Earlier today, I watched the below video from The Wheeler Centre in which Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows, discusses how digital and the internet is ‘rewiring our brains’. I agree with much of what he says with regards to the ‘what’ of this rewiring and I don’t know enough about it to refute his predicted outcomes, but then, at around the 11:10 mark, Gideon Haigh makes a cheap joke that gamers are ‘proverbially dull, inarticulate, social misfits’ which garners a smattering of laughter from the audience.
My initial response to this was to write a long diatribe about culture, our place in it, about gatekeepers, and about how frustrating these arguments were. But I think they’ve been done to death and don’t serve to further any useful conversation on games and their place in culture at all.
So instead, I thought I’d draw some attention to some examples of those misfits, because this video reminded me that where we have Gideon Haigh, we also have Tom Bissell or John Lancaster or Nicholson Baker , where we have Lynden Barber, we also have Phillip French, where we have Mike Newell, we also have Guillermo Del Toro, and for every criticism of games as limiting, there is another on their possibility. All, no doubt articulated by ‘proverbially dull, inarticulate, social misfits.’
It’s a constant source of surprise to me that people engaged in culture, steeped in it, who must have an awareness and deep curiosity of their own field seem unable to take the small step towards applying that to another.
In talking about games as art, a friend of mine says that ‘are games art?’ is the wrong question and it should be ‘what can games teach us about what art is?’ The question of are games part of culture is the same – ‘what can games teach us about what culture and creativity is?’