Remember when you were a kid? Think back. You’d get together with your friends and play. You’d burn for it. You’d be squirming in your seat at the lunch table on a weekend, dying to get away, so you could meet up with your best friend and carry one with the Lego or tree fort or G.I. Joes or whatever. Remember what that was like?
Try for me here.
When we were kids, we all socialized through games. It’s what kids do, right? And it’s what set us all up to be the well-adjusted, productive members of society we seem to be today.
Well, play is back.
People are already talking about 2007 as a landmark year for gaming. The year games grew up, and all that. Perhaps. There have been some really good titles lately. But the really important thing about games in 2007 isn’t the titles or the audience figures. (Even though Halo 3’s release was the biggest ever opening-day gross for any entertainment product, ever.) The big deal in ’07 is the gaming audience. It’s changed. People are starting to play together again.
Interesting look at that in this New York Times article:
At a moment when technology allows designers to create ever more complex and realistic single-player fantasies, the growth in the now $18 billion gaming market is in simple, user-friendly experiences that families and friends can enjoy together […] It may be a sign of the industry’s nascent maturity that as video games become more popular than ever, hard-core gamers and the old-school critics who represent them are becoming an ever smaller part of the audience.
People are starting to play together now. Or rather, they’re rediscovering how to play together. We all did this as kids – all the time. It was great. The fundamental feature of video games is interactivity. No other medium has this feature. You can interact with the game, and you can interact with other players. This means that games, unlike any other medium, can be a part of socializaing. You can socialize and discuss other media. But only games allow you to socialize through the medium.
Some games can make socializing more fun. This is their power. People want to play together. That’s why the Wii has taken off. The games aren’t as critically acclaimed – in fact, a lot of them are simplistic compared to what you get on other platforms. But you can play them together. Tennis? You can play that with your gran in the living room and have a great time.
Bioshock? Well, a brooding noir first-person-shooter treatise on objectivism may be a critical success, but there’s something of a cognitive barrier to entry . . . unless you’re already steeped in the FPS genre and know what to do with one of these.
I love long-form single-player games. But I love doing that with books, too. And you can’t read a book with someone.
So here’s to the social-gaming revolution.
Now go play with your friends.