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THE AIRY AERIE

Why talk about Video Games like people care?

Well first of all: because we want to. Second of all, and more importantly, video games are an increasingly big part of modern day social life.

If the social aspect of games didn’t matter, the online ones wouldn’t be popular.

League of Legends. World of Warcraft. Everquest. Runescape. Halo. Call of Duty. Battlefield. If we want to take it a step further and expand beyond the “video” portion of games: Magic the Gathering, Dungeons and Dragons, Monopoly. Fucking Connect 4 or Operation, for god’s sake.

Games have always had a prevalent social aspect to them, from small simple family games to the sprawling open world MMORPGs of today. If the social aspect of games didn’t matter, the online ones wouldn’t be popular, and the social links we make would be shallow and lifeless. But they aren’t.

I was one of “those” kids. The kind who was a real Billy-No-Mates at school, didn’t really talk much to anybody, got accused of being a teacher’s pet because I normally preferred the company of the adults than the kids, and spent many hours of my life on Pokemon so I could proudly crush the dreams of my mortal rivals in battles the one day we were allowed to bring our GameBoy Colours in on Christmas. Nor was I the only child who had an experience similar to this; games were a big part of our lives even back then. Social links were formed (and broken if you kicked their ass too badly) from a mutual enjoyment of pixels on a screen.

And there’s a reason I use Pokemon as a specific example here, because this franchise of games (and shows and comics and movies and cards and plush toys...) has only gone from strength to strength. Video games are no longer niche or small, and they have as much impact on people as other visual arts do like movies, or comics. To pretend they aren’t worth talking about it to sell the industry very short indeed, especially because everybody these days has at least one video game that they have played and enjoy.

In the same way that parents used to take their kids to the theatre, and then the next generation of parents took their kids to the movies, the modern generation of parents can now share video games with their children. Friends can be made across the world when two people play the same online game and chat to one another for a little bit. Not only would we be remiss to pretend that video games are not a form of visual arts, but we would be severely remiss to pretend that they do not impact our social lives in a very big way. Entire communities can form from a game or in a game, made up of dozens to hundreds of people, and these communities matter to the people in them.

Ultimately, the reality of the modern world is that there are an entire generation of people who have had their lives impacted heavily by video games and the way the industry has developed them. It’s worth talking about, the same way it’s worth talking about music that touches you deeply enough to evoke an emotional response or the way it’s worth talking about a movie that you relate to so personally that the struggles of a character make you cry. And since video games can incorporate both of these things, at the same time, while also impacting the social lives of millions of people around the world surely means that they are worth talking about too, for the same reasons.

There’s also a number of talking points beyond the social aspect of this visual medium or its emotional value to people. The big corporations driving the video game industry have made headlines, especially recently, for egregious decisions they’ve made to try and squeeze as much profit as possible out of their products. These, too, are good things to talk about and promote an awareness overall, across all industries, for bad market practises and for how to spot when a company is abusing or exploiting its audience - and for when that audience has the god-given right to challenge the industry for those practises and put their feet down.

If you think games aren’t worth talking about, you haven’t been paying attention.