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PAX Prime 2010: Warren Spector on Game Culture in the Mainstream

PAX Prime 2010: Warren Spector on Game Culture in the Mainstream

September 3, 2010 | By Mona Ibrahim

September 3, 2010 | By Mona Ibrahim
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Deus Ex and Disney Epic Mickey creator Warren Spector opened PAX Prime in Seattle, an empowering Gamasutra-attended keynote today, with a call for gamers to look beyond the celebration of geekdom so that the industry as a whole can move toward the mainstream.

After years of facing insecurity and rejection while striving for mainstream acceptance, Spector suggested that game culture has finally reached a 'Golden Age', noting: "Every medium that has lasted has gone through this. It’s gone through what we’re going through today.”

Not long ago, he suggested, game culture was largely a collection of adolescent males with a decidedly geeky tilt. Now we see people of all ages and walks of life, male and female, participating in this form of entertainment.

According to the Junction Point creative director, “now we don’t have a culture of gaming, we have many cultures.”

Game culture is becoming a mainstream medium, and the resentment many core gamers feel about this growth is misplaced, Spector posited.

The belief that casual games and casual gamers destroy the game culture experience hurts the industry by limiting it; allowing the medium to grow has inspired developers to create new systems.

Specifically, he noted to a packed crowd of game aficionados in the Seattle Convention Center: "We have to embrace that the world is catching onto us. Once you open Pandora’s Box, you can’t close it again, and I’m fine with that. Now more than ever it’s a good thing that mainstream is happening."

Moving on, Spector made it clear that this isn’t simply important. This isn’t just the evolution of the industry. It is vital for gamers to embrace the belief that games are a mainstream medium if the industry is to survive with the same protections granted other art forms.

The veteran game designer also reminded us November 2nd marks the date when the Supreme Court will determine the constitutionality of California’s 2005 violent video game bill. This bill, which is designed to prohibit minors from purchasing ‘violent video games’, is the first to be granted certiori by the Supreme Court.

The fact that the Supreme Court has elected to review the lower court’s ruling (which found the legislation unconstitutional) is unsettling to the industry at large. There is a certain amount of fear that the Supreme Court will overturn the lower court’s decision, Spector noted, and “November 2nd could be the start of a timeline where we’re the first entertainment medium denied first amendment protection.” This is a threat that the games industry needs to protect itself against, he argued.

Historically all entertainment mediums, from literature and print media to film and music, have faced similar censorship threats from legislative and cultural bodies. However, it is unusual for legislation that clearly impinges on a medium’s right to create non-obscene content to make it to the Supreme Court.

Perhaps it is because of this that Spector believes now is the time for gamers to embrace the mainstream. By becoming mainstream, games are able to achieve social acceptance and will cease being a source of creative contention. Like the film industry, it will eventually become “an art form worthy of study.”

The Epic Mickey developer finished his keynote with a set of challenges for gamers and the entertainment industry in general. Gamers are asked to demand more from games and more from the gaming experience.

In turn, Developers are asked to “honor what makes us unique.” Games do not need to hold to the conventions of pen and paper role-playing. And publishers are asked to take chances and trust the great creative minds at their disposal.

Along the way, Spector challenged all of us to get over our inferiority complex. While the industry may be young and immature, it is a great industry worthy of respect, he concluded, declaring one simple fact: “Games are important.”


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