Against the digital games divide

Here is something that I will be presenting in the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health next week: a one page comment paper in Finnish from the game studies point of view to the ongoing discussion about children, youth and interactive media: Kannanotto 12.12.2007 STM:n työkokoukseen. My main points in English are:

  • Digital culture and games are currently unevenly distributed in our society in a manner which is likely to put them under suspicion, basically because lack of real knowledge (E.g. gameplay experience is often claimed to be more emotionally immersive than e.g. a novel or a movie, whereas according to our research, children actually talk mostly about immersion into challenge or action in games, and it is books and movies that can have really powerful “emotional effects”.)
  • Children have adventures and engaging experiences with games, and in our 2004 interviews they would had liked to play with their parents, whereas the parents mostly reported being uninterested, or even hostile towards digital games. The conclusion is that we need particularly adult oriented new media education and games literacy education in our society.
  • The positive promises of gaming include their capacity to cultivate skills of problem-solving and team-work, and to help growing into active individuals in a future society that requires that kind of skills and attitudes. It is essential to see in time the dangers of digital games divide and to stop it growing into a serious rift between digital and non-digital generations.
  • According to our recent study, a typical digital game player in Finland currently is a 37 year old man or woman who plays less than two hours per week in their computer, most likely a digital version of Solitaire. It appears that while many and diverse forms of games are being produced, most of digital games do not meet the interests of middle-aged and elder people, who remain focused on traditional (non-digital) games cultures. Therefore digital games culture requires similar kind of support, educational efforts and critical attention as book culture and cinema culture currently receives. This is the only way towards a situation where more ethically aware and artistically mature games will also have commercial opportunities of success.
  • Many so-called facts and statistics about games and Internet remain unreliable, and research of this area is based on various temporary projects. This field, however, is so broad and so important that that we sorely need at least one center of Internet and games research in Finland that would have opportunities for doing longitudinal research and paying sustained attention to this expanding field.

Author: frans

Professor of Information Studies and Interactive Media, esp. Digital Culture and Game Studies in the Tampere University, Finland.

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