It’s Entertainment!

Video Games and Computer Holding Power by Sherry Turkle, 1984

In 1984, popular video games included Pacman, Donkey Kong and Asteroids and Sherry Turkle discusses the computer holding power of games based on interviews with game players. Sherry Turkle stated that most gamers describe their experiences of playing video games to “sports, sex, or meditation.” Comparisons are also made with drugs which does a great deal of harm to the image of video games and their players.  This comparison can be seen as simply inappropriate. As a contrast, she also discusses the skill level required to become a successful game player which goes against this mindless addition thought.  She describes a new kind of intimacy between game player and video game that is characteristic of the computer culture. As a game player, you enter the videogame world where rules exist and become a part of the game according to Turkle. So, game players imagine they are Pacman’s mouth, for instance – a kind of altered state. She says,“At the heart of the culture is the idea of constructed “rule-governed worlds (p 507).” Because of the governing game rules, gamers spoke of feeling more control with video games than they have in the real world. If there is a danger here, it is not the danger of mindless play but of infatuation with the challenge of simulated worlds.

When I played Pacman in the ’80s, I played for enjoyment and competition … I wanted to post the highest score and to do so I had to learn the rules and tricks of the game.  Without the motivation of competition, I am not sure I would have spent hours at the arcade and requested a table top version for Christmas.  So, did the computer hold power as I played?  I would say ‘no’ unless you judge the entertainment aspects of video games as power.  For me, video games were entertaining … just something else to do like riding my bike, reading a book, playing with my yo yo or drawing on my etch-a-sketch. 




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