[This was published by game development portal Gamasutra last year, but I thought it might be interest to you lot, too. Jenkins is a clever bloke, and has some interesting things to say about games as a medium.]
As one of the foremost academic commentators on contemporary media Henry Jenkins has made a major impact on discussions surrounding games and their place in our culture. His ideas suggest that by examining how people appropriate and recombine different media we learn much about the nature of those media forms within contemporary society. This, as well as much of Jenkins other work, focuses on the nature of interactivity, and that often means video games. He is an MIT professor, a contributor and speaker at media conferences, and an influential author. His latest book, Convergence Culture, articulates Jenkins’ most recent theories of how individuals interact with modern media.
Jim: What games do you regular play yourself? Are there any games you recommend to other people? (Do these games coincide?)
Henry Jenkins: As a gamer, my preferences tend to run towards casual and puzzle games (especially classics such as Tetris, Snood, and Super Collapse), simulation games (anything by Will Wright), and the classic sidescrollers (Shigeru Miyamoto’s games were my first love). The more I get sucked into the world of games research, ironically enough, the less time I get to play games. These days, I am most likely to end up playing Guitar Hero, which is a favorite in the graduate student lounge here. I’m not particularly good at it, which means that students often want to play against me. Getting your head handed to you by one of your students is payback for all of the demands I make on them in the classroom.
Jim: I first encountered your work with the ‘Eight Myths Debunked‘ piece. Do you think any of those myths are likely to be dispelled any time soon?
HJ: Those of us who care about games are going to be confronting these particular myths for some time to come. Each myth is very deeply rooted in our culture and has become almost the established wisdom among those people who are not themselves gamers and have very little exposure to the medium. They are the things you think you know when you know nothing else about games and that makes them especially hard to combat. Keep in mind as well that there are all kinds of groups and individuals who have a vested interest in spreading fear and ignorance. They play upon these misconceptions and regularly reinforce them through their comments in the press.
Some of these issues are cyclical: they get battled back, there is a lull, and then some new activist emerges to exploit the ignorance and try once again to push through laws or score legal victories off of many of these issues. You don’t hear much these days from David Grossman; Jack Thompson is the current poster child for this perspective, but I have the feeling that he will soon fade from view, and someone else will rise up to take his place. Each has depended upon a slightly different inflection of these myths and so we will see these things get reconfigured once again. Long term, some of these myths will be harder to sustain as more and more of the kids who grew up playing Super Mario Brothers step into adult roles as first time parents, starting teachers, members of the work force, staffers for government agencies, and journalists.
Much, much more after the hop. I mean loads.
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