Video games are a large entertainment industry but their public perception is far from perfect. And yet, there are several compelling reasons why we should take video games VERY seriously. Paweł Frelik is an Associate Professor in the American Studies Center at the University of Warsaw, where he also leads the Speculative Texts and Media Research Group. His research and teaching interests include science fiction, video games, and unpopular culture. He has published widely in these fields, serves on the boards of Science Fiction Studies, Extrapolation, and Journal of Gaming and Virtual Worlds, and is the co-editor of the New Dimensions in Science Fiction book series (University of Wales Press). He has also lectured widely on these topics outside academia. He’s talked about video games in California, short films in Florida, and the architecture of cinematic spaceships at the British Film Institute in London.
He currently serves as the Science Fiction Division Head of the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts. In the past he was President of the Science Fiction Research Association, the first in the organization’s history from outside North America, and Vice President of the European Association for American Studies. He is also the first non-anglophone recipient of the Thomas D. Clareson Award for Distinguished Service in the field of science fiction studies.
He also has worked several parallel careers throughout the past twenty-five years. He’s worked as a stage manager in an Edinburgh theater; written lyrics for the premiere Polish metal band Vader; and has authored over 1,500 reviews and articles for a dozen music and cultural newspapers and magazines. He’s also translated, among other texts, Harry Matthews’ postmodern fiction into Polish and the biography of Behemoth (a Polish metal band) into English. He loves the Mojave.
Twitter: @Nomad93 This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at
thank you when I was in um in primary school I think I was told never beginning question but I will begin with a question and my question goes like this what was the last time you were asked about the game you like at a party for instance and I think I know the answer the answer is never and never is a really long time we do ask people and get asked about movies about television shows about books maybe even occasionally about comic books we don't get asked about videogames unless you belong to a generation that shouldn't go to parties and have those drinks there are many reasons for that and I know my talk is not about the reasons one of the major ones is the public general image for the video games have in our society the image that is mostly shaped by the kind of commercials and advertisements and billboards that we see in our streets and public spaces most of which advertise the kind of games you probably wouldn't like to your children to play the kind of games that rely on violence as the main draw that show not very favorable representations of women or any kind of minorities the kind of games that of course have certain narratives but these narratives are not particularly engaging so most of us know video games so people who do not claim those no video games from that kind of sphere of a kind of billboards that you see behind me and that's one of the reasons why we have such a not different opinion of a medium but despite all of this I would like to suggest that we really shoot that everyone should trade video games very very seriously and you could ask you know Who am I to actually ask that so I should probably say a little bit about myself I come from a generation I will not say I'm old because I'm not but I come from a generation that was raised on literature literature and books were the medium that you went to for stories for pleasure for joy but also for reflection and tears although there ironically I came of age I was a teenager precisely in the decade when personal computing and video games started to permeate our social spaces first with Atari and Commodore machines then my the original my original academic training was again in literature and literary studies of a discipline that has been very consistently very suspicious of new media in general but video games in particular but for the last 20 years I have studied video games new media in general but really going video games especially from a number of perspectives I would like to think and maybe it's not a delusion I would like to think that I know both good and bad sighs and I still think because of that I still think that everyone but people should take video games very very seriously but as a number of reasons for that I don't really have much time so I have just four that hopefully will convince you but even if you're not a gamer or if you have children and you're kind of a very suspicious about they're playing video games but I will they'll try to convince you that they do deserve our attention now the first of these reasons is what I call complexity games pieces of software they are texts that are built and made of code the code program of created through programming languages that depends on the interconnectivity of many very many elements and parts videogames systems of connections and relations and interdependencies so what happens when we are playing a game even something very simple we are trying to work out these connections and these interdependencies server is a story to follow in many games there are beautiful visuals to look at but most of all we are testing the system of a game of what about what we can do and we can do what sort of solutions and decisions give us rewards and what sort of solutions give us punishments now this is not just kind of a merely intellectual exercise or a kind of a good workout for the brain because it happens so that our world is also a very complicated machine machine that is also increasingly complex and complicated every month and every year so through playing games not all games but certain games we're kind of exercising our skills to navigate an understandable world to understand the world which is never really simple although as it has been said before certain politicians would really like us to think that but it is never simple it is quite the opposite the games are good tools to learn how to navigate and to be and understand the world number two is the number two reason why we should pay attention to video games is that they are social spaces sure in many games and if you have ever played a game we understand that when you play game use an avatar sometimes this avatar is not really like you this is by the way meme and Mass Effect trilogy but in Mass Effect you know as a black whom and I play against the system I play against precise to this complex system of rules and algorithms but there are other games there are other games in which we play against or with other people people who when you look on the screen they may look like elves or dwarves and orcs or any kind of fantastical maybe soldiers but behind these avatars there are there are living and breathing people many of whom live really really far away from us many of whom are functionally strangers and even aliens to us people who come from different cultures who have different races and ethnic groups and religious beliefs and political beliefs and sexual orientations and of course when we play as when we hunt with the elves and cooperate with the orcs well you're not supposed to cooperate with the orcs but uh but when we do that inside games we don't really see those people but very often many gamers go outside and using chat rooms and forums and blogs start to socialize and in that process especially if you come from a little town in Hungary France or Poland you start getting to know these people people that you would never really meet in real life and perhaps at that moment at that point the world becomes slightly smaller place and these people seem slightly less strange and alien to us and maybe that makes about the world is slightly better place number three is knowledge suddenly many games do not really convey much knowledge if you play Tetris you could make an argument how it kind of trains your reflexes and maybe kind of energy metrical coordination and certain kinds of associations but there is really no solid knowledge that comes from Tetris but of course there are other games if you think about valiant hearts the a game about the Great War which of course for the rest of the world is the first world war of a kind of event that the Western civilization had never experienced before before 1914 we do get a lot of solid historical knowledge but we also say this is a game we we come to approximate understanding of how the soldiers on both sides of a conflict that were felled so games can't it teaches history of course this does not mean that every game that is set in the past will teach us history sometimes the sister will not be really accurate there are certain kinds of thinking that the games can give us and this is very important for certain demographic groups for children for teenagers for people coming from different educational backgrounds who do not find reading traditional history books particularly easy or attractive games can convey knowledge and history is not and it you know an exception there are other disciplines for each of their disciplines and fields and interests or skills but you see this is behind me I could give you and you have to take my word for it for now I can I can give you examples of four or five or six video games that would actually expand and extend your knowledge in these areas I'm not suggesting that games should replace our educational tools and techniques I'm saying that they can be very helpful and sometimes brilliant aids they will not work for every single type of knowledge or every area of our culture but they will work for many of them and there is much very conclusive research but demonstrates that any kind of knowledge and a kind of information acquired in an active way stays with us for much longer and becomes much more operational and much more practical than the kind of knowledge that we acquire in a static environment and finally last but not least games are beautiful games are beautiful of course we'd like to think most people like to think about video games as commercial products and of course they are that and make a lot of money on top of that more money even Hollywood for almost a decade now and there is of course big discussion that has been raging now again for close to a decade whether video games are art I do think they are art but I also think that this is a wrong question to ask and any kind of answer that you get to that question is completely irrelevant because the truth is that games do all these things that art whether it's painting theater literature film so all these things that this media these arts have been doing to us games video games can do to us – they come in different flavors with different styles and different schools and different aesthetics some of them will give us very definite feelings and emotions like that Mass Effect trilogy I mentioned earlier you do feel anger and nostalgia and sorrow some others will give us more indistinct emotions effects as we call them that will make you feel sad or reflexive but you can't really put your finger and what is wrong with you but the games can and do move you not every single game but many do and they are also beautiful to look at representing various aesthetic sand styles as I said Sophie's AB is that the four reasons why I think we should take videogames seriously there are many more but I don't really have much more time but I hope it has become slightly clearer for everyone here but in 2019 videogames do things they do things to us and they do things with us we do things that are important and human and very needful and this is precisely why I think we should take videogame seriously and perhaps that the part is some time soon perhaps this coming Friday you will not ask your friend so what was the last thing you saw it for movies you will ask your friend ah what was the game but really moved you recently thank you [Applause]