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When will videogames be taken seriously?

Think to yourself this. When people ask you of your hobbies, do you ever shy away from saying videogames, even though realistically they are your biggest interest? You’ll be at ease saying you enjoy rock music, or Tim Burton films, but when it comes to explaining your love for videogames, isn’t it a little harder to broadcast? You just know the average person won’t have a clue about F.E.A.R or Persona 4, so why even bother? Unfortunately there’s every chance that this reluctance to show one’s interest in videogames will plague every gamer for years to come. It has come to the table however, that more people than ever are embracing videogames, and soon their importance in society will be universally regarded – such is the ideal scenario.

The Wii is an interesting starting point, representing two conflicting ideas. The first is that it is obviously bringing gaming to the masses, and getting all types of people involved. The elderly, young females and mothers, for example, are buying into the Wii’s obscenely friendly persona and wide library of casual games. Thanks to some bright and cheery marketing and a clever choice of celebrity, Nintendo’s sales have hit the roof. The DS, too, is just as successful, with franchises such as Ubisoft’s Imagine range raking in an impressive amount. The more people that play games, then, surely means we are getting closer to the goal of the world collectively regarding videogames as a respectable and important media form, just like music, film and literature.

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Conversely, these casual videogames are not giving casual gamers the best view of the gaming industry as a whole. Games such as Game Party, Carnival: Funfair Games and Wii Play are overtly simple, and not representative of the kinds of things that can be achieved nowadays from developers. These games are not helping to paint videogame culture in a sophisticated, technically astounding light, as they should be, and as they are. These people will miss out on the BioShocks and the Fallout 3s, and not realise just how impressive gaming experiences can get. Regardless of the view you take with the Wii’s presence, its importance in the grand scheme of things is irrefutable.

One step that needs to be taken to make videogames more respected relates to film and music, the former more so. Videogames have had its fair share of A-list actors (namely Samuel L Jackson in GTA: San Andreas, and Ray Liotta in GTA: Vice City), but these cases are extremely rare. Surely the amount of money that circulates within the industry is enough to attract high-profile actors? Either the actors just aren’t interested, or games companies just aren’t interested in getting the bigger actors. With more games fronted by A-listers, a new market would be opened up and film buffs would likely become interested. The fact these actors would be getting involved in videogames would make many bystanders view videogames in a more prestigious light, resulting in possible play on their side. Surely getting the big names in film to front a few videogames couldn’t hurt the industry? It would merely help convert a few people at the very least.

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Music in videogames is currently at a high-point, with games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band bringing in hundreds of artist names, and ultimately making the respective franchises much more of a big deal. Featuring on many TV shows, the plastic instrument phenomenon is helping to widen videogame’s appeal. All we need now is Hans Zimmer to compose the score to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and we’re set.

More celebrity driven association could help. It would start to make people group videogames with music, film, TV and literature. In websites such as Facebook or MySpace, there is no option to list your favourite videogames. Why is this? We can list our favourite films, television and books, so why are videogames any different? They make just as much money. Is it just this horrid stigma attached to videogames that stops these kinds of things from happening?

Maybe this is because games are largely seen as an unattractive interest. You don’t usually admit to being an avid fan of videogames because of the unfortunate connotations. Naturally games are still associated with the idea of ‘geeks’ and their virtual playground. The myth that videogames are played primarily by teens that are socially inept still exists, sadly, however small you may think it. For now at least, videogames will still be viewed as socially not receptive.

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And why is it that they are still associated with needing to ‘get a life’? Well maybe it’s the ignorant assumption that games are not good for the brain, that they are virtual junk food to nullify our brains and make us all anti-social robots. Of course this contradicts the view that games are played by geeks, as to be a ‘geek’ you need to be intelligent – such is our society and its hypocrisy. The newspapers and government officials will always be condemning videogames, even with little to no knowledge on the subject, but this is just something we have to shrug off, and act elitist about.

And finally, to return to the idea that many new gamers are missing out on the true greats of our culture, unless we act on this they will forever be oblivious to the intelligent masterpieces that are the best games ever created. They are unaware of the intricacies and amazing experiences that are weaved for the player, and only see games as minor diversions – not deep storytelling arenas of adventure and challenge. This much is lost with them. And unless the games made for the more educated gamer can somehow attract the less game-savvy, then this never-ending loop of games being viewed as brainless and damaging will continue to work its bastard magic.

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in July 2007. Get in touch on Twitter @_Frey.

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