If you were to anthropomorphize the contemporary American mainstream video game, it would look, I think, a bit like a harrowingly male, shaggily haired, extremely confident 18-year-old capable of any number of astounding displays of strength or agility. Smart, too, in his way. Not incurious about things outside the realm of his immediate experience so much as oblivious to them. All the same, this young man has potentially interesting things to say. Most of us would be willing to listen, too, but for the fact that his breath smells like peanut butter and he’s wearing a Boris Vallejo T-shirt.
Despite the yada yada of video games’ growing cultural prominence, the amount of money they make (and lose), and the simple reality that maybe no creative medium has ever moved further faster, most people don’t take video games very seriously. I realize this comes as a shock to precisely no one who doesn’t play video games. Sometimes the fact that games are written off as adolescent nonsense bugs me. Sometimes it doesn’t, because a lot of games — a lot of great games — are adolescent nonsense. And sometimes I think that the worst thing to happen to video games would be for them to get taught widely in schools and reviewed in The New Yorker. As the novelist and critic (and gamer!) John Lanchester once wisely noted, “Respectability is a terrible thing for any art form. People wrote better novels when the cultural status of the novel was contested.”
On videogames in (North) American culture.