It’s coming around again. You can feel it. Video games seem to ebb and flow within the public imagination — sometimes pilloried, sometimes praised, sometimes forgotten and made invisible. Every time video games come into focus, however, there’s a strange tension between a need to represent video games as a thing that people undeniably do and enjoy, and a need to fit into previously established media narratives of what video games might mean.
Consider two recent examples. On Friday night, ABC TV’s Catalyst ran a story about video-game addiction. It was, for the most part, unsurprising. It had slow-motion montages of video games set to scary music. It had emotive language: “the playgrounds of our brave new cyber world”, with children “even now wiring their brains for future entrapment”. It had dramatic reconstructions of children being priggish to their parents while playing video games. It even had associate professor Doug Gentile, whom you might remember from a similar turn in an episode of Jo Frost: Extreme Parental Guidance.