Video games: blessing or curse, asks new exhibition
LONDON – Scary monster or superhero?
A major new exhibition at London’s Science Museum on Friday pondered the history of video games — is the world’s fastest growing entertainment industry a blessing or a curse?
And while adults weighed up the pro’s and con’s of the console revolution, kids were let loose on 120 games from Pac-Man to PlayStation.
The thought-provoking exhibition offers no easy answers on the gaming industry whose estimated annual $25 billion turnover exceeds Hollywood revenues and now even boasts its own World Cyber Games.
But the arguments are cogently laid out in a string of information panels interlaced with the gaming consoles.
It cited a New York study which showed that nimble-fingered surgeons who played video games were 30 percent more accurate and faster than their non-gaming colleagues. Video games are now used in training Air Force pilots.
Californian researchers haave developed a game for kids with cancer that has a nano-robotic heroine called Roxxi who seeks out and destroys malignant cells.
But, on the other side of the coin, British kids, for example, now spend an estimated two months of the year staring at a screen in a country where child obesity and lack of exercise is a major health concern.
And Amsterdam has a clinic for video game addicts — an eight-week gaming detox which offers group therapy and counseling.
“We want people to make up their own minds,” said the exhibition’s events coordinator Gaetan Lee.
“Are we creating a nation of couch potatoes? What are their psychological effects? Do the games make us more violent? It is all up for debate,” he told Reuters at the “Game On” exhibition’s press launch.
“Of course there are geeks out there but now technology is allowing more people to access them (games),” said Lee, a devoted computer fan who spends up to seven hours a week at the console.
“My favorite at the moment is a surgery game where you can wield the knife,” he said.
But gone are the days when games were the passion of moody teenagers in darkened bedrooms. The average age of today’s player is 33 and the industry is working on brainteaser games to appeal to “grey players.”
As adults at the exhibition contemplated the way forward for the industry, children busily reached for the controls.
Eight-year-old Daisy Chamberlain was happily engrossed in a game of Pac-Man, indifferent to its lack of sophistication in today’s computer world of space age graphics.
“They are great. It is easy to play but fun. I like the old games just as much as the new,” she said.