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Video games are 'the norm,' says gaming expert at CHAT Festival

Gaming expert Jesper Juul posed an unexpected question: “Can video games make you cry?” in his speech Friday afternoon in the Union auditorium.

He answered it with a slide of a South Korean man tearfully mourning his loss in StarCraft, an example of the potential emotional investment involved with competitive gaming.

Juul delivered his speech “Gaming and the Future of the Arts and Humanities” as part of the Collaborations: Humanities, Arts & Technology festival.

Juul’s 90-minute lecture focused on the changing role of video games in society and the seriousness with which academics should approach them.

“Video games are now the norm,” Juul said.

He said that thanks in part to new distribution methods such as the cell phone, more then 50 percent of the population plays video games.

Juul described an ongoing “Cambrian explosion of game forms,” meaning the current rapid evolution of game styles is similar to the diversity of life that developed during the geological era.

Juul profiled the changing place of video games in culture, citing Pac-Man’s lasting influence in pop culture.

He also noted the surprising lack of correlation between high graphics power and high sales. He credited the rise of casual gaming and new motion-sensitive controllers.

He discussed the way that game presentation has changed, from two-dimensional to three-dimensional to the current games involving player interaction in the real world with consoles like the Wii.

Though gaming has grown in popular culture, academic study has not kept pace, Juul said.

Juul is focused primarily on the way gaming is viewed academically, as a technology-based experience. He pointed out the link between multi-player gaming and social status among friends.

“Meaningful social interactions enter the game,” Juul said, emphasizing that an important part of studying games is the social context.

He discussed the intensely personal nature of games as a self-evaluation of skill that can bring out a wide range of emotions, ranging from depression to elation.

Unlike novels or films where emotions are felt secondhand through characters, gaming provides first-person experiences.

Juul outlined the evolving methods that video games use to convey storylines and the growing importance of the game’s plot rather than the action.

Senior information science major Tanner Allison, who plays video games, agreed with Juul.

“Videos games have grown as a storytelling form,” Allison said, adding that improved graphics have made games more realistic.

Juul closed with a discussion on the focus of the humanities.

“Humanities focus inside the box,” he said, referring to the novels, films and other media that are traditional objects of academic study.

“It is time to break out of the box.”

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