The awards season brings to light two old gaming bugbears: namely the medium's lack of artistic credibility (in spite of our own industry awards) and its ability to spur unique controversy when dealing with delicate subjects (hence Super Columbine Massacre RPG being pulled from the Slamdance Festival). For now it seems the only games being taken seriously are the educational training simulations which form the one success story of the week. I wonder when games will be allowed to be serious without necessarily labelled as 'serious games'.

  • Hot-button awards (Vidgame biz twitchy on recognition)
    With Oscars having just been handed out for another year, it seems appropriate enough to reflect on the games industry's lack of a dominant, universally recognised awards ceremony. While no one seriously expects gaming to have anything on a par with the Academy Awards, a well respected and widely known award would almost certainly be one way to boost the medium's reputation for anyone who still thinks that all games are created equal, and primarily defined by their content and genre rather than any sense of quality. Perhaps the best example of gaming awards I know of are those given by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), simply because the BAFTAs are already established as reputable awards for film and television, and so games with the same accolade are seen to benefit from an analogous level of recognition which the average non-gamer can appreciate. Such credibility may be entirely leeched and undeserved, but the higher profile gaming awards become, and the more likely we are to find quality games getting the recognition they deserve, sales of such titles rising and more adventurous publishers willing to take a risk on something that looks unique or innovative enough to be award-worthy.
  • Columbine Game Kicked From Competition
    Last year's stupidly titled Super Columbine Massacre RPG was always an unexpected inclusion for the Slamdance Festival's Guerilla Gamemaker Competition, simply because it only received a nomination (as anyone who has played it will testify) due to its provocative subject matter and is now being pulled on the same grounds. It is interesting that it takes a controversial videogame to push the sponsors into action (threatening to withraw their sponsorship), with no movie having been pulled in such a way throughout the festival's 13-year history. A case of double-standards? Of course it is. With many still unable to reconcile adult and unsettling content with the idea of playing a game for entertainment, and others still unable to shake the image of videogames as a pastime for minors, it looks like there is a long road to equality and mutual respect left even on the indie scene.

  • £7 million Serious Games Institute to open in Coventry
    Close to home this one, not only literally (I live a stone's throw from the concrete jungle that is Coventry) but also since the company I work for is one of the few commercial game developers to have a dedicated serious games department. 'Serious games' is a blanket term used to describe games developed solely for practical or educational purposes. Many government organizations are coming to realize that videogames are absolutely not pointless when conceived from the beginning as training or teaching tools. In the last few weeks I've ran stories about gaming applications used as virtual treatment for US troops coming home from Iraq and helping to educate the public on world issues such as famine, and while serious games are more traditionally applied for specific training purposes, there seems to be a general momentum right now towards accepting game simulations as genuinely beneficial to society. And that is as likely to improve public perception of the medium as much as any game award.
  • Why Sony is Right
    It came to light recently that Sony would not be offering the same PS2 hardware emulation in EU PS3s as it is to those produced for North America and Japan, and instead software emulation would support a much lower percentage of PS2 games in the EU machines. This article is a defense of Sony's decision from a business point of view, and while I agree that most gamers tend not to play old games on newer systems, the fact is that PS2s were hardly built to last. Many people I know will want to see the PS3 as an upgrade and replacement for their last-legs PS2, upon which they can play the many games they have bought over the last half-decade (which, incidentally, will not age as dramatically as PSOne titles did last generation).

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