5.4 - Computer and Console Games: A Cultural Legacy?
Thursday, May 17

Computer and console games are a rich part of the cultural heritage for Gen X and Gen Y. Play a few bars from Super Mario Brothers or Leisure Suit Larry at a party, and quite a few people can hum the rest. Still, few books, newspapers or magazines take the time to examine the history of this media. This panel will talk about the role of games in popular culture, explore places where gaming has influenced pop culture, and discuss strategies for pushing gaming further into the spotlight in the mainstream press.

Moderator: Justin Hall of Links.net
Panelists: Greg Costikyan of Unplugged Games; Van Burnham of Wired; Henry Lowood of Stanford University

These are my thoughts today on the legacy of video and computer games; these are some of the questions and issues I'll bring up before the panel. Respond if you like - it could accelerate our discussion once we are face to face.

I wonder about the games of my childhood, Super Mario Brothers, Wasteland, Rygar, Wizardry, to name a few,

Are these on a par with the books or even the classic TV shows I watched growing up? Somehow I would like to think Iolo of Ultima III has got some personality stronger than Tonto of the Lone Ranger. And the mysteries of post-holocaust America (Wasteland) were deeper and more sophisticated than the mysteries faced by the Hardy Boys.

When I was young, my father read "Treasure Island" out loud to me. It was a classic work of literature from his childhood, and something we could share together. He felt there was some value in me understanding the coming of age story in that book.

So I wonder, will I sit down with my kid and play video games I remember? Wouldn't it be more appropriate for each of us to play a modern incarnation of Asheron's Call together, side by side in a game world?

The changing pace of technology and expectations for increasing levels of eye candy keep any one work from stabilizing as a seminal game. Perhaps only the game shape, the game model becomes enshrined - people absolutely remember SimCity, but was it SimCity, SimCity 2000 or SimCity 3000 they actually played? Are each of these games each the same? Or is something lost in the technology march of sequels?

I'm reminded of the Classic Gaming Expo, last year in Las Vegas, where many folks seemed to believe that the height of gaming came before the advent of detailed graphics, when the focus was more on gameplay. Does this mean that I will sit down with my child and play Robotron in the same way that I might sit down with my kid and play Chess?

I guess the central image here is the parent and the child - what of culture is worth preserving and passing along? Even if we are gaming enthusiasts and we might work hard to pass along the proper remnants of this culture, when we think ahead into the future, what is our society going to pass along about the early history of video and computer games? Will history be interactive? Will it be of interest to kids who can play in the living Ender's Game?

E3 |

justin's links by justin hall: contact