Why We Need a Corporation for Public Gaming

The saccharine sweet family shows of the 50s and 60s gave way to harder biting social commentaries like All in the Family. In 1967, the same year that CBS television ended a 17-year blacklisting of folksinger Pete Seeger, President Johnson signed legislation to establish the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), asserting that “we have only begun to grasp the great promise of the medium and noting that noncommercial television was reaching only “a fraction of its potential audience — and a fraction of its potential worth. As part of the legislation, the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare was to launch major research on instructional television in the classroom. The $9 million investment in CPB in 1967 (about $47 million in today’s dollars) has grown to over $300 million in annual funding today. Unlike television, the meteoric rise of computer and video games over the past decade has gone largely unnoticed except by the digiteratti and cultural anthropologists cruising web zines and blogs. This may be because games are not a technology per se, but applications that slip into our lives on the backs of existing technologies, from computers, to televisions and cell phones. They are less hardware and more software. Like many mass culture phenomena, games are understood more on the basis of prevailing myths than reality. Few people realize that the average gamer is 30 years old, that over 40 percent are female, and that most adult gamers have been playing games for 12 years.

One reason myths shape public perceptions is because few universities have seen computer games as worthy of serious academic study, robbing the discourse around games of robust data on their use characteristics, effects, and potential value. There is, of course, the annual Congressional attack on the game world and its denizens, calling for more control of violent games and, like our TV-addicted forebearers, warning of dire consequences to mind and family. Politicians have conveniently made computer games a target of derision rather than a pedagogical ally or tool for public engagement.

The best kept secret in the world of computer and video games is the rise of a movement now in the thousands — of gamers dedicated to applying games to serious challenges such as education, training, medical treatment, or better government. The Serious Games movement is in many ways today’s equivalent of yesterday’s advocates for non-commercial, educational TV, who knew that the potential of the medium was unrealized and went far beyond pure entertainment. —David RejeskiWhy We Need a Corporation for Public Gaming (Serious Games Source)