Are video games a form of play or entertainment? As importantly; does it make a difference
what video games are? If it does, does
it have something to say to all of us who engage in play and entertainment?
I ask this question because of an interview in the New York Times by Chris Suellentrop with Shigeru Miyamoto,
the man who helped launch modern video game play. He is the father of Mario, Donkey Kong,
Legend of Zelda, Wii, Wii U and other Nintendo creations. Here is what Miyamoto said:
is an unpredictable industry. Entertainment is this thing that moves around
from place to place. You have a theme park like Disneyland, and that’s a form
of entertainment. And at the same time you have small, downloadable software
for your smartphone that you can play, and that’s entertainment. Nintendo’s
stance, over all, is that we don’t know where entertainment will take us next."
Miyamoto uses the word "entertainment" five times in four sentences to describe the industry he is in. It’s funny but I have always seen theme parks,
downloadable software for smartphones and, yes, video games, as forms of
play and not entertainment. Why, because unlike movies or
television, they are interactive and not passive. When you play, the end user shapes his or her
own experience. When you are
entertained, the viewer can do no more than react to what they are given. With entertainment the creator rules; with
play the player predominates.
By seeing video games as part of the entertainment
industry, Miyamoto sees entertainment as competition. The traditional toy industry, however, sees
entertainment as a launching pad for play and therefore collaborative. Just think of how many of today’s traditional
toys and games are licensed tie-in to a television show or a movie.
Is Miyamoto’s world view shared by others in the video
game industry and if so does it set up a competitive barrier between video game
producers and those who make movies and television? Conversely, are some in the toy industry naïve
in not recognizing that they are competing with
entertainment outlets for
consumer dollars? Are there creative and
monetary strategies and synergies not taking place because of the either
Please let us know what you think?