Games used to be different.
I tend to dislike “used to be” stories. You know the ones. The world used to be like this, or people used to act like that. Even when they are partially factual, they fall to close to “back in my day” stories. They reference a time that probably didn’t exist and tend to gloss over all sorts of terrible stuff in favour of some half remembered reverie.
Okay. Wait. I’m getting really close to talking about history, and that will lead to talking about politics. Let’s get this back on track.
So video games used to be different. Video games have always been as much of a commercial endeavor as they are an artistic one. You can write a song with a cigar box guitar, but you can’t make a video game without a bunch of expensive computer hardware and technical know how. In that way, making video games as an artistic pursuit is a lot like building hot rods. Sure you can make an artistic statement, but you are going to have to pay for all of those tools and time somehow. The obvious answer is that you sell the hot rods, or games, as the case may be.
Okay. Nope. Absolutely heading in the direction of talking about economics, or class privilege of certain hobbies. I should probably reset.
Video games in the arcade used to be different. The need to turn a profit on these games meant that high difficulty, heavy emphasis on action, and quick player turnover was a design requirement.
Wait. That statement was just blatantly about economics.
I was going to write something about the way games have evolved from an action to an experience based artform, but I was never really going to take a side as to whether that was a good or bad thing. It was going to be completely apolitical. I am having trouble thinking of anything to write about this stupid, escapist hobby that couldn’t have a political bent to it. It’s almost as if all the video games are made by messy humans for other messy humans and we view and enjoy them through our messy individual experiences. If I start heading down any of these lines of examination, I’m going to encounter sexism, racism, classism, economics, factions, negotiation and compromises, regionalism, marketing and propaganda, and the neverending onslaught of history.
This is what I think when people put out the call to remove politics from video games. The very notion that politics could be removed from any human communication, including this shared entertainment medium, is beyond bizarre. Objectively reacting to art is not possible, taking politics out of your enjoyment is not possible. Politics exist because humans exist. If you think that someone with a different point of view than yours is “ruining video games”. I think that studying some history, even if it’s only the history of games, might be helpful not only to you, but everyone else.
I have a fair bit more rant left in me, but I try to keep this blog to video games, and I try to keep it mostly positive. So I’ll stop there. Maybe next time I’ll write why E.T. isn’t that bad a game, and see how that goes.