The week of March 1, 2015

In search of solutions at GDC 2015

By Dennis Scimeca

Video games have grown too large to remain in the shadows of subculture any longer.

It should be clear by now that they’re an industry just as relevant and profitable as film, television, and music. Jimmy Fallon regularly shows off new video games on The Tonight Show, Bud Light’s Super Bowl commercial featured Pac-Man, and even Law and Order: Special Victims Unit delved into the tumultuous gaming culture clash known as Gamergate in a recent episode.

During most of their 30-year evolution from video arcades to home consoles and now smartphones, video games have been pure amusements. In recent years, however, they’ve exploded into a diversity of forms for an equally diverse array of purposes. Video games can be used as tools for understanding and coming to terms with depression, enhancing student interest in the STEM disciplines, and presenting stories akin to moving poems.

On Monday, the Game Developers Conference begins in San Francisco. GDC is not a video game event about industry self-congratulations, fan service, or raw consumerism. It’s about the art and business of video games, where coders and writers and producers gather to share knowledge, celebrate innovation, and learn from their collective past. It is where problems are addressed and solutions found.

GDC is about understanding the narratives that define the growth and evolution of the video game industry, whether it be the explosive growth of mobile games, the birth of a genre that gives voice to indigenous peoples, the growing fascination with virtual reality, or how an urban planning simulation can trigger a discussion about the real-world challenges of homelessness.

In this week’s issue of the Kernel, we’re celebrating this vast and varied world of video games: the story of hundreds of lives lived by a gamer over three decades; the passion of indie game developers who, through the strength of community, may triumph in a marketplace where massive corporations fail to succeed; the dogged pursuit of PC gamers to put together their ultimate gaming machine.

Even if you don’t think video games are for you, they’re an important part of modern culture and a cherished part of many people’s lives. Try picking up a controller. You might find a reason to join us.

Illustration by Max Fleishman