Last year, I was lucky enough to be a call-in guest on the Kojo Nnamdi Show on WAMU out of DC, talking about diversity in games. Yesterday, I got to do it again, but since it’s summer, I was able to actually go up to DC to participate in the studio, talking with Bill Harlow and Dr. Lindsay Grace about pop culture and recent trends in gaming, including Serious Games, indie games, and where we think the market might go from here (link takes you to the show, where you can listen).
One of the highlights of the show is the final caller, a boy named Oscar, who asks us what we think is the future of games, since they will be designed by people like him, who have grown up with games like Minecraft. Not only was Oscar adorable, but he was articulate and smart, asking one of the best questions of the day. He also represents a very positive future for games and gamers; while the show kept coming back to the idea of violent games (the producer’s idea) and how new games are either complicating or moving away from violent mechanics altogether, Oscar’s question really got to the heart of what’s happening in the industry.
Videogames are growing up, and I don’t just mean in terms of content. There will always be shooters, there will always be games that cater to a juvenile demographic–and that’s not a bad thing. All popular media have that, because popular media cater to everyone. What is happening in games is that they are expanding their demographic base to include everyone; games are entering a period in which they have become aware of and are trying to involve players of all ages, genders, races, and types, and the kids who grow up now playing games that make an effort to include this diversity will no longer think of it as “changing” how games “are meant to be” (*cough*), but as what games are.
They will see the failures and successes of current games in terms of narrative, graphics, artistry, and mechanics and will improve upon them, following the trajectory we have seen in every form of popular culture from music to poetry to novels to film and television. And now videogames. And we need to remember, sometimes, that change takes time, but that there is great promise not only in the industry as it currently stands, but in its future, when people like Oscar become old enough to not only study games in school, but to pursue degrees in games, to play games, to critique them, to think critically about them. And when kids like Oscar are old enough to make games of their own, those games will be above and beyond anything we can now imagine.
And that is unbelievably exciting.