I think that this subject can be argued both in the positive and the negative ways, however I am definitely more on the side that video games have academic merit. Video games do have a place in contemporary post-secondary classroom content, maybe even in a number of places. Depending on the context in which they are studied, video games could be found in multiple disciplines.
Perhaps the most obvious one to the naked eye is fine arts. Many of today’s video games are designed extremely thoughtfully down to every last feature and facet. More recent developments in video game industry graphics have created incredibly detailed and complex effects that have revolutionized visual expression in games. I also think that video games can be discussed in any classroom that refers to pop culture content. From a psychological or sociological perspective we could examine the kind of impact video games have on individuals, on our society as a whole, as well as the stigmas and stereotypes that surround the people who play them. The study of video games could also involve more scientific disciplines such as math or physics, as they are filled with calculated movements and algorithms that help to represent actions and movements from the real world.
I think those who are on the negative side of this argument are perhaps the same people who had a hard time considering electronic literature as “literature”, as electronic literature contains similar features to that of a video game, such as visuals and interactive elements. Instead of reading text on a page, text is now on a screen with a variety of different engaging factors; some are safe and controlled, while others take you for an intense visual ride. However, video games also have many similarities to literature in the traditional sense as well.
Like books, video games can take us into another world, whether it is for pure leisure, or for escape, or to achieve some sort of goal or outcome by the end. In the world of a book however, we get to exercise the creativity within our imaginations a lot more so, while the visual content of a video game is already presented for us. As was shown in today’s class notes, courtesy of Marie-Laure Ryan, “Narrative consists of a world (setting), populated by individuals (characters), who participate in actions and happenings (events, plot), through which they undergo change (temporal dimension)”. Video games contain all of these elements as well, some to a greater degree than others. Like literature in the traditional sense, the creator, whether it is a single person or a team of people, determines the outcome for the narrative in the early stages of development, well before the user/reader comes into contact with it. In video games, the ultimate goal or challenge for the majority of the time is to move through the game on a narrative continuum until completion, but it is the skill of the player that determines whether or not you reach the end. Unlike most traditional literature, more recent video games often give the user different opportunities to follow different paths in order to reach that final destination.
If we ignore video games as a relevant subject to be studied, we could be turning our backs on an entire realm of story telling that is not expressed in “traditional” academia. At the same time, if there is an integration with academic study on the impacts and opportunities of this new media, think of the amazing games that could be developed!