Classifying Video Games in the News: Tech or Entertainment?

I was browsing BBC News and noticed – not for the first time – that what little video game news they cover is filed under the technology section of their site. Now, I don’t think that the BBC should massively increase their coverage of video games – there are far better sources around that can and do cover that more effectively – but I think a reclassification is in order and that these articles really belong under entertainment and arts.

As video games moves inexorably further into the mainstream consciousness, it becomes harder and harder to justify defining the entire medium merely by the technology platform on which it runs. By the same logic that puts video games into the technology section, surely films belong there too. They are captured using cameras, increasingly manipulated using computers and played on bespoke devices such as DVD players or online streaming services. The same goes for music, particularly these days where acoustic recordings are increasingly rare. As for books, do we put them into the science and environment section to reflect their reliance on dead trees?

The BBC are hardly alone. A cursory glance at two other major news sources – Sky News and the Huffington Post – both reveal the same setup for reporting video game news. It seems to be pretty standard. Even the Guardian, one of the better, more clued-in mainstream publications that cover gaming follow this same pattern.

On the BBC’s part, I think this is a legacy of their original involvement in computers and video games from the BBC Micro days. They saw that system, first and foremost, as an exploration of the new technology of personal computing and games were just one part of that. The Micro was seen as an educational tool and it took longer to develop an ecosystem for games on that system than it did for competitors like Sinclair Spectrum. The BBC, and perhaps Acorn itself, didn’t really get the appeal of games until they saw other companies embracing the idea and succeeding on the back of it. They were not early adopters, and the same philosophy probably applies here.

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I am not going to make the case here for video games as art, or for their effectiveness in storytelling, as that case had been made far better elsewhere, and repeatedly so. In my own experience, video games are a wonderful platform for storytelling, hence my continued attachment to the much neglected point-and-click adventure genre and my love of cRPGs.

Perhaps as young journalists who really grew up playing these games advance into positions of editorial influence, we will see a shift in attitudes in the same way that generations past saw the perception of film evolve from being seen as a technological endeavour to acceptance as a legitimate artform.