A Fireside Chat (for my fans)
While I’ve spent much of this blog’s short life raving on about the nobility of games, their artistic contributions, and my take on relevant game history, there is another worthy topic which I have not yet addressed – the contribution of gaming to medicine, human longevity, and society as a whole.
Not very long ago, video games were largely regarded as children’s toys, and playing them was considered by most of the adult population to be irresponsible, frivolous, degenerative, and an all-around waste of one’s time.
But with the rise of the gamer generation into adulthood came the science to validate and vindicate their behavior. When gamers didn’t simply ‘grow up’ and stop gaming, as so many thought they would, it quickly became apparent that herein lay an important question which any dutiful scientific and/or academic community could not afford to ignore. That question, of course, went something like “What’s so great about these games, anyway?”
And as soon as this question began to be asked in earnest, we quickly learned why so many human animals – equipped with perfectly functional self-preservation instincts – would continue in a hobby which on the outside appeared to serve no evolutionary goal whatsoever.
But this assumption of uselessness couldn’t have been further from the real truth, as Eric Klopfer – director of the Education Arcade at MIT – points out in an interview with The Boston Globe:
And, according to the research of Globe Correspondent Emily Anthes,
“Most games involve a huge number of mental tasks, and playing can boost any one of them. Fast-paced, action-packed video games have been shown, in separate studies, to boost visual acuity, spatial perception, and the ability to pick out objects in a scene. Complex, strategy-based games can improve other cognitive skills, including working memory and reasoning.”
But not only do games improve the function and habits of younger minds (games are now all the rage in research on educational practices), but they also help to keep those minds young and flexible into late adulthood. It’s been accepted fact for a good little while now that mental exercise can help greatly in staving off dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.  But only recently are game experts like Nolan Bushnell incorporating this idea into successful, science-based projects like anti-aginggames.com.
And aside from all this, games are also known to create socially constructive behavior patterns such as delegation, organization, cooperation, and team leadership. In fact, gamers as a community have produced such astounding real-world impacts as – according to the below info-graphic by Psychologydegree.net, “solv[ing] an AIDS protein problem that puzzled scientists for fifteen years in just fifteen days.”  I believe the appropriate phrase here is ‘epic win.’
Finally, anthropologically speaking, it seems quite safe to conjecture that in many ways, games simply had to happen. In order for human society to progress beyond commonplace violence over resources, territory, and mating privileges – as was the case until a relatively very recent period in our history, we needed to create for ourselves a safe outlet to release our inner animalistic rage and impulses. The global rate of intentional homicide dropped a whopping .7 percent from 2004 to 2010, with the strongest trends belonging to highly developed areas like North America and Europe. And it’s my humble opinion, though an empirical causality would prove quite difficult to establish, that this dramatic drop can largely be credited to the existence, prominence, and emergent social validity of the gaming hobby.
 Anthes, Emily, “How video games are good for the brain,” The Boston Globe, 2009, http://www.boston.com/news/health/articles/2009/10/12/how_video_games_are_good_for_the_brain/
 Chang, Ifay, “Can Brain Stimulating Games Help Slow Down Aging?” Medical World Search, 2003, http://www.mwsearch.com/anti-aginggame.html
 “Stay Mentally Active,” Alzheimer’s Association, 2012, http://www.alz.org/we_can_help_stay_mentally_active.asp
 Tassi, Paul, “The Social Benefits of Video Games,” Forbes, 2012, http://www.forbes.com/sites/insertcoin/2012/03/22/the-social-benefits-of-video-games/
 “List of countries by intentional homicide rate,” Wikipedia, 2012, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate
GAMES ARE ART (Part Deux - The Reckoning)
Most of us know that by the early ‘90s, video games had climbed out of some serious troubles, and were fully coming into their own. Still, making the case that games could be called fine art was a very tough sell indeed. Tough, that is, until in 1997 this happened:
(Cue FFVII Intro)
Leaving aside the emotionally wrenching storylines, music, and compelling gameplay – the crowning achievement of Final Fantasy VII was engaging gamers and non-gamers alike in a fully immersive multimedia experience that simply hadn’t existed before. Stunning visuals, thoughtful composition, and relatable character designs finally managed to turn some heads in the main stream.
(Cue FFVIII Intro)
And if that weren’t enough, a few short years later came the fully engrossing experience that was Final Fantasy VIII. Like its predecessor, this game featured the breathtaking design talents of Tetsuya Nomura, and presented lush visual representations of an epic which transcended time, space, and of course love.
But Fan boy though I might be, I can’t give Final Fantasy all the credit for moving games into the halls of accepted art forms. Though they did lead the charge, those games set the stage for a host of later efforts which range from impressive to downright mind-blowing.
Thanks to this precedent, modern games not only present a unique opportunity to experience visual art in motion, and allow us to interact with it in historically unheard-of ways, but each game presents a plethora of opportunities to examine ourselves in ways we never had – all bundled in one convenient piece of new visual media.
‘Bundle,’ in fact, is a fantastic term to describe what games offer us. In one sitting, we can be empowered, encouraged, sickened, tickled pink, deeply disturbed, love-struck, heartbroken, or perhaps just mildly amused. While traditional forms of visual art are limited to a single composition – a single moment, great games offer us a lifetime. That is why we love them, and that is why they are art.
This game was fantastically inventive, and all-around fun. Give it a try, if you haven’t.
Catherine’s European release fell close to Valentine’s Day - what could be more perfect?
I’m literally unnable to speak right now. No…words….just awesome
Microsoft’s next Xbox will not have a disc drive, according to a source speaking to MCV.
To replace the disc drive, the console will supposedly offer “some sort of interchangeable solid-state card storage.” It was not made clear whether or not it will be proprietary or a common format like SD.
On top of suggesting the next Xbox would not include a disc drive, the source indicated that the console would ship in 2013. This falls in line with earlier speculation suggesting the console would launch sometime next year.
Earlier speculation suggested that not only would the next Xbox sport a disc drive, but it would also play Blu-ray discs, an upgrade from the Xbox 360’s DVD functionality.
The site’s unnamed source says the news was revealed under what it called “the strictest [non-disclosure agreement]” ever seen.
As of press time, Microsoft had not responded to GameSpot’s request for comment.
As for the next Xbox, speculation has run wild as to its form, capabilities, release date, and price. The latest rumors say the Xbox 360 successor could boast a tablet controller, block used games, and cost as much as $500.
It has also been suggested that the next Xbox is currently in development under the code name Durango. This speculation was stoked last month when a Crytek developer reportedly tweeted about attending a Durango developers summit in London.
For more on the next Xbox, check out GameSpot’s rumor roundup concerning the new hardware from Microsoft.
Sorry but am I the only one currently thinking that MS has just fully finished shooting itself in the NADS?! o.O
…Since BluRay is now fully accepted as the new DVD, it’s hard to imagine a box that STILL can’t play it competing for TV stand space.
Yes, that double negative means he’s decided that DRM (Digital Rights Management) software is not only useless, but over-complicates things, both for the Dev teams and paying customers.
The article below highlights a fact I’ve been preaching for years — if people like something enough, they’ll pay you for it. If they don’t, you’re wasting your time trying to make them.
Check out what game engineers are working on at MY UNIVERSITY!!! :-D
(PS: Love that the fishing tech demo used the boss fight music from FFVII)