I've figured it out. I was washing the dishes and lamenting the toll upon my graceful, supple hands and about to whisper, "Calgon, take me away!" when it hit me. I know the method by which video games can reach international prominence as a respectable art form worthy of unaminous acceptance and intellectual debate.
We need to get on Oprah.
You see, "The Oprah Winfrey Show", as it was once called, is a big deal. A really big deal because Oprah is a big deal; when Oprah nods her head, at least 50 million US women nod their heads as well. Likewise, when Oprah refutes a guest with "Oh, really?" you might as well burn all your business cards - no one will ever hire you again; when Ophrah found out an author had fabricated parts of a non-fiction book, she dragged him on the show and wrung a public apology from him, and his corpse was never seen again.
Maybe I'm exaggerating things here but if Oprah said, "We need to go to the planet Mars - next year," President Obama would make it happen. Why? Because these 50 million US women would tell their husbands, and husbands are people who would rather write their congressman than take out the trash.
Video games have often been in the news, but it has always been sensational, alarmist fear-mongering: video games are corrupting our youth, video games teach people how to shoot guns, or video games are pornography and a mental health addiction. This would be worthy of Maury Povich or the old Ricki Lake ("Which MMO-gamer is my baby's daddy?"), but we need acceptance and praise. We need someone like Oprah to say, "Wow, I had no idea this issue was so deep," and then cradle her head with her arm propped on the couch and listen, and nod, nod, nod.
What video games need it to get on Oprah's Book Club.
This sounds fantastical: Dan Houser isn't going to go on Oprah and talk about Niko Bellic as a complex man who has to face vast, moral issues; neither is Oprah going to summarize with, "Okay: who did say are the boss characters in this version of MegaMan?" However, let's face it: whatever Oprah touches turns to gold. If she likes you or your book, movie or product you can be sure you will be eat fois gras caviar hamburgers before the end of the year.
The inception of video games into the Book Club is important because of what the Book Club means: high art meant to be consumed for intellectual discourse. When a book makes it into the Book Club, not only does it help propel sales but also through Oprah's approval it means that this book is important, it's fascinating, it's art.
Here's how I came around to concocting this scheme: a while ago, my girlfriend recommended me the book "The Time Traveller's Wife", perhaps because the sci-fi element would interest me, or perhaps because she knows this book can affect me as it did her friend Ted, a man - who cried. For whatever reason and not wanting to cry, I didn't read it.
Earlier this year, I heard that this book was going to be released as a Hollywood movie; my immediate thought was panic, as I have resolved ever since "The English Patient" not to let a Hollywood movie come out before I had read the novel (we intellectuals have hubris; we are intellectuals, after all). To immediately spur my need to read this book and have a good cry in the tub surrounded by scented candles, I found out that "The Time Traveller's Wife" was going to be the topic in next month's local Book Club. (I can already see into the future and report that it will be disasterous, but I'll tell you how it goes after it happens)
So, I'm reading furiously with all the intensity that befits me, a hardcore gamer-cum-literature enthusiast, when I flip to the back of the book (it's a kind of "time travel") when I find to my bemusement that there is a section of questions written out for book club discussion. I tell you, I "lol-ed" at that; you mean to tell me that people are reading this book just to have the satisfaction of attending book clubs? What hypocrites!
Honestly, I can't think of another book that comes pre-packaged with questions so that a gathering of would-be book intelligensi wouldn't have nothing to talk about and just blink at each other. Are we so passive a critical audience that we wouldn't know what to talk about? What about a literary round-table of "Wasn't it cool when...?"
So far, the book is pretty cool, but I can tell the emo-gasm is going to come down hard like the Hammer of Dawn; by putting the chronology of the story through the perspective of Clare growing up, we can see this is a mediation into the importance of the present, and about a Buddhist-type concept of having to undergo the same trials again and again until you get it right, like the cycle of life and transcending reincarnation and achieving nirvana. But don't worry about me: I have a box of tissues ready.
To take us to the present, I was washing the dishes and lamenting my hands when BOOM! It hit me. Oprah. Give us your seal of approval and get video games out of the endless cycle of toys-made-for-children as well as video-gamers-who-behave-like-children. Also, make it the "Video Game Book Club"; we need a literary reference or else everyone will mistake it for a online fragfest rather than the jostling of intellectual ideas that it needs to be.
So, in the effort to kick-start video game book clubs across the world, I have compiled a list of questions to help get you started.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
* How does CIA spook Mike Torino factor into Carl Johnson's life as a father figure? How does the placation of "Don't worry, you'll be back in no time for a blowjob and a baloney sandwich," affect CJ when coming from such a figure? How literal/metaphorical is this statement?
* How does Gordon Freeman's role as a silent protagonist affect his status as "the everyday" man, a person the average video gamer can relate with? Conversely, how does it belie his status as a scientist and otherwise brilliant man who can only now express himself of thought and feeling with a crowbar?
* Space Invaders is a classic arcade game that has defined every video game ever made: a game where endless waves of cloned enemies are dispatched with again and again, all by exhibiting an awareness or artificial intelligence that doesn't befit their dangerousness. Discuss.
Final Fantasy and every JRPG ever made as well as the Metal Gear Solid series
* The plot and story are so convoluted with twists, surprises, betrayals and shocks because a sense of overwhelming and perplexity makes it easier to see something we don't completely understand with an air of awe and respect. Discuss.
Halo, Gears of War, Call of Duty and other online muliplayer shooters:
* Does fragging your same-sex friend and then celebrating your victory by tea-bagging your crotch in their vanquished faces denote a socially acceptable way to express my homosexual tendancies in an otherwise homophobic world? Is tea-bagging a safe practice that won't set off one's "gay pull-cord" and enact full-on flaming homosexuality?
That's enough for now. But you, Oprah: have your people call my people and they'll do lunch together. We need to talk.