Professors Talk TV Gaming

UWM Professor Details Importance of Early Gaming for Television

By Phillip Root

Surrounded by collages and students Michael Newman revealed through the medium of television how videogames have impacted society in his study on the cultural history and early interaction of videogames at the New Media Studies conference room last Tuesday.

Newman, a professor of media studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, presented his research spanning from the early 70's to the early 80's that encompassed the development of games being played in the home.

"The origin of my interest was in thinking of the origins for television’s origins." Newman said. "The game console was sometimes described as the marriage between television and computers.”

The union between television and videogames was showcased through Newman’s collection of slides of advertising ads and most notably seen in the popularity from the game, "Pong" according to Newman. As technology became more visible, Newman described the growth of popularity attributed to the widespread integration of home and arcade gaming in people’s social life.

“The home or living room became a place for entertainment.” Newman said. “The involvement of the family in the activity was paramount.”

By using the television as a template for interaction, Newman described how videogames act a remediation of the current standards. An example came from the early incarnation of Pong in 1972, which covered the television screen and enabled the viewer to interact with their television via joystick.

Newman found that the underlying premise of creating videogames was to reverse the attitudes of how television was interpreted as being restrictive or, "chewing gum for the eyes.”

 "T.V.s place for a long time was linked to a form of feminized culture." Newman said. “Attaching a television set to a game console could be a way of rehabilitating the reputation.”

Instead of being passive, the connection Newman found, transformed the potential of the television into an active experience by borrowing the television's identity.

The anxieties of the culture towards videogames gave way to different cartoon clippings shown in Newman’s presentation, displaying two people playing tennis on their television as opposed to physically playing.

Marc Tasmen, a fellow media professor who attended event, gave his analysis of the phobias within the public and the benefits attributed from videogames.

“There was always a hope and promise in the 70’s, that (videogames) were tools we would use to create a better world “Tasmen said. “Now as back then there was this assumption that the games wouldn’t be fruitful, but the process of playing the games was teaching something like hand-eye coordination.”

As for contemporary issues with games like, “Grand Theft Auto”, Rick Popp, a fellow professor in media studies, gave his analysis of how the anxieties of videogames can similarly expand to other platforms.

“If you put the videogame system in the same context as people buying other things to attach to their TV’s they also allow for people to buy VCR’s to essentially watch porn” Popp said.

However, Newman believes that the opportunity to connect to the television is beneficial in expanding our knowledge of control and agency by filtering ideas through the new medium.

" I consider video games new media" Newman said " With boundaries still being established."

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