Building Virtual bridges - an essay on videogaming culture and design of The Game about Games
Being a relatively new phenomenon, videogaming is a vast and controversial subject, drawing attention of philosophers, artists and politicians alike. To truly comprehend the nature of videogaming, one must not only look at the games as a medium, but also at the people involved: the industry, the designers, the players. Interaction is key – in order to understand the most interactive art form of today, videogaming, one must understand the interaction of the people involved and the medium, as well as the interaction of people among themselves.
Recent research shows that 59 percent 6-65 year olds in the United Kingdom, as well as 97 percent of the 12-17 age group in the United States, play one or another kind of videogame. This leads to the conclusion that playing videogames has become an everyday ordinary activity. “To play video games has become the norm; to not play video games has become the exception” (Juul 2010). This, however, does not mean that videogaming has gained a general public understanding as a whole.
In the grossest terms there are casual games and hardcore games, as well as players, and although there is a huge spectrum of engagement and gameplay flexibility regarding both the games and the players, the fact remains that in the historical development of games there has been a turning point when more complex games developed a new language of their own, shutting out the people who did not know that language. When presented with a new game, our reaction and approach will depend on our gaming history; our knowledge and mastery of the games we have played before will determine the level of familiarity and our general response to the game at hand. Some players facing a game model completely unfamiliar to them will step up to the challenge, but most will be reluctant to play at all.
Due to the nature of videogames, the interactivity of gameplay, as well as numerous social, experience-shaping and decision-making factors involved, there is no substitute to experiencing videogames first-hand. Hence, I argue that in order to learn about videogaming as a phenomenon and an art form, we should play a game, or more precisely a game about games.