In Chapter 10, Bogost discusses the advent of easy-to-use consumer cameras and photography as an analogy to where videogames might go. Essentially, in the 19th century, a fair amount of expertise was required to take a photograph. Eventually the technology became easier to use to the point where the everyday person might be on either end of the camera. Bogost explores the idea of an analogous kind of game creation. Just as being forced to sit through a slideshow of someone’s wedding or vacation photos or watch a video of a 5-year old’s birthday party would be painfully boring, a personal videogame might have a very limited audience. I.e. maybe a videogame becomes a way of memorializing some event, just as photos or videos do. To this end, Bogost writes, “The future of videogame snapshots will require platform creators to show their potential users how to incorporate games in their individual lives. The results could prove important. The snapshot didn’t just popularize photography as disposable, it also helped greater numbers of ordinary people appreciate photography as craft. A successful game creation platform is one that fulfills such a role” (76).
Minecraft seems the most obviously example of a successful platform in these terms. See Slyder’s post on this . However we might think more generally about the practice of creating mods. There are many modding communities out there. Here’s one example. There are also YouTube channels that cover this business. This one has 500K subscribers. In other words, there’s a significant community here.
However I am interested in a related cultural practice which I think is actually closer to photography and video: online sharing of video game play. Take a look at Twitch.tv, which boasts some 45 million gameplayers sharing their gameplay every month. Here you can watch recorded video of people playing games or participate live in their gameplay by communicating with the players. Take a couple minutes and browse through this material. How popular is Twitch? Take a look at this report.
From a personal perspective, I can tell you this is what my 13-year old son does. He doesn’t watch much TV. He has almost no interest in movies. He does read a lot (he’s about 7000 pages into the Wheel of Time fantasy series). He plays a lot of videogames, evenly divided between xBox, minecraft, and other cheap steam/iphone games. But he also spends a lot of time watching these gaming videos. To him, they are much more interesting than what TV has to offer. And that makes something like Twitch different from family photos.