Thomas Sutcliffe: Why don't we take computer games more seriously?

Share
Related Topics

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.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nigel Farage has urged supporters to buy Mike Read's Ukip Calypso song and push it up to the No 1 spot  

Mike Read’s Ukip calypso is mesmerisingly atrocious — but it's not racist

Matthew Norman
Shirley Shackleton, wife of late journalist Gregory Shackleton, sits next to the grave of the 'Balibo Five' in Jakarta, in 2010  

Letter from Asia: The battle for the truth behind five journalists’ deaths in Indonesia

Andrew Buncombe
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London