“Just A Game”: Why Should we take Video Games Seriously?

The acceptance of video games in society means the difference between the development of the medium and its cycle of growth and contribution, and the stagnation of the medium as irrelevant and its creative strangulation. It also means the difference in the image of a gamer: a 40 year old man-child living on Cheetos and pizza in his parent’s basement, playing 20 hours of WoW per day, OR any gender, of any ethnicity,  in any place,  with any occupation, with a healthy, balanced life.

1-Videogames need to be taken seriously because they are a vehicle for exploring alternatives to copyrights and traditional business models; they have a chance to move IP law from the 20th to the 21st century. Videogame journalist Jim Sterling asks who the “they” is that “needs” to “take video games seriously.”  Among other people, law makers ought to take video games as seriously as books and film—if not more so because of the special relationship video games have with emerging technologies. Part of what I find exciting about studying Intellectual Property law right now is that new technologies rarely come packaged with a complete set of clear law surrounding it. The law gets to be created along with the technology. Video games are one area (perhaps the single most consumer-intensive area) that highlights that point.

2- Anyone with money should take video games seriously- both for their sake and the gamers’. Taking the medium financially seriously enhances what it can achieve. If it’s “taken seriously,” investors will throw money at it (although capitalism can kill creativity, which is a concern on the other hand). The success of E-Sports shows investors and advertisers that there’s money to be made with video games beyond mere game sales, and that is one of the greatest hopes of the industry and the players.

3- Society at large has already noticed video games. Perhaps the issue is better framed as their “acceptance” of them than “taking them seriously.” If they are to survive and thrive, they must be seen as more than mere childish gimmicks or dangerous indoctrinations of violence. Videogame journalist Seth Schiesel once told an advertising conference (with both ad companies and game companies present): “If you keep thinking about your customer as only grunged-out young men, you will go down just like comic books in this country… you will always be marginalized and you will never be taken seriously.” There have been amazing graphic novels produced in the last 50 years. When works on par with Maus and Persopolis are in production, they’re kept well hidden from the public; only the “niche” audiences really know where to get them. Videogames will be worse-off if they are kept in a “niche.” Others rejecting the value of my hobby doesn’t make me enjoy it less, but it does steer the substance of my hobby down a path of lesser quality.

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