What is it about gaming that enthralls the senses, and in many ways, transcends more well known forms of popular culture? What role do video games play in many people’s lives as they continue to have intricate experiences that appeal to the brain and senses?
Though there might be an occasional person that does not watch television or movies, you would be hard pressed to find someone in the United States who does not partake in video-gaming activities, watches friends play games, or does not know relatives who are involved in gaming activities.
A variety of vastly different game courses will offer students the opportunity to study various techniques with which to think critically toward this popular medium.
Video Game Culture Professor, Raiford Guins sums up the need for gaming studies, “It’s where our students spend a great deal of time…We need to provide a more critical framework so they can understand games in a larger context.”
The wave of popular opinion that has questioned the legitimacy of studying such “a popular medium” is starting to ebb.
MIT Press, and many of the most academically credible institutions in the country currently offer the study of gaming and many scholarly works are published about the subject.
Video Game Culture is one of the current courses in games studies offered at Stony Brook for the spring semester, its only prerequisite is heavy reading.
Guins stresses the use of critical thinking based off, as he describes it, “scholarly takes, popular takes [and] biographical takes” of gaming studies.
The class, like the Video and Computer Games History course, which was taught in the fall semester, has students clambering to gain entrance.
Since gaming has become a fulcrum in popular culture and a base stone of society that affects players and non-players alike, the Video Game Culture class tackles the myriad aspects of gaming that attract so many.
According to Guins, one of the aspects looked at closely in the course is “games as societal issues.”
What does playing the “Grand Theft Auto” series of games say about society?
The game allows the player to infiltrate realistic representations of cities and decide to play along with a gangster storyline, or to go off on their own.
Guins says, “you don’t have to play the story.” One can just as easily traverse the streets, buy food. The player makes moral decisions, and in doing so, they take on a fictitious persona that has gone with or against the norms of society.
As Guins teaches, morality often has stark consequences in modern video games.
Just play “Fallout 3” to witness this or take the class to find out more about what critical thinking and society bear on games and vice versa.
Currently there are no dedicated classrooms given to Video Games Courses that require seating for dozens, large PowerPoint screens for lectures, plasma screen televisions, electrical outlets for game systems and proper display setups for projectors that are needed to enlarge screen imagery.
Once there was a time when movies were not considered worthy of study by academic institutions of higher learning, but the attitudes toward this have been irrevocably reversed.
According to Guins the video game industry now generates more revenue per year than the television and the movie industries combined.
Guins puts his spin on the importance of studying popular forms of media.
“I don’t see [games] as threatening the study of film or the study of television,” said Guins. “I think we have to do all of it.”
He is currently preparing to open a Video Game Archive at Stony Brook University, where students will have access to game consoles from the 1970s – early 1990s for research and academic purposes.
If the proponents of Video Games Culture have their way, they can be studied in an interactive museum type atmosphere.