Video Games

Why Grand Theft Auto V is the new Great Expectations: Nick Gillespie in Time

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I've got a new column up at Time.com. Here's the start of it:

If there were any lingering questions as to whether video games are the defining popular art form of the 21st century, this week's release of Grand Theft Auto V should put them all to rest. The massive sales, growing popularity and – most of all – generally uninformed attacks on video games as morally suspect perfectly parallel the rise to cultural dominance of once-derided forms of creative expression such as movies and the novel….

Let's cut to the "generally uninformed attacks on video games":

Ed Schultz…denounced Grand Theft Auto V on his MSNBC show by declaring, "If you're a parent and you allow your son or daughter to watch this [sic] – even if they're beyond 18-years-old, you're a lousy parent." Schultz compounds his error of referring to the game as if it was a movie by then calling it "the latest Xbox 360," confusing a console with a particular title.

Ironically – and tellingly – people such as Schultz are repeating the same sorts of criticisms that dog all forms of popular culture in their early stages of developments. As novels became increasingly available to non-aristocratic readers in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, they were frequently criticized for impairing the morals of their then-mostly female readers by allowing them to imagine themselves in new and exciting worlds. Movies, comic books, and rock and roll – which like novels are often drenched in sex and violence – came in for exactly the same opprobrium. What good can come of allowing large numbers of people to imagine themselves transgressing conventional morality and playing different social roles for themelves, critics have asked for centuries.

Read the whole thing for why I think video games ranging from GTAV to Call of Duty to Minecraft "are the perfect medium for a digital, networked, globalized age in which previously unimaginable social and technological developments have opened up human possibilities that are intoxicatingly invigorating and terrifyingly anxiety-inducing."