Video games come of critical age

Our own Morgan Meis in The Smart Set:

Morgan DFW's essay collection A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again contains “E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction.” In that essay, Wallace wrote these momentous sentences:

Most scholars and critics who write about U.S. popular culture … seem both to take TV seriously and to suffer real pain over what they see. There's this well-known critical litany about television's vapidity, shallowness, and irrealism. The litany is often far cruder and triter than what the critics complain about, which I think is why most younger viewers find pro criticism of television far less interesting than pro television itself.

It would be difficult to overestimate the relief this sentence brought to many critics under the age of 40. It signaled that we had definitively turned the page on an era in which you had to go through the motions of holier-than-thou derision every time you wanted to discuss television or similar aspects of popular culture. Going through these motions had become painful and boring.

Wallace understood the huge role television plays in who we are and how we act. He proposed we take television seriously and do away with the knee-jerk scorn. Television, Wallace seemed to be saying, is beyond good and evil. It is both and neither. It is, simply, part of the structure of our experiences and any student of the human beast in his triumphs and foibles must pay attention to the medium.

A brief survey of how human beings in the developed world spend their time today will reveal that what is true about television is also true of video games. Everyone knows, by now, that these games are big business. Eleven billion dollars is, I'm told, quite a lot of money.

More here. [Photo of Morgan Meis by Stefany Anne Golberg.]