We are the proud generation of video games. Ever since Nintendo marketed that magnificent gray box in 1985, gaming systems have been close to our young hearts.
Throughout the years we’ve seen them evolve, from Mario’s first adventures to the plethora of gaming systems that exist today. Games now have movie-like plots, more violence and graphics that blow blurry Mario and those potato-like goombas away.
We’ve also heard all of the complaining from parents and teachers that has come with these high-tech systems: ‘Kids no longer develop social skills, nor use their imaginations any more.’ And the all-time favorite: ‘The games are too violent.’ Currently, another argument against video games has arisen, but with a slight twist.
Art institutes and universities throughout the United States have added video game design and analysis to academic programs. Though programs like these have been available at some vocational schools for a while, video game curriculums can now be found at more than 100 colleges and universities, most of which are well-known institutions, such as Carnegie Mellon, Rochester Institute of Technology and the Art Institutes of Atlanta and Pittsburgh.
Video game design courses are mostly found at art institutes. These courses teach students how to create video games, from scenery to the characters. Courses in video game analysis explore the cultural impact of video games today, much like the study of contemporary literature and film.
As one can imagine, these courses have been under attack from professors and other critics. Most are skeptical that video games are anything but entertainment and feel that colleges should focus time and money on more traditional programs.
But the fact remains video games are a huge industry. Sales of video games on home consoles, portable systems and computers exceeded $7 billion in 2004, according to the Entertainment Software Association. The gaming industry is on the heels of Hollywood, whose box office revenues reached about $9 billion in 2004.
Gaming is a part of our culture and should not be disregarded as merely entertainment. The industry holds many opportunities in the job market. With current economic uncertainty, an industry with open arms toward graduates is an industry worth paying attention to.
Much objection has been given to the argument that video can be studied intellectually. The same argument was used against the first film schools in the 1950s and ’60s.
The academic history of the film industry is similar to gaming. The first motion picture was created in 1895, but it wasn’t until 1929 that the first Academy Awards aired. Today, the sentiment toward film has changed.
Not only is film recognized as a cultural medium worth intellectual study, but it has been accepted as a legitimate major for those serious about becoming part of the industry.
Video games should be looked at in the same way. Though different from the film industry in many aspects, gaming has a large impact on our culture. Games are another form of entertainment, a learning device for children and are even used by the U.S Army and Air Force as battle and flight simulators.
Many professors and industry heads are quick to defend this new video game curriculum. “Whether we like it or not, this is the medium of our moment,” said Sheldon Brown, the visual arts professor at the University of California, San Francisco. “It is a medium that is telling our cultural story, and the fact that it is a primary tool of youth and adolescents means it will have a tremendous impact on how the next generation or two plays itself out.”
The gaming industry is an ever-expanding giant that seems unlikely to stop growing. As a society, we should embrace video games not only as a form of entertainment, but for all the possibilities that come with the technology.
Morgan Ashenfelter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.