During the first part of our interview with author and professor Ian Bogost, we talked about how focusing on violence in games does an injustice to the medium, why we haven't managed to break into the mainstream media, and the tricky definition of "art."
And now, here's Part II:
PSXE: Do you think someone who plays video games as a primary hobby is any different than someone who lists movies or music as their primary hobby?
Bogost: "In the book, I try to eviscerate the label of 'gamer.' You can be really into music and somehow, that doesn't consume your whole identity. We've been holding on to this identity of 'gamer' as a way of identifying ourselves. Games are interesting and appealing for various reasons, but there's always other stuff that interests us, too. So by creating this perception that there's this gamer planet where all the gamers are isolated from everyone else hasn't done us any favors.
It doesn't help us advance the cause of games, so the 'gamer' label is worth rejecting and eliminating."
PSXE: As games advance, we get closer and closer to virtual reality. Do you see this as a positive progression or something that could prove dangerous?
Bogost: "I think in one way it's sort of a blind progression. We don't really know why we're doing it. With game technology, we've invested decades in photo-realism; the whole architecture of these machines is built around making pretty pictures. So that's one danger; that we're becoming blind to other ascetics and experiences. This is where things like mobile devices are helping us see different styles of gaming.
In terms of social or culture danger with greater realism, I look at it this way: we've seen this before with painting; the desire to capture reality. Then photography came along and threw a wrench into the works, and painting had to come up with new ways to make it meaningful. With games, we focus a lot on how games look. But the world is getting more complex, and it's important to recognize all those complicated interconnections. It's not just about how they look on the outside.
For instance, we can create a simulated city and it looks and feels like a real place. But the moment you go to talk to someone, all they can do is emit one of four prerecorded sounds. This is a way of looking at the world that leaves out a lot. It focuses on appearance over operation. That's a risk. We need to be more interested in the motivations and the cultural and sociopolitical things going on underneath."
PSXE: Video games are more mainstream than ever. But the mainstream media rarely gives any respect to the medium. Do you think this will change any time soon?
Bogost: "I think it's the hardest problem we have. The way to change it is not to expect the mass media to change, or to expect that games are going to change. There's going to have to be a negotiation. We have to recognize that in order for games to be perceived differently, the game makers have to talk about them and show them to be different.
It requires an annoying humility and patience we shouldn't have to have, but that's the situation we're in. We'll make slow, incremental progress, I think. You know, this isn't that big of a deal; it's not about games causing violence or anything like that. It's about games being used in ways you never thought of. We don't necessarily have to celebrate it because it's already happening."
We'd like to thank Ian for taking the time to talk to us. There's a lot of interesting topics in this industry, many of which go well beyond petty arguments and disputes. As Bogost says, his book isn't about defending or promoting video games; it's simply about showing everyone that gaming is a legitimate medium, and "as videogames become ever more enmeshed with contemporary life, the idea of gamers as social identities will become obsolete, giving rise to gaming by the masses."