government heft, but then, so does either party in control of many assemblies; and when they heed institutions diagnosing video games as a social disease, a great balance swings with pollice verso.

Not as many states recognize video games for their economic boon amid the ascendance. Louisiana, Texas and Georgia openly extend hospitality to developers and publishers. The servants of Chatham County seat Savannah, Georgia show especial understanding of the boom: inbound companies won't pay rent for a year, on top of state tax credits that could soon be doubled. More than a dozen universities matriculate students to make video games — "we need to develop an environment that contains opportunities for jobs in the industry upon graduation," says state deputy commissioner Bill Thompson to GlobalAtlanta. While there are those of us who can't stand it when legislatures finagle, the makers, vendors and consumers of games may still benefit even when elected officials won't keep their hands to themselves.

If we imagined or predicted the moment, it has arrived. The video game is an American pastime, and it will, as an industry and hobby be courted, traduced, celebrated.

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