Apocalypse postponed: Discourses on video games from noxious objects to redemptive devices

Publikation: Beiträge in ZeitschriftenZeitschriftenaufsätzeForschungbegutachtet


Over the last decade, a new narrative has emerged in favour of the medium of the video game. Games are now being described as a series of practices which improve our mental and physical skills (see Johnson, 2005, or the marketing and reception of Nintendo’s 2007 game Wii Fit); they are targeted to a mature audience, and are no more associated with antisocial teenagers (see Prensky, 2006); they are capable of unprecedented aesthetic achievements (see the reception of games like Rockstar Games’ 2011 L.A. Noire); and their consumption allegedly reveals a seemingly never-ending user growth, making them a globalized, pivotal media for the solution of social and political issues on the scale of the whole planet (McGonigal, 2011).
Such a narrative does not match the description we got used to. Video games used to be noxious objects, encouraging antisocial behaviour and constituting a danger for the health. They could even frame the minds of potential serial killers, as in the Columbine case. They used to be aesthetically poor experiences and confined, for their consumption, in the arcades or in the teenager’s bedrooms.
In this paper we will highlight some examples of how the descriptions of video games have changed in terms of alleged positive or negative effects for the individual and society, with reference to health, psychological and cognitive aspects, and cultural and aesthetic relevance.
We argue that many of the new discourses on games as positive media are not more fair and lucid than those that ostracised video games in the past. It is however worth asking how these discourses emerge and are structured, despite their inconsistencies, as they reflect wider trends of spontaneous consensus between industries, audiences and institutions, and make us aware of the risks that the critical function of research may be distorted by such trends.
ZeitschriftGAME : the Italian journal of game studies
Anzahl der Seiten10
PublikationsstatusErschienen - 2012