Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Did you ever think . . .

I'm trying to think back to my earliest experiences with video games (at least at home). I remember my brother and I saved our money for an entire summer to get an Atari 2600. It came with space invaders (which just celebrated its 30th anniversary) and we bought asteroids at the same time, if memory serves.

When we got it home my mom plugged it in and played for about an hour--which was probably a sign that a broad market appeal system like the Wii has been long overdue.

Never in a million years did I think that the words gaming and industry would be mentioned in such close proximity, nor did I think that it would be such an enormous juggernaut that it would spawn such creations as gaming journalists. I mean seriously, who saw that coming when they were playing turtle graphics and load runner on their C-64s? The worst part is that I can see a niche market for gaming journalism that isn't being filled right now. I read these reviews for Wii games and I've still been burned twice. We got Mario and Sonic at the Olympic games and EA Sports Playground, both got decent reviews with people saying in general that "it would be great for kids." Not so much--my kids have played far more of Super Paper Mario (a game graciously handed down from a college age Uncle who didn't like it). And Rabbids 2--which also got good reviews and which the kids loved far longer than I would have expected. My daughter in fact just the other night did a disturbingly spot on rendition of "funky town" in the Rabbid's heavily modulated and high pitched voice. So hey, they were 1 for 3. A "gaming journalist" that could actually do a decent review for games from a kid's perspective would be fantastic because right now I think they're maybe a bit too knowledgeable and possibly a little jaded.

A long digression away from may main point though--this industry is huge. In a day and age when the supposedly "recession proof" Starbucks is decommissioning some 600 stores (although to be fair I swear 599 of those are stacked up on a single street corner in Seattle). The Video Game industry is going strong. More than strong. It's beating DVD sales like a tired dog, it's even dictating some of what happens in movies. Raise your hand if you thought a 1980s arcade game would be made into a movie. I've seen the imdb listing for Spy Hunter and I'm still not convinced I should put mine up.

I would classify myself as a gamer. I've always played something, but kept to PC games (mostly real-time strategy and first person shooters). I've owned a total of three consoles in my life: The Atari 2600; A Sega Genesis (I know, I know); and now a Wii. I feel like I've blinked and a whole new economy has grown up overnight.

This has got to be a good time to be involved in gaming research (thanks be to Brett Shelton and Mary Ann Parlin who just did the heavy lifting on a DOEd grant for game design using problem based learning--keep your fingers crossed).