‘Video Games Are For Kids’

I hear this a lot. No, scrap that, I hear this too much.

I firmly believe that the reason this is said too much is that the videogames industry as a whole is still in its formative years. Not in the sense that current hardware and software is particularly inchoate (although I do believe that videogame stories and characters need to catch up with the times), but in the sense that modern video games are still very new and unrecognised media. It took decades after the Lumière brothers invented the cinematograph for adults to take cinema seriously. The notion that someone could eventually grow up to professionally critique something like Charlie Chaplin’s ‘Police‘ or any other film in that era (the spirit captured perfectly by Bioshock Infinite‘s voxophones, might I add) would have had the contemporaries in tears. Yet here we are, in a world where Leslie Halliwell and Roger Ebert were esteemed professionals. Eventually those who hadn’t the mental faculty to understand that this new medium could be used to create genuine art, well, died off. Those who grew up alongside films saw them as an important and wonderful new invention whereas those who were introduced to it as an adult flippantly disregarded their potential and valued them lower than other media because of it. The adults grew up with books, the children with films. Therefore films were childish and books were for a more mature and respectable audience. When the children of the cinema generation grew up they brought their love of film with them, and this is why it is a household form of entertainment today, to be lauded and not laughed at.

And something similar is happening now. The average dad’s view of a videogame is an Asteroids arcade machine at worst or a big brand name like Super Mario. This is because the videogames they grew up with weren’t childish as such… they themselves were children. The limitations developers faced rendered most games 8 or 16 bit, the stories you could tell couldn’t be beautifully shot cinematic tales like current AAA titles such as The Last of Us, they were cute little challenge games like Pitfall or Tetris… kind of like the cute little silent films Chaplin used to make. This is why some adults today call other adults who play videogames manchildren, when the ‘videogame’ they know is something like Pac Man, something to be played with and not experienced, a toy rather than a piece of art. Sure, videogames can be childish today. The idea that Roger Ebert would ever seriously perform any critical analysis on Goat Simulator is, admittedly, ridiculous. But Goat simulator is a videogame like The Walking Dead: Season One is a videogame. I can say that 12 Years A Slave is the quintessential cinematic experience the same way I can say that The Spongebob Movie is, with a medium that has grown to have a wide enough gamut of products as videogames have today, it becomes impossible to define or even associate the medium with one flavour.

Videogames stopped being Pac Man years ago. The view that videogames are toys is an ugly and dusty one. The older generation doesn’t know, won’t accept or respect that videogames can be used to tell make for mature, memorable, touching experiences, most of which outdo anything you could possibly experience at the cinema. Videogames are art. Anyone that can’t understand that is held by their own refusal to appreciate or assimilate, and these people will be forced to fidget as videogames continue to penetrate the mainstream at lightning speeds.

It is incumbent on us, as the people who grew up and grow up loving videogames and the artists behind them, that we continue to play, preach, make videogames unflinchingly, without so much as a consideration that this new media is childish and not a wonderful, wonderful, increasingly inclusive and diverse medium.

Videogames aren’t for kids. They’re for yours. Teach the current and next generation of children what they are and they will grow up to develop into brilliant game designers, writers, programmers, artists, and pioneers for what we don’t have now.

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11 thoughts on “‘Video Games Are For Kids’

  1. I think that the people who are in the thirties now will continue thinking of video games as a common form of entertainment. As you mentioned in your post, movies weren’t something that “serious” people would take seriously. Also, TV shows used to be geared toward the family unit, every show suitable for the kids to watch. As those kids grew up, TV and movies changed with them. In much the same way, the kids who grew up playing Super Mario Bros… well, they can still enjoy Mario (like I do), but they also have games intended for Mature players. I don’t think that’s going to change. As the audience for video games continue to grow, in age AND in age range, the range of content will grow, as well.

    As far as video games being art, I would agree that SOME video games can be considered art, and others are garbage. Art is subjective, so it would be hard to agree on which games are art, and which are not. For example, I think Grand Theft Auto is a masterpiece, and is a great satirical work of art, aimed at poking fun of our current culture in an ingenious way. People concerned with violence in video games might say I’m an idiot for ever suggesting such a thing.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I absolutely agree that not all videogames are art, I worded it quite poorly but what I meant was that everyone today should accept that the medium is perfectly capable of producing genuine art. Many are still opposed to this.

      A prime example that instigated the ‘are videogames art?’ argument was the release of Hatred. Once it was pulled from Greenlight the internet housed a melting pot of strong opinions and altercations over it, there were people who thought it was garbage but insisted that the authority over who can say what can and can’t be created, what can and can’t be art is no one’s. Of course, there were a lot of YouTubers playing it and pretending to like it in hopes that they would be seen as protecting artistic freedom.

      Hatred is nothing more than juvenile provocation. It’s garbage. I don’t believe it’s art.

      You are right though, I think that if you’re TOO militant about protecting videogames from criticism by saying that EVERY mindless addition like Hatred is art, then you will only look stupider to the outside. Humility and internal criticism is what gamers need to be seen as serious.

      Thanks for commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Agreed. It’s probably best for everyone if gamers who have earned significant popularity are honest about their opinions. I’ve witnessed the same thing with “Hatred,” and how some people want to keep defending it. ReviewTechUSA had enough courtesy to at least say that, even though the developers had the right to create whatever they wanted, the gameplay was garbage… same as you say it is.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. The average gamer is in 30s, so it’s certainly not a child’s medium anymore. This mentality will hopefully change over time, but, as you mentioned, we need to work towards a mindset that video games are a everyone activity: Young, old, female, male, gay, straight, etc.

    Liked by 1 person

    • As much as I am opposed to militant social justice in the gaming community, I am beginning to question the conveyor belt of burly, chiselled white protagonists. It is an odd design trend that absolutely deserves to be questioned, and hopefully the younger generation who are widely opposed to this will strive for and change for diversity. However, disliking a character for being simply straight or white is exactly the wrong approach to this very real problem, and I see this too much on the journalistic side of gaming.

      Thanks for commenting 🙂

      Like

  3. Yep, this is a problem. I still get it from people, and I’m 25. This also goes for Anime and other mediums. As someone see you watching it, they laugh and ask why I’m watching a cartoon for. I’m sure it will change as time goes on, seeing how the industry keeps growing every year.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m not a big anime fan but I loved Attack on Titan, and I grew up alongside studio Ghibli. A lot of those Ghibli films, like Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle and especially Grave of Fireflies are very mature films which in no way attempt to cater to a younger audience. My parents enjoyed watching them with me. It’s because people don’t bother to watch any anime that they think it must be childish.

    Thanks for commenting!

    Like

  5. I’m probably an outlier, but I’m now in my 40s and have played video games since the 1970s. Games have always had universal age appeal and the media has always pushed the narrative that games are just for kids.

    Games started in the 70s targeted at bar customers (Pong and the table tops). In the 1980s working men on their lunch breaks would go to the local burger joint to play Pac-man and Galaxian. If anything, today’s games should align with our perception of movies and TV: there are kids games, teen games, adult games, and a whole bunch in the middle appealable from teens through all adults.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. As the social stigma diminishes on pursuing a job in video games, be it writer, animator, journalist or critic, hopefully there will be an influx of talent and diversity.

    Thanks for the comment 🙂

    Like

  7. I have blogged about how silly it is to say that video games are only for kids too. Sadly I hear this despite the facts about the age of gamers. Hoping this view will disappear soon because it’s really not worth our time to even discuss such an silly opinion.

    Liked by 1 person

    • When you really break down that argument, someone can only really say ‘they are for kids! Because they just are! Really!’.

      Thanks for the comment!

      Like

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