Chapter 1 - Videogames: A Way to Change Communication Languages
In the last decade, video games have gone from being considered entertainment to also being classified as an effective means of communication. This chapter will examine the reasons why videogames connect with youth, becoming captivating and attractive to them. From the academic standpoint, video games are interactive communications media that influence factors susceptible to analysis from the perspective of various scientific disciplines.
However, the potential link with young people is understood as a cultural product born in a particular context and society and with specific purposes. Similarly, the technologies implied in types of video games feed a cultural industry that not only entertains the user, but also conveys a series of cultural and ideological values. the game is considered a mass medium; it “transmits” and expresses ideas and wishes, building a world in which the player and his or her environment (virtual and physical) communicate. Highlighting the communicative potential of video games requires analyzing them from three perspectives: as narratives, as games (recreational component) and as a cultural product.
The videogame history and industry has been marked first by the evolution of technology and, secondly, by a different type of leisure consumption promising, since its inception, a dual economic and cultural relevance.
On the eve of the fiftieth anniversary of the first home game console’s appearance, we cannot forget that the birth of video games dates back to the 1940s. Although this story is not without nuances, two aspects have been observed that have shaped their birth and expansion. On one hand, in their early history, video games were associated with the development of electronic games appearing with the first computers. In this regard, the Tennis for Two game developed by William Higginbotham in 1958 is considered by many the first video game in history. It was followed later by milestone-marking computer games such as Spacewar in 1961, and, almost without knowing it, opened the way for the establishment of recreational (and thus commercial) arcade machines in the 1970s (Lopez, 2006), with legendary titles like Computer Space (1971) or Pong (1972), among others.
While this first line of development would mark the way for a new model of social video game consumption in leisure environments outside the home, the second aspect of video game history was marked by substantial interest in bringing computer games into households with the creation of the first consoles. This interest was responding to the need for affordable access to a medium which, at that point, was only available through the purchase of computers that were prohibitively expensive and therefore accessible only to a few. In the late 1970s, access to the home videogame was popularized, democratizing domestic access to video games with the first home consoles (first generation) such as Magnavox Odyssey (1972). These were followed by the second generation, such as the popular Atari 2600, Atari VCS, also known as “Video Computer System” (1977).
Without a doubt, the decade of the 1980's experienced the progressive expansion of home consoles as a means of digital entertainment, promoted by “Generation X.” They had lived through the arrival of technologies that revolutionized society (Walkmans, the arrival of the CD and the desktop PC). These devices’ cultural influence marked the millennial generation as well as those that followed.
Video games have become established as a cultural element and an industry and recently have begun to feed a professional market for both creators and players.
From Baby Boomers to Generation Z, the influence of video games, their culture and communication patterns have taken root in player communities and the general public. Not only are they postulated as leisure items, but they make up a rapidly expanding global market with percentages of more than substantial penetration.
It is undeniable that, with the Internet, video games are an everyday element for our youth, not mere entertainment, and are a familiar element that can and should be explored in the edu-communicative field.