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.