I dare to say that the answer to this question is: “Yes.” Videogames are Mass Media.
But since I know that this will generate a bit of a conflict between the various parties involved, I will rework this statement changing and adding a couple of words: “Videogames can be thought and used as media”.
This was the hypothesis with which we started our Thesis with my partner and personal friend, Rodrigo Gusman.
Like all hypotheses, we had to check and develop it, for which we turned to the author Patrick Charaudeau and his theory of the “Act of Language”. Let’s add a bit of context to make some sense out of all this.
The Act of Language
Let’s talk briefly about the “Act of Language”, because since I mentioned it, it is worth explaining:
The Author defines the act of language as a result of two activities, production and interpretation. In the first one, a series of factors that determine the enunciation of the message come into play, while in the second the addressee intervenes, who interprets the message.
Communication, in its most elementary instance, consists in the transmission and reception of messages. Of course, years of communication theory have shown that this process is much more complex, but there is a key word in Charaudeau’s proposal that is fundamental to me: “Interpretation”.
Each individual interprets the message according to their own experiences and perceptions, and in turn, issues a value judgment. This is what communication is about.
With videogames, something very similar happens, just like with movies, shows and books. The interpretation and context of the player, spectator or reader is crucial when it comes to attributing a particular meaning to the work.
In this sense, we can state without fear of making mistakes that videogames are Acts of Language, determined by certain production conditions that acquire their meaning through certain interpretation conditions.
Games as Media
In my opinion, there is no doubt that Videogames can be used and thought of as mass media. Or rather, multimedia. There are endless resources that can be used to send a message directly to the player, from a simple image to a dialogue between two characters.
The interpretation that we mentioned above appeals to a constant interactivity between the video game and the user. Mariano Zelcer describes in his work “Browse / Play: Videogames on the Web” -which is in Spanish and you should read if you know this language- that videogames are “texts made to be used”. The story within games requires the intervention of an addressee -in this case, a player- who carries out the actions of the character.
Then, if we consider communication as an exchange of messages, we can then consider videogames as Mass Media, in which interactivity rises triumphantly.
I want to clarify that I am not talking about “Media” as a news platform, if that’s what you’re thinking. Even so, does a game-news program sound so crazy? Not to me.
A few years ago, no one would have dared to think of social media as news platforms. I will be even more extreme: nobody would have thought that memes could become a source of news. For those who regularly use social media, the situation that I’m talking about will be rather familiar. Even I admit that I have learned about some things through memes and not from digital newspapers or other more “serious” sources.
Returning to our object of study, today it’s not unusual to see countless of ads in mobile games. Bear in mind that the number of mobile phone lines is greater than the number of inhabitants on the planet (source: 2018, accessed on 03/29/2019); if only 10% of the world’s population consumed videogames, it leaves us with a total of 730 million users. Not exploiting this new ad platform would be crazy.
I would like to talk about multiplayer games, in which there is a double interaction: between the user and the videogame, and between the user and other users. But today we aren’t going to take this case; I prefer that we discuss it later.
The importance of Games as Media
And here it is when I want to stop with a little more conscience and professional ethics, mostly to get the attention of my fellow developers, writers, designers and content creators: pay special attention to the message you include in your videogames.
Today, those of us who create content have a much greater responsibility than our predecessors. Don’t children under 10 years play on their parents’ tablets and mobile phones? Isn’t piracy a curse within the gaming world, allowing minors to access games they shouldn’t be playing?
The message we include in our products will reach future generations.
We have in our hands the possibility of influencing the minds of the future; not to mold or program them, but simply to transmit something of value to them.
One of the reasons I’m so fascinated by the Epic Fantasy genre is that it makes me believe in concepts such as honor, respect, duty, self-improvement and comradeship. And I, with my writings and my creations, want to convey the same.
It only remains that, with videogames, we all did the same.