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When Do Video Games Become Virtual Worlds?

What with the music biz on the skids, the economy in general iffy at best, it is remarkable how well video games are doing. Maybe it will be games and NOT music and movies that will finally drive broadband demand. Verlyn Klinkenborg writes in the NY Times:

    It’s no wonder that this season marks another pinnacle in video game revenues, on the order of $10 billion in 2002. The degree of realism and fantasy – and demented irony – in video games has never been higher. But ever since the days, 20-some years ago, when the Atari 2600 took over living rooms across the country, Americans have been crazy for video games. Just how crazy is captured by a few numbers. Some 145 million Americans now play video games regularly, in arcades, on personal computers or on so-called next generation consoles like Sony’s PlayStation 2, Nintendo’s GameCube or Microsoft’s Xbox. According to industry analysts, the average age of a modern gamer is 28, and slightly more than half of them are men. These numbers are only likely to grow larger as the world of video games moves online.

    ….if you’ve played any of the new-generation video games – titles like “Splinter Cell” or “Blinx the Time Sweeper” or almost anything else released in the past year or two – you quickly realize that they create a sense of perceptual reality that is far more intense than anything the movies offer. No matter how much a movie absorbs you, you never really break the plane of the movie screen. But if they’re about anything, video games now are about breaking the plane, taking the player into a world whose dimensions you can feel, almost as if they were real, when you close your eyes. Gamers are forever talking about the intricacies of those worlds, the qualities of the game-play, the subtleties of the rendering, the raw imagination on display. But what underlies it all is that visceral sense of having walked through a door into another universe.

Insert complaint here about not really needing other worlds to distract us from this one, but honestly, I’m not that concerned about it.

    And that, of course, is precisely what troubles critics of video games. A good number of the doors you walk through lead to mayhem of the worst kind, to what the Entertainment Software Rating Board, which rates each game, calls “Animated Blood” or “Gore” or “Strong Sexual Content.” These are universes where no one dies a natural death, where limbs fly and heads erupt, and the women – well-armed heroines, many of them – are drawn by men who have mastered the art of what the industry calls “breast physics.” No game is inherently amoral, because the play of the game imposes its own self-contained rules on how behavior is rewarded. But a game like “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City” or the notorious “BMX XXX” certainly qualifies as amoral by any real-world standards.

About Eric Olsen

Career media professional and serial entrepreneur Eric Olsen flung himself into the paranormal world in 2012, creating the America's Most Haunted brand and co-authoring the award-winning America's Most Haunted book, published by Berkley/Penguin in Sept, 2014. Olsen is co-host of the nationally syndicated broadcast and Internet radio talk show After Hours AM; his entertaining and informative America's Most Haunted website and social media outlets are must-reads: [email protected], Facebook.com/amhaunted, Pinterest America's Most Haunted. Olsen is also guitarist/singer for popular and wildly eclectic Cleveland cover band The Props.

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