Games and the Digital Age

There was an interesting discussion recently at Cologne Game Lab. It was about why games are/will be the main cultural medium of the digital era. There is an interesting analogy to movies being the main cultural medium of the industrial era. Walter Benjamin noticed in his famous “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” that movies mirror much better the reality of industrial life than theater does. In movies, a machine (the projector) dictates the speed and rhythm of perception. The audience is asked to follow along. Movies use techniques like montage to quickly cross time and space. Also, movies are produced industrially, for the masses. These are literally the characteristics of the industrial age – the industrial assembly line mass production and ability to travel much more rapidly. Benjamin argues that these characteristics make the medium of movies a much more adequate way to address the reality of life in the industrial age.

Applying the same idea to games seems to work out quite well. No matter if we work or play – both is often done at a computer. It’s often funny how people are calling one computer activity entertainment while calling a very similar activity work. With WoW gold farmers there are even real jobs you can perform in game worlds. The increasing interconnectivity of everyday lives also taps into games. We have our Facebook friends in our games and games that have their own social networks built-in.

I watched some pro-level StarCraft II matches recently. I was amazed by the incredible abilities of those players. Perhaps the most impressive one is their ability to multi-task. It’s something our brains are not really well adopted to and it’s something that may be the most useful skill in the digital age. On a daily basis we are bombarded with thousands of tasks and problems that all demand our attention seemingly at the same time. The skills the players train are exactly the skills the digital culture requires from us – just taken to the extreme and focused on a very specific system.

The only problem is that moves used this similarity to actually make statements about life and the modern times. Except from some notable exceptions, games didn’t manage to seize this opportunity yet.

Krystian Majewski

Krystian Majewski was born in Warsaw and studied design at Köln International School of Design. Before, he was working on a mid-size console project for NEON Studios in Frankfurt. He helped establish a Master course in Game Design and Research at the Cologne Game Lab. Today he teaches Game Design at various institutions and develops independent games.

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The Game Design Scrapbook is a second blog of group of three game designers from Germany. On our first blog, Game Design Reviews we describe some games we played and point out various interesting details. Unfortunately, we found out that we also need some place to collect quick and dirty ideas that pop into our minds. Hence, welcome to Game Design Scrapbook. You will encounter wild, random rantings. Many of then incoherent. Some of them maybe even in German. If you don't like it, you might enjoy Game Design Reviews more.


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