This topic is an oldie, but always a goodie. “Why aren’t video games as respected as other entertainment mediums?” And today’s soapboxer is Xbox’s head of European marketing David Gosen. During a keynote speech published over at MCVUK, Gosen laments his industry’s inability to break through the “acceptance barrier” and splash around the watering hole with the film and music industries like slaphappy schoolchildren on summer holiday.
Whoa, whoa whoa. Let’s not get too full of ourselves here. Seeking acceptance as an art form and respectable mode of expression is one thing; hoping to be seen as healer of the world’s wounds is quite another. Gosen goes on to reference how video games (specifically his playing Guitar Hero with his daughter) have the capacity to “bring families and generations together.” This is certainly worthy of praise, but is that really the kind of “respectability” that video games should strive for?
Maybe in part, but if it wants to take that “quantum leap,” it’s going to have to be a hell of a lot more sophisticated than that. I doubt people would think so highly of the film industry if 98 percent of movies released were straight-to- video Disney movies, even if that remaining two percent consisted of thought provoking, brilliantly crafted, philosophically challenging, artistically sophisticated works of utter genius.
Now, given how far the video game industry has come over the past 30-plus years, it is a bit disappointing that there still appears to be a stigma attached to it that keeps it from reaching the level of respectability enjoyed by other entertainment fields. Then again, film, TV and the music industry all faced the same type of resistance (and were all demonized as having the potential to bring down civilized society at one point or another). But eventually, these mediums matured, as did their fans and critics, and they were able to develop into, and be seen as, respected forms of entertainment and expression. It’s really just a matter of time.
Still, it wouldn’t hurt if there were a few more games that push the medium forward, both artistically and intellectually (Bioshock, Metal Gear Solid 4, Braid, Half-Life, Psychonauts, etc.), as opposed to being overcrowded with novelty games for the Wii and uninspired rehashes of dull formulas that seek to be nothing more than ways for kids to kill a few hours before having to get back to their homework. Respect will come, but only if the industry continues to ask more of itself as well as its audience.
What more does the video game industry have to do to break the "acceptance barrier"?