A panel of politicians, cultural commentators, industry figures and (non-gaming) journalists discussed “What’s the point of videogames?” for just over an hour at London’s British Film Institute (BFI) on Wednesday evening. Such an open question might have relegated the debate itself topointlessness, and while it was fairly inconsequential, a few interesting points were made.
The event was to promote the 2012 GameCity Prize awarded, at the GameCity festival in Nottingham, to a game that ‘demonstrates what’s brilliant and interesting’ about the form. Minecraft won last year. The prize sees itself as the videogame equivalent of major awards in otherarts-the Turner, the Booker-which sort of explains the makeup of the panel.
GameCity’s founder Iain Simons introduced the talk by admitting that the launch of the Prize’s 2012 site had hit a snag because the BFI’s web filter blocked anything with ‘game’ in its URL. This segued nicely into a discussion about the position of videogames within the rest of culture, and otherfamiliar themes were duly mused upon: violence, addiction, the role of games in education.
Ian Livingstone risked retreading old ground with the movie industry analogy (i.e. it’s still early days). MP Tom Watson called games a ‘cultural iceberg’. But perhaps most interestingly, Lord David Puttnam observed that the ‘subtext of many games is about ‘what you can get away with’, and asked, ‘Are games creating a society we want to live in?’ To which, like to the title of the debate, nobody really had an answer.