Tuesday, November 22, 2005

At first blush, I thought the idea of teaching videogame design at institutions of higher learning was pretty stupid. I mean, college is for studying philosophy and literature and science, right? It's not about Pong or Pac Man.
But then I started thinking about video games, what they really are, and what they will one day evolve into.
Already video games have a market niche which produces profits that rival Hollywood box office profits, and given the unexplored potential which video games are likely to fulfill as technology advances, it might be argued that the entire video game industry is still in its infancy.
When you think about video games from the reference point of the arcade games that we grew up with as kids (as simple games of point and shoot or contests of reflexes and reaction times), it's easy to dismiss the entire field as nothing more than a simple recreational diversion- a way to pass the time or take one's mind off daily stresses for awhile before moving on to more serious-minded pursuits.
But if you think of videogames as an interactive, computer driven means of both entertainment and expression ( a role which video games are likely to fill with greater and greater effectiveness as technology and programming skill increases), the need to explore the medium begins to become more clear.
Modern games involve orchestration, voice acting, cinematic direction, the visual arts, and even a sort of literary quality. Video games engage their audience and demand the audience's attention and participation in a way that movies or television cannot, and truly great games spur on the imagination and critical thinking skills of their participants.
Granted, video games still have a long way to go, and programmers are only beginning to explore their potential, but computer games have the capacity to engage, teach, and test us in ways that no other medium has begun to approach.
Wouldn't it be nice to learn musical theory by way of a game? Isn't it more fun to explore a beautiful (although possibly make-believe) enviroment on your own than it is to watch characters do so in a movie?
Video games provide artificial surroundings, characters, objects, and even abilities for the willing participant to use and interact with. Eventually people will learn to use "video games" to escape from reality in a way which invigorates and stimulates their minds, possibly learning new skills or reasoning abilities as a byproduct of interaction with a fictional enviroment. I'm not sure that passively viewing films or television can produce similar results.
So back to video game design as a course of study in a university setting. Maybe it's not such a bad thing. After all, film school and music school are widely accepted as normal parts of a modern university setting. I guess that I'm suggesting that video games are just as worthy a subject of study as films, although video games, at the moment, are still a relatively new medium and may take decades to hit their stride as something that the general public sees as a true art form.
That's it for now. Gotta go make some justice.


The League said...

Video games are signifcantly harder to produce than films. Seriously.

It's a cool field, but I don't know how long they can keep a lid on the skills as "video game" skills. A lot of these folks will move into new fields that haven't fully developed in the arenas of simulation, etc...

CrackBass said...

will they also teach "How to remain a virgin and live with your mom" classes at these institutions of higher learning? Because I bet that would be a great companion class.

The League said...

I think you're confusing the guys who make six-figures and get to have a fun job in media with the actual consumers of the product.

I'm no video game enthusiast, but from what I've observed from people at gaming companies, but none of these folks seemed to be the basement dwelling goblin you have in mind.

Well, yes, some of them, but not most of them.

J.S. said...

Yeah, Crackbass, I bet all of those guys over at Rockstar games are crying themselves to sleep in their mansions atop their piles of money.

CrackBass said...

sorry. glossed over the post. missed the "design" part of the story. comment withdrawn.