The findings of a recent Pew Report – which established that 97 per cent of all teenagers play video games – are unlikely to rock the world. Yes, the figures were fairly striking – more reminiscent of Soviet "elections" than the demographic pie-slices we're used to in the free world. Somewhere out there, if the statistical analysis got it right, there's a stubborn 1 per cent of teenage boys between 12 and 17 who don't play video games.
But the 99 per cent who aren't living in Amish villages or on end-time communes all do. And 94 per cent of girls play them as well, suggesting that received opinion about video gaming as a predominately male activity is considerably wide of the mark. All the same, the results went with the grain of expectation. Teenagers play video games.
What the Pew researchers were interested in wasn't the crude statistics of participation as such. They were simply a by-product of a bigger question about how video gaming was related to teenagers' civic and political engagement. And again, the findings aren't likely to generate banner headlines. Unsurprisingly they found that teenagers who played socially, with other people in the room, were more likely to raise money for charity or stay informed about current events or take an active interest in politics than the lonely singletons whose only contact with other humans was to frag them in online battles. So far, so obvious.
What did strike me, though – given the almost universal enlistment in an activity that only 20 years ago was the preserve of home-programmers and hobbyists – was the mismatch between the scale of teenagers' involvement in video games and the relative invisibility of this creative field in what you might call the traditional media. From time to time a new game release, such as Will Wright's recently released Spor, will edge its way on to the news pages – and most newspapers carry some form of capsule reviews . But usually they're tucked away in the back alleys of the publication, while film and music and television continue to dominate the big boulevards. Mainstream television does virtually nothing. Arts programmes remain almost exclusively dedicated to cultural forms which are also-rans for many teenagers.
There are two reasons why this should be so. The first would be that video gamers get this stuff elsewhere – from magazines such as Edge or Wired, and from online gaming sites, where no one needs to explain what "respawning" or "first person shooter" actually means. And, since they get it there, they aren't that fussed that it doesn't exist elsewhere.
Unlike jazz enthusiasts – persistently besieging Radio 3 for a better deal for their favoured art form – gamers don't need to nag. The other explanation would be that the traditional media still doesn't get it. That, despite all the articles about the scale of the industry and its threat to older forms of diversion (and older forms of fiction) it isn't something that needs taking seriously. Or, possibly, that it isn't something that can be taken seriously, in the sense that a film or a pop record can.
For the moment that still isn't an entirely foolish response, but given those figures in the Pew report it surely can't last. There was a time, after all, when no serious newspaper would have included considered reviews of the kinematograph or the latest pop single. Now they could hardly call themselves serious without them.
An experience too transcendental for mere words
If you're feeling the need to top up on 100 per cent proof, authentically Gallic, high-art pretension then I suggest you buy yourself a ticket for in-i at the National Theatre... a category-defying dance-drama work which has been created by the actress Juliette Binoche and the choreographer Akram Khan. This appears on the South Bank as the centrepiece of what seems to be a mini Binoche festival, since her paintings and films are also on show next door at the BFI. And should you not be able to bring quite the right air of solemn, transcendental reverence to the affair, don't fret too much because Binoche has supplied that as well, as a kind of outreach service for the hard-of-feeling.
The NT programme is deliciously self-regarding: "If we had to say in one word what we wish for our creation in-i we would choose the word 'dare'," the co-creators write. "If we could add two more we would definitely choose 'the new'. Daring the new is why we said yes to each other. But can we reach each other? Can we try and get close?"
I couldn't answer that before the performance started and wasn't much wiser after, but happily that seems to have been what Khan was after. "What do you want people to take home with them?" asks Binoche in a conversation printed in the programme. "I want them to be unable to describe in words what they felt or experienced," replies Akram. Job done, Mr Khan.
Tripe and trotters are the new caviar
It's good news that pigs' trotters and Bath chaps are to be re-introduced on to supermarket shelves. A pig's cheek properly cooked is a very fine thing indeed, wonderfully unctuous and flavourful. Trotters can be excellent, too, once you've come to terms with finding toenails on your plate.
But it seems odd that these out-of-fashion delicacies of budget nutrition should be re-introduced to the British diet by means of Waitrose... one of the most upmarket chains. If the banking meltdowns and the credit crunch continue, I take it that we can next look forward to a dedicated tripe counter at Harrods, and Fortnum and Mason's own-brand Crispy Pig's Ears.
There surely has to be a better way of spending research funds than Southampton University's proposed research into out-of-body experiences. Investigators plan to conceal pictures on high shelves in resuscitation areas and quiz day-trippers to the other side on their recall.
But those who believe that the soul flits around the room like a daddy-long-legs before it departs won't take a negative result as proof that they're wrong, and sceptics (like me) will be extremely dubious about a positive. They'd do better to give the money to charity.Reuse content