The Current State Of Video Games
Since their humble beginnings in games like “Pong” and “Pac-Man”, video games have evolved a great deal. What was once seen as the hobby of teenage shut-ins has now transformed into a multibillion dollar industry. Even people who don’t play games understand what a Wii is.
“I think video games are to this generation what rock n’ roll music was to kids in the 60’s,” said Joe Baughman. Baughman is a GameStop employee in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
“The coolest things in pop culture are happening in games right now,” Baughman said.
Baughman has been playing games since the age of five. The first game he ever encountered was “Super Mario Bros.” The game’s bizarre world of warp pipes and magical mushrooms drew him in.
“It was just unlike anything I’d ever seen before. It was crazy actually. I loved it because it was so different and fun,” Baughman said.
Are video games toys?
Mario is fun partly because of how easy it is to understand. The core concept of the game is to run and jump through levels until you reach the end. Anyone can pick up a controller and “get” Mario. However, the game’s simplistic nature has also allowed it to be perceived as something for children.
This is an image the video game industry has been reluctant to shred. Even today, many older consumers consider video games to be toys.
“All I know is that my kids like them,” said Deb Gardener. Mrs. Gardener is the mother of two teenage boys. Both of them are obsessed with video games.
“I’m a little bit concerned. It seems like the older my sons get, the more violent the games are becoming. All they do is shoot things. I know the games aren’t real, but isn’t there something healthier they could be doing?” Gardener said.
Gardener has never played a video game, saying that she doesn’t understand them. When asked if she would ever be interested in learning more about video games, she politely declined.
“There are too many buttons on the things. Besides, there aren’t really games made for me anyway. I’m not that into violence and I’m too old to play with toys,” Gardener said.
Living in a boy’s world
Judy Eichler thinks that games can give her something that other forms of entertainment are not able to. Eichler is a senior at the University of Northern Iowa and hopes to help design games someday. She believes that being able to make choices is the most engaging characteristic about video games. Although Eichler is passionate about games, she is saddened by the amount of sexism that is present in them.
“I really didn’t start getting interested in video games until they actually let you play as a girl. Believe it or not, that wasn’t for quite awhile,” Eichler said.
Eichler’s favorite genre of game is the role-playing genre. She says she enjoys them the most for their detail and how they involve the player in the world.
“These games give me a choice, unlike a lot of other games. Maybe I don’t want to play as the scantily clad, male idea of a female soldier. Maybe I want to play as a tough-as-nails chick who doesn’t take crap from anybody,” Eichler said.
Role-playing games have made the farthest strides in making men and women equal in the video game world. Games like “Mass Effect” and “Dragon Age” not only let the player choose a female avatar, they also allow the player to fall in love with and develop a relationship with various men in the game.
“In nearly every other game I have to look at love and sex from a guy’s perspective,” Eichler said. “How are video games supposed to get the respect they deserve if they can’t get rid of this sexist garbage?”
Eichler manages a female only online community where girl gamers can interact and play games together. The group is called “Babes and Broadswords” and is currently sitting at 135 members.
“A lot of my girls don’t tell guys that they play video games, especially on the internet. They act dumb about it. Many of them say that they’ll just get harassed online or hit on by creepy jerks. Judging by what I’ve seen, they’re absolutely right,” Eichler said.
Games are growing up
Bryer Day is of the mindset that video games are in a transitional period. He is a contributing columnist to RipTen.com. He thinks games are slowly growing out of an adolescent period and advancing into something greater.
“We saw the same thing with comic books and Dungeons and Dragons. People ridicule new forms of entertainment at first and then they eventually come to accept it,” Day said.
Day makes parallels between video games and other forms of entertainment because he believes that we can learn where video games are headed if we look to the past.
“If you read about the history of comic books you’ll find that they were banned in a lot of schools. Now, they’re teaching courses about them in college. Movies are being made about super heroes like they’re great icons of our day. The same thing will happen with video games,” Day said.
If games are ever going to get that chance, then they will need the freedom of expression. That could be taken away if a current Supreme Court case passes. The case would allow the government to regulate and decide what video game content is appropriate.
“This case is important for two reasons. The first is that the decision of the Court could endanger the creativity of game developers. Every video game publisher would want to play-it-safe. They would all be afraid of being blacklisted by the government. The second reason is that it would send a message. If games are deemed protected by the first amendment, it would mean they would be considered equal to other art forms. That would be empowering not only to games, but to gamers themselves,” Day said.