From the economic point of view, this was the year video games overtook music and video, combined. As a rule, economic shifts of this kind take a while to register on the cultural seismometer; and indeed, from the broader cultural point of view, video games barely exist.
There is no other medium that produces so pure a cultural segregation as video games, so clean-cut a division between the audience and the non-audience. Video games have people who play them, and a wider public for whom they simply don’t exist. Their invisibility is interesting in itself, and also allows interesting things to happen in games under the cultural radar.
A common criticism of video games made by non-gamers is that they are pointless and escapist, but a more valid observation might be that the bulk of games are nowhere near escapist enough.
The trouble with these games – the majority of them – isn’t that they are maladapted to the real world, it’s that they’re all too well adapted. The people who play them move from an education, much of it spent in front of a computer screen, full of competitive, repetitive, quantifiable, measured progress towards goals determined by others, to a work life, much of it spent in front of a computer screen, full of competitive, repetitive, quantifiable, measured progress towards goals determined by others, and for recreation sit in front of a computer screen and play games full of competitive, repetitive, quantifiable, measured progress towards goals determined by others. Most video games aren’t nearly irresponsible enough.
If I had to name one high-cultural notion that had died in my adult lifetime, it would be the idea that difficulty is artistically desirable.