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Gaming: so what?

benjamin's picture

Great... another blog about gaming. Another chance to sink your fingers into the worn and world-weary keys of 'too long, didn't read'. After all, why scroll through yet another amateur approach to something so well covered by the professional and commercial scenes? The answer is simple:

This blog is not so much about ratings or sales (i.e. the concern of most popular bloggers and reviewers), but the social and ideological implications of gaming as a relatively new and exciting form of storytelling: interactive narrative. In other words: interactive gaming as a means by which particular meanings and interpretations are both propagated and explored within the context of our increasingly globalized and digitized world.

Well this is unnecessary and pompous – gaming is just something we do for fun. Do we really need to dissect it?’ This is exactly how I used to think; compared to books, television and music, gaming really didn’t seem to hold enough worldly influence to justify much criticism.

However, as both casual and professional gaming began to spread their economic wings (the video game industry now being worth a whopping 615 billion rands), it became increasingly apparent that this fun-filled medium was and is equally deserving of critical textual analysis.

Slowly but surely clawing its way out of sub-cultural obscurity and into the light of popular consumption, gaming has become a socio-economic force to be reckoned with - a force which is both propelled by and effectively encapsulates contemporary social and textual interactivity.

'Ok, so gaming is gaining some ground. So what, right? Why should we care?' Well, here are the three most persuasive reasons I can come up with - the three main aspects of gaming which interest me so:

• Digital gaming, as a medium born and raised in the 20th century, is a relatively young and largely unexplored medium (at least in the critical sense). How and why it entertains such growth and influence both fascinates and inspires me. This blog will attempt to unpack, in an accessible and interesting way, the ways in which gaming both propels and is propelled by modernization (i.e. the technological, social and economic behaviours of an increasingly interconnected world).

• Digital gaming is not the same as reading a book or watching a movie. If, as philosopher Marshall McLuhan famously noted, the medium is the message, then what kind of message does the medium of gaming, as an interactive narrative, provide for those who actively and often uncritically consume it? This blog will attempt to break down the medium of digital gaming, both in the realm of single player and multi-player games, assessing the ways in which gamers are implicated and addressed (ideologically, culturally and economically). 

And finally:

• Digital gaming, as a sport and/or profession, is at once something altogether new and endearing - especially to those who, like me, found it difficult to assimilate into the crowds of passionate rugby or football fans. In what ways are dexterity, logic and teamwork employed in professional gaming? Are they really employed at all? Will the likes of Starcraft, League of Legends or Defence of the Ancients eventually rival the viewership numbers of traditional physical sport? This blog will attempt to answer these complex questions and more.

If, by this point, you remain apathetic or disinterested then I implore you, during your next digital adventure, to take a few minutes and reflect upon one or more of these points; video games, at least to me, represent a wonderfully fresh approach to entertainment and narrative - an approach which both warrants and deserves a deeper and more involved interaction. After all, you are who you play... if only for a little while.


Dreamhack: the world's largest gaming gathering, peaking last year at over 20000 participants (image credit: www.extremetech.com).