Doug Lowenstein, the head of the Entertainment Software Association, is unhappy with the popular term “video game” being used to describe, well, video games. He believes that using the term “game” belittles the industry, preventing it from being taken seriously.
His suggested replacement terms are “interactive entertainment,” which evokes memories of 1990s CD-based shovelware and the horrid Phillips CD-i, or “entertainment software,” which his organization has already been using for some time with little effect.
Lowenstein’s suggestions are unlikely to have much impact in the popular vernacular. After all, we don’t go around calling movies “celluloid entertainment” or TV shows “entertainment broadcasts.” However, it is worth looking at what prompted the ESA head to make these comments in the first place.
The term “video games” is often used as a pejorative by people with an axe to grind against the industry. It is often said in a dismissive tone, sometimes by people who prefer other forms of entertainment (for example, Roger Ebert’s infamous declaration that video games could never be art). There is also a curious disconnect with members of the older generation, who occasionally get the term “gaming industry” mixed up with the gambling industry, which is ironic as casinos originally adopted the term in order to appear more respectable.
For the younger generation, none of this may seem a pressing issue. But they are not the ones who are trying to ban violent video games, or set up government-controlled organizations to regulate their content. For over a decade, the video game industry has been a popular whipping-boy for politicians eager to capture quick and easy “think of the children!” votes. It is this assault that Lowenstein is hoping to mitigate somewhat by raising people’s opinion of the industry itself.
It may be a long, uphill battle, but in the long term, victory is probably inevitable. As the current politicians age and fade off into the sunset, they will be replaced with people who have never known a world without video games. Like the movie and television industries before them, respect will come by default, as games become just as commonplace.