A treatise on the current and future state of video games.
In his debut, Prospect magazine arts and books editor Chatfield explores topics ranging from the culturally pervasive influence of video games throughout the world to the ways in which games offer unprecedented opportunities for modeling social and economic behavior. That video games have become big business—surpassing even movies in terms of total revenue—is no surprise. What is surprising is the level of depth and complexity offered by games like the massively popular World of Warcraft, in which its more than 12 million subscribers create “avatars” of themselves and explore a medieval fantasy world in a quest to improve their characters’ abilities while simultaneously building real-life social networks (and facilitating many of the aforementioned behavioral studies). Chatfield spends considerable time effectively debunking commonly held conceptions that violent video games beget violence and that immersive games create addiction problems, but he introduces new issues to consider, including the complicated question of legal ownership in a virtual environment and the growing trend of buying and selling virtual goods—an industry estimated to be worth billions of dollars annually and currently unregulated (and untaxed) by any governing body. The author, an unapologetic gaming advocate, strives to inject the narrative with nuance, but it’s clear that his eye is on the medium’s future potential and gaming’s inevitable continued growth. His insights and conclusions are sensible, though the book succeeds far better when Chatfield chronicles the effectiveness of games as educational tools or the myriad technological breakthroughs spurred by the gaming industry than when he veers off on philosophical tangents about the importance of gaming to society.
Less fun than mashing buttons, but a worthy opening salvo in what is likely to be a burgeoning field of academia.