The Games as Art Debate

Video Game Makers Favor Diversion over Depth on NPR is a four-minute audio except from National Public Radio's All Things Considered program discussing the tackling of tough topics in video games. Along the way we hear from Ian Bogost, learning that the professor of game design at Georgia Tech feels it's time gamers "demand" games emulate Hollywood by taking on subjects like the war in Iraq and teen pregnancy. They also talk with Harvey Smith, saying his recent BlackSite: Area 51 comes closer than most games to succeeding in this regard. They quote Bogost on BlackSite's "importance," while also acknowledging the game was not successful commercially or critically, a point they don't seem interested in exploring in tying this all back into the question of whether video games represent art or entertainment. They do acknowledge that serious games about topics like genocide and third-world poverty are being created on the "fringes of the industry" but that these are "messages gussied up as games and they don't have to contend with the marketplace," a point made without any attempt at connecting cause-and-effect. The piece concludes quoting Bogost saying that until the mainstream games industry "gets serious, its cultural prominence is just a wasted opportunity."
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Apr 15, 2008, 11:11
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Debate Apr 15, 2008, 11:11
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It sounds like the real debate should be, "Why is Ian Bogost teaching game design?" If he thinks BlackSite touched on some topic with relevance to anything other than UFO conspiracy theories, he's got more than a few screws loose. By the same measure, then, Doom has immense importance, as it covers the topic of extra-planetary colonization. Or, a bit closer to home, Far Cry and the topic of genetic manipulation and engineering.

As for Bogost's opinion on the mainstream games industry with regard to "getting serious", I think he needs to take a vacation in the real world. Maybe after that, he'll be in touch with reality.
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