Video gaming is impossible to ignore these days; with more and more money being pumped into the promotion of the latest video game or console, you can’t help but notice the huge increase in popularity it has received over the last few years. This evolution may be surprising to some; there was a time that video games were confined to bedrooms and basements, now they are taking to stages in front of celebrities and receiving awards for their artistic merit. What is surprising to some is a welcome change to others.
When ‘gaming’ became popular during the 80s it was reserved for, and generally limited to, the spare time of children – the cartoon-like graphics of the old NES, Master System, SNES and Mega Drive consoles lent themselves to a younger audience. In this day and age the graphical capabilities of gaming consoles have come on leaps and bounds – with near photo-realistic representations of far away planets or Formula One races, games have never looked this good. With this kind of cinematic presentation it comes as no surprise that gaming is taking its place at award ceremonies, with awards being given for acting performances, technical prowess and general public reception. In fact, BAFTA have recently begun a video games only award ceremony – surely serving as evidence that games have become a central form of entertainment to us.
As video gaming evolved into the 2000s, it became clear that the child-friendly shackles that bound it would have to be removed. More and more games were receiving R ratings (adults only), meaning that children actually couldn’t buy them anymore. In fact, the most popular games today are often filled to the brim with visceral representations of blood, guts and gore. It seems the gaming audience is after a cathartic experience, and shooting/killing seems to come top of the thematic pack! Hugely popular game franchises such as Grand Theft Auto helped make the transition from child to adult possible; whilst franchises such as Nintendo’s Super Mario keeps the market open for child-friendly games too.
With the popularity of consoles such as the Nintendo Wii, which caters to literally all ages, the audience for gaming is increasing by the day – and with it, so does the cultural standing of video games as an entertainment medium. It would not be at all surprising if games were looked upon in the future as a ‘sign of the times’, just as books and old films are today.
Video games can be seen as cultural touchstones, enabling us to experience virtual worlds, explore our imaginations, and broaden our horizons for our own future. They serve an important purpose, and it’s only right that they are now receiving the attention and acclaim that they truly deserve.