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"Games are far too obsessed with technical innovation" - Bogost

Designer and professor says that games are also "too cloistered, too internally-directed"

The medium of video games has come a long way in its (relatively) short history, and there are more people playing games in various forms than ever before, but if you ask Ian Bogost, game designer and professor of interactive computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology, the industry has yet to truly reach an inflection point where it's accepted without question across the globe in the way that film is.

Part of the problem is that developers get too caught up in leveraging the newest technology of the day, Bogost pointed out in an interview published on the Entertainment Software Association website. "When games are as ordinary as photographs and writing and moving images, then they will have arrived. But the truth is, we're still nowhere near that inflection point. Games are far too obsessed with technical innovation, and we end up recycling the same ideas and the same uses in the same contexts every handful of years or so," he said. "Ten years ago it was physical interfaces like the Wii and Kinect. Now we've forgotten about all that, and virtual reality is the next novelty.

"So we tend to jump from trend to trend as if they were Super Mario platforms, except we don't realize that they're the kind that vanish underfoot. We have to keep running just to keep up with ourselves. But the real work starts when the platforms and the technologies become boring and ordinary and everyday. The smartphone is starting to do this, although we keep racing to keep up with it, too. I don't see this changing too much in the next 10 years."

Bogost believes that games truly need to be leveraged in broader applications across society. Once the industry can look more fully beyond itself, things should improve.

"The most important thing that creators, players, and critics of games can do is to care deeply about many other things that have nothing to do with games. It doesn't even matter what it is. Knitting or car racing or woodworking or small-batch spirits or historical preservation or soccer or German Enlightenment philosophy or cinema or gardening or anything else. And ideally many things. And not just your own, either. The gravest worry I have about games writ large is that we are too cloistered, too internally-directed, interested mostly in ourselves and not enough in other things," he said. "And there are enough of us now who are interested in games that it feels like we are 'winning,' whatever that would mean. But really we're not.

"Games used to be a niche, and now they're a bigger niche. Nothing against niches, mind you! But we need to connect more with the world in all its nooks and crannies, to make games a part of more conversations with a greater number of domains. These are some of the themes I've tried to address in 'How to Talk About Videogames'. Pay attention to anything but games, and then connect those interests to games, and vice versa."

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James Brightman

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James Brightman has been covering the games industry since 2003 and has been an avid gamer since the days of Atari and Intellivision. He was previously EIC and co-founder of IndustryGamers and spent several years leading GameDaily Biz at AOL prior to that.

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