Behind the Code – An Alternative view on video games

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I’ve always liked comics and games, as a kid I read 2000AD and saw the birth of the video games industry. I’m lucky enough be part of a generation to see the growth of Anime, classic cell animation and the birth of computer graphics as both a media and art form. Nothing much has changed as I race towards middle age with my breakfast still being taken up by the funny pages, only I don’t need to wrestle my dad for the paper and bookmarks mean less digging to find the right page.

One of my favourite webcomics is Scott Kurtz’ PVPonline, but seeing the edition that turned up last week I was saddened. Before getting into the heady world of writing for fun and profit I used to work in the Games Industry as a Community Manager and the sentiment expressed by Brent in the last cell that “Every other video game ever…” involves the wholesale slaughter of monsters or humans, while a popular mainstream view of video games, is more than a little unfair. Now, before going further, I am not saying that Video games do not contain violence, some do, but to judge an entire medium on the basis of one genre is more than a little harsh. It would be the same as judging the whole contents of a library by walking in picking up the first book you found and judging the content of all literary history on the basis of Fifty Shades of Grey or The Basics of MacroEconomic Theory. Alternatively you could view it like judging the whole of TV & Film on the basis of accidentally watching Lesbian Vampire Killers or Die Hard. Video games as a medium contains any number of different styles and genres and if you think it’s all AKs and Angry Birds you’re in for a surprise.

Similarly with shows like the IT Crowd and Big Bang Theory you could be forgiven for seeing anyone who plays games, or even those who make games as lonely, socially awkward, male, and addicted to fantasy violence (Although, to be honest, if you’re reading this, are under 40 and own a mobile phone I’m likely preaching to the choir here); while the truth is that most people play a video game of some sort there is an important point to be made here, the reason that people most associate Video Games with First Person Shooters like Call of Duty is because they are the ones that get reported in the mainstream media, get the most marketing and as such tend to make the most money and tend to appeal to a particular demographic who happen to have a fair bit of disposable income. Which then encourages investors to invest in similar games.The same thing happens with Hollywood Blockbusters, popular TV Shows, and music. The difference being that if you handed a child a copy of Hustler or a DVD of Chasey Lain’s greatest hits people would think you’re insane, evil or just have you arrested. Do the video game equivalent and there has been a tendency (particularly with certain sections of politics & the media) to blame the industry (it’s worth noting a similar thing happened to comic books in the US during the 1950s where all comics were considered to be for kids putting back the development of an art form, that gave us the likes of Sandman & the Watchmen, for decades).

Video games can do amazing things in helping us learn, interact, give hope, freedom, fun and tell us stories in so many ways. When a film, book or song gets releases we want to know all about the actors, writers, directors, musicians and producers. What I would like to do is take a journey into games, introduce you to titles you may not know, how some of these wonders get made, some of the amazing people involved, how to keep yourself safe online and share some insights into what 40 years ago was a dream and has become an active and positive part of all our lives.

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