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On video games and cultural relevancy...

On video games and cultural relevancy...

April 12, 2013 | By Kris Graft

"We are in the midst of the most important and influential movement in video games in a decade, if not ever."
- Adam Saltsman, developer behind Canabalt and Hundreds, on the cultural shifts that are happening in video games today, in a piece on Polygon.

Adam Saltsman is an accomplished, thoughtful game designer, and the creator of games like Canabalt and Hundreds. But he's been thinking beyond just game design and development -- he's been thinking about games' place in culture and society.

And so have other people. Notably, Gamasutra's own Leigh Alexander, veteran designer Raph Koster and indie developer and academic Robert Yang have explored this discussion around what games are, the role of the creator and what criticism really stands for.

This discussion is part of a movement, says Saltsman, towards more inclusiveness -- bringing more people with varied backgrounds into the fold, making game creation welcoming to all. New people making games mean new experiences and hopefully, new players and a broader place in our culture.

But he says that increased cultural relevancy of games is being hampered by an undercurrent of dismissiveness -- a sort of denial of others' viewpoints that's derived from what Saltsman calls "our real empathy problem."

"We are in the midst of the most important and influential movement in video games in a decade, if not ever -- a movement that is vital to the ongoing cultural relevancy and maturation of our medium -- and almost everyone involved in the conversation is, intentionally or otherwise, looking for ways to ignore everyone else," he writes. "We can do better than this, and we have to, in order to make progress.

"Instead of figuring out some reason why this person we disagree with shouldn't even be at the table, we should be trying to figure out why they so badly want to be part of this discussion. We will always, always, always learn more from people with whom we disagree than from our own personal echo chamber, as safe and comfortable as that place may be."

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