Video games are weird. They started out weird. Presented as simulations of table tennis, but looking more like a display test pattern, the earliest video games asked a lot of their audience in the suspension of disbelief department. Aside from live college theatre, I don’t know of any expressive medium saddled down with more abstract contrivances than video games. Cronenberg has nothing on Super Mario Bros. 2. Video games are some hip deep weird.
There is abstraction designed into all games or sports. It is the abstract concepts of points and teams that lets us know that we are playing soccer, and not just running through a field fleeing from aggressive bandits that want to steal our ball. Video games contain all those same abstractions. What sets them apart from sports or board games is that they are also gleefully unconcerned with the need for physical laws, narrative structure, or other participants. This incredible freedom is yoked by the extremely rigid technical constraints of computer hardware. Take a these factors together, and video games become very, very weird.
People have put good long hours into trying to make video games more realistic, cinematic, or literary. Turns out, that only makes them weirder. Point and click adventure games are pretty weird. Replace all the painted graphics with full motion video and live actors, and they get incredibly, uncomfortably weird. What started as a fairly slow and impenetrable entertainment genre quickly becomes a hodgepodge of dream logic nonsense, but now with more Christopher Walken.
The residual weird from video games, has so thoroughly permeated popular culture at this point that the term ‘level up’ is understood by the majority of the world's population. I'm fairly certain I've seen it used in advertising copy for real post secondary education. While that might be distasteful, pandering advertising, it does prove that they knew who their target customer was, and that they knew that the messaging would be understood. This is just one example of an otherwise meaningless collection of words spawned from the weirdness of video games. I won’t even get into the nonsense that is currently growing out of the internet. The two cultures are very tightly tied together, and feed each other, becoming stranger by the minute.
So what happens to a culture when a large chunk of it’s voting population is well versed in weird? What does it mean when the new generation gap isn’t based on the acceptance of variation on existing media, like hip hop or electronic music? I Honestly don’t know. I figure we are so in it right now, it’s pretty difficult to determine what the effects might be. If you came here looking for conclusions, you’ve come to the wrong place. I have none for you.
I am fairly certain of this though. The weirdness of video games has resulted in a generation gap. Several decades from now we will be able to look back and see what the effect was. If the past is any indication, the net result will probably be that a lot of people on one side of the gap will yell that the world was better back when, people in the middle will just ride the wave, and people on the other side will have grown up in a world that is a little more weird, and if we are lucky a little better. They will call it normal.
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