There is something about video gaming that a lot of people don’t understand, especially many politicians and much of the traditional press. And that is that gaming is just another form of media. Like the ballet, television, books, opera, film, newspapers etc etc. That is all it is. Of course gaming has made most of the older media obsolete because gaming has the technical advantages of interactivity, non linearity and connectivity. These represent such a paradigm shift that it is just about impossible to convert content from the old media to games and vice versa. Gaming also has the phenomenally powerful task/reward mechanic which is what will ultimately seal its position as the main method for delivering education.
This lack of understanding of what video games are has lead to them being demonised by the ignorant. And unfortunately the ignorant include prominent politicians and newspaper editors. But it has always been so, misunderstood new media is a feature of our history. The arrival of mass literacy in Victorian Britain was followed by the penny dreadful novel which were perceived to corrupt the youth of the day. American 20th century comic books were thought to be so bad that they were investigated by the Senate Committee on Juvenile Delinquency, there were public burnings of comic books (it isn’t just Hitler!) and some cities imposed outright bans. The establishment was so frightened of the early movie industry in America that The Supreme court in 1915 removed first amendment protection from films and in 1927 the industry was so scared of external intervention that it imposed the Hays Code upon itself. And of course in more recent years television has been blamed for youth violence, loose morals, poor academic attainments and obesity, amongst a plethora of other problems.
So against this background of fear rooted in ignorance it was hardly surprising that three British charities, The British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK and Diabetes UK, wasted vast amounts of their donors money on a very silly advertising campaign demonising video games, implying that they caused early death. A totally ridiculous position. This campaign was in support of a government health advertising campaign under the Change4Life banner, but the government’s adverts were completely different using plasticine Wallace and Gromit type figures.
(As a side note some sectors of the press didn’t let the facts get in the way of a good story and hysterically tried to blame the charities’ campaign on the government.)
And now we have the deepest irony, pouring total scorn on the three idiot charities Change4Life has now approved a video game, Wii Fit Plus, which will be marketed under its banner. According to the BBC: “A health department spokesman said active video games were a ‘great way’ to get kids moving.”
I think that this is a great, a fantastic, example of how quickly a lot of people are becoming educated about the reality of video games. And how using false and simplistic stereotypes no longer works. A lot of this shift in attitude comes from the democratisation of the power of the press. The centre of gravity of knowledge has moved from print and broadcast to the internet. Blogs, forums, social networking, social indexing (stumbleupon, reddit), microblogging and all the websites (like the BBC, Wikipedia, Amazon and Metacritic) that invite comment and participation are the internet. The dynamic, interactive, user generated whole that reflects the humanity that created it. We can no longer be dictated to by old media and dinosaur politicians. The world has changed for the better.