Opinion: Why is gaming still a second-class hobby?

The Nintendo Wii has helped make gaming more acceptable but it still has a long way to go.

The Nintendo Wii has helped make gaming more acceptable but it still has a long way to go.

Much has been made of gaming’s move to the mainstream but in reality the hobby is as frowned upon as ever, says Adam Maguire.

Roger Ebert has admitted he was wrong to say gaming could never be art; but not because he has changed his mind. Instead the legendary film critic has said it is an opinion he still holds, albeit one he should have kept to himself. He admits ignorance to the industry but makes clear he has no mind to remedy that.

There has been a lot of disbelief and hand-wringing about this online – a place where you will always find plenty of gaming’s defenders. However Ebert’s views are not unique, in reality they are part of a wider view on the hobby that is still held to this day, despite the recent encroachment of gaming into the mainstream.

For example, how many people feel uneasy at the thought of a child sitting playing games on their own for a few hours a day? How does that compare to their thoughts toward the same child spending the same amount of time in front of the TV?

How many parents categorise games as violent or aggressive enterprises? How many of them actually pay attention to the games their children buy and, most importantly, the ratings warnings displayed on them?

In reality gaming is going through the same thing that film and television endured upon their infancy. The older generation shows a general mistrust and the artistic community a certain amount of distain.

Of course some producers in the games industry should take some blame too. Many seek out notoriety in order to generate sales – think Postal as the perfect example. When it comes to artistic chops many more are still too keen to mimic blockbuster films rather than do something unique, not that they should be trying to be “artistic” either, whatever that means.

However gaming is slowly becoming more respected – or even just trusted – and that is in large part thanks to the likes of the Wii. The problem here is that many non-traditional gamers probably do not see the Wii and its cute games as real gaming, an ignorant piece of logic that is also felt by many ‘hardcore’ gamers.

There is a shift happening here but it is taking some time. The main reason for this is because gaming has failed to offer users any apparent benefit beyond recreational enjoyment.

Gaming – for the most part – does not educate or inspire. It just entertains. It does not allow people to see anything new like pictures or video did, nor does it enlighten us to anything tangible.

Whether it ever will – or should – is a whole other argument. However critics will always have an easy time criticising a medium that just entertains and proponents will always have a hard time defending it. So for the time being at least gaming will still be seen as a most anti-social pastime than post, even if in reality the opposite is increasingly becoming the case.

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