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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

How Gaming Got Its Bad Rap

Somehow, despite evidence to the contrary, games are still seen as the sole providence of teenage boys, at least by the mainstream media. I asked Williams why, and it just so happens he has done research on this as well.
In his research, titled "A Brief Social History of Game Play," Williams recounts that video games began as an adult pastime, with the earliest arcade machines appearing in bars and nightclubs. Even after coin-op games caught on outside dingy watering holes, they were patronized by a mix of ages and ethnicities, and weren't particularly viewed as kids' entertainment.
Crackdown on arcades

According to Williams, the mix of people to be found in arcades was unacceptable to conservatives. During this time, Ronald Reagan was making his White House bid, and games and arcades that contained them became the whipping boys for social ills. Reagan made cracking down on welfare mothers a central issue and "this political agenda (led) to frames about truancy, unsupervised children and the negative influences of electronic media — especially arcades — working as babysitters for unconscionable working mothers."

In the mid-'80s, the collapse of the video game industry virtually wiped games off the map. When Nintendo revived the hobby in the late 1980s, it marketed its machines as toys. That was necessary to get stores to carry the units, since the retail establishment still had a bad taste in its mouth over the video game collapse.

But marketing as a toy necessitated that the software be aimed at a younger age group, a strategy the Big N still hasn't fully outgrown. That solidified the perception in the minds of the public that games were kids' stuff. That focus on children, combined with the demonizing of games, drove away many of the adults who still enjoyed the hobby.
-- Inside Bay Area - How video games became the boogeyman over time

An excellent synopsis of just how gaming got into the frontlines of the culture war. I'm sure I'd have more to say but I'm knee deep in work right now.

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Anonymous said...

And now that gaming is started to catch up we have to manuever around... democrat moralists!? Shit man, assailed by both sides.

Josh said...

Crazy ain't it?

Illinois Democratic Governor Rod B picks up Reagan's Crusade

Kind of headline that makes an eyeball pop out.