The folks at Wired asked me to write a piece for the recent themed issue on video games. As an avid gamer, as well as a fan of historical analogy, I agreed, and duly delivered a pile of historical quotes in which previous new art forms (novels, waltzing, rock’n’roll) were denounced in much the same language that is being used to denounce video games today. I started down this path with my “Breeding Evil?” cover story in The Economist last summer, which noted one of the earliest examples of this trend, namely Socrates’ suspicion (at least according to Plato) of written texts, which he deemed inferior to oral arguments on the grounds that books are insufficiently interactive. Anyhow, the piece I originally wrote for Wired had a much longer introduction, and contained several more historical quotes, so given the enthusiastic reaction this article has prompted — it’s been widely linked to and has generated a lot of e-mail in response — I thought I ought to make the full version available. (It’s a txt file, because I can’t be bothered to mark it up.) Other reasons for publishing the full version are i) it provides all the sources and ii) because three academics — Henry Jenkins, Dmitri Williams and Edward Castronova — were very helpful in suggesting some of the sources for the quotes, but their names did not appear in the much boiled-down final version. Sorry, guys, and thanks for your help! So, here is the full version of “The Culture War”.
PS Oh, and if you like this, you’ll love Henry Jenkins’ essay, “Eight Myths About Video Games Debunked”; and given the various bizarre laws being proposed in the US at the moment, you might also appreciate Adam Thierer’s paper, “Fact and Fiction in the Debate over Video Game Regulation”.