Proverbially dull, inarticulate, social misfits.

Earlier today, I watched the below video from The Wheeler Centre in which Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows, discusses how digital and the internet is ‘rewiring our brains’.  I agree with much of what he says with regards to the ‘what’ of this rewiring and I don’t know enough about it to refute his predicted outcomes, but then, at around the 11:10 mark, Gideon Haigh makes a cheap joke that gamers are ‘proverbially dull, inarticulate, social misfits’ which garners a smattering of laughter from the audience.

My initial response to this was to write a long diatribe about culture, our place in it, about gatekeepers, and about how frustrating these arguments were.  But I think they’ve been done to death and don’t serve to further any useful conversation on games and their place in culture at all.

So instead, I thought I’d draw some attention to some examples of those misfits, because this video reminded me that where we have Gideon Haigh, we also have Tom Bissell or John Lancaster or Nicholson Baker , where we have Lynden Barber, we also have Phillip French, where we have Mike Newell, we also have Guillermo Del Toro, and for every criticism of games as limiting, there is another on their possibility.  All, no doubt articulated by ‘proverbially dull, inarticulate, social misfits.’

It’s a constant source of surprise to me that people engaged in culture, steeped in it, who must have an awareness and deep curiosity of their own field seem unable to take the small step towards applying that to another.

In talking about games as art, a friend of mine says that ‘are games art?’ is the wrong question and it should be ‘what can games teach us about what art is?’  The question of are games part of culture is the same – ‘what can games teach us about what culture and creativity is?’

2 thoughts on “Proverbially dull, inarticulate, social misfits.”

  1. Gideon Haigh heard what he wanted to hear in Nicholas Carr’s speech, and unfortunately I think that’s a side-effect whenever people encounter ideas like this.

    Another good way to phrase the game/art question (and I’ve forgotten where I read this), as a more direct rebuttal to the Ebert argument, is ‘could games be used to make art?’ The answer to which is patently obvious and leads to more interesting places.

    To be honest I’m a bit wary of ‘what can games teach us about what art is?’, because it leads us directly back to a debate about the nature of art – surely one of the least productive discussions it’s possible to have. Culture and creativity are far more useful topics, despite being probably the two elements that make up art!

    • Good call on reframing the question again as ‘could games be used to make art?’

      And I agree on the culture + creativity being far more useful topics. Hopefully I’ll get to return to those questions in my next few posts on IP & the language we’ve adopted to frame our creativity in games.


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