If you’ve ever received the dismissive glare of your mother-in-law as you talk about the mad exploits of Master Chief or Marcus Fenix the you know that there is a major awareness gap in America that lies somewhere between 40 and 50 years of age. On one side of that line are folks for whom video games are a common and integrated part of their lives. On the other side are folks who saw a 2600 a while back and ‘were not impressed.’ For the most part, the people in charge of the mainstream media and the capital allocation structures are all on the ‘not impressed’ side of the equation.

Those people are wrong.

masterCheifLike it or not video games are now THE primary cultural medium by measure of demographics, market share, or mind share. If we look at the three main cultural mediums today (books, film, video games) you will find that people under 30 are more likely to know details about Lara Croft than Indiana Jones. Going farther, Robinson Crusoe is totally unknown.  A recent study showed that more people now play video games than watch movies (link) and movies long ago overshadowed books.

I’m not suggesting that either books or movies are o their way out. Other folks have suggested as much but I think that’s way off the mark. What I am suggesting, and what I’ve been saying for a long time now, is that the blind-spot I’ve seen in so many folks over a certain age will lead them to neglect the most potent cultural agent of the day and to pass on one of the most explosive business niche’s in the last 20 years. This is particularly important for anybody who writes their mission statement to include cultural influence. Whatever your specific cultural message is meant to convey, be it PETA, MoveOn.Org, or Zondervan, video games are the channel that your audience is tuned in to. Be there or be overshadowed by the people who are.

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3 Comments
  1. Go John! Preach it!
    That is totally what I’m talking about!

  2. For some time now I’ve thought of video games not only as one of the most mainstream cultural mediums, but also as the most natural evolution of storytelling.

    Looking back at the most ancient forms of storytelling, we have the visual (cave paintings, murals, etc.) and the audible (oral tradition). Combining the two, we have movies. But the third core component of storytelling is, I believe, experiential. Sitting around the campfire, hearing grandpa pass down the clan’s history involved the listener by making them a part of the grand tale he was weaving. Seeing those cave paintings evoked empathy in the guy from the cave next door, because he knew exactly what x_x meant, and thus knew to avoid ^(‘v’)^ when he was looking for dinner. (A crude example, but I think you get the point.) So it’s this experience, this placing yourself in the story, that is also a key component of storytelling I think, allowing the audience to more fully understand the meaning you are trying to convey. And video games do that, which is why I think they are important.

  3. DonnaT

    Okay, so now that I know I’m on the “other side of the line” with all the other Pong enthsiasts in the nursing home, I’m depending on you to educate me. After all, there’s an untapped market here in the after 50’s crowd…we are even having national Wii bowling competitions…

    So, I’ll stay tuned to your blog and maybe this old dog will learn something new. Aarp, Aarp!

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