Yeah, I know, Diamond and Pearl came out. Moving on...
I'm always leery when organizations publish "scientific" studies on topics that are largely emotional and subjective, but here's a report from the British Board of Film Classification all about gaming. It attempts to create "credible research into the ways video games are distinctive as a medium [and] how games may generate different reactions in players than films and DVDs do in viewers."
Other topics include media focus and parental anxiety about realism and violence (yawn), and how technological advances complicate the task of game classification. Some of the most interesting questions that the study investigates include why people play video games, and how the experience affects them; whether the elements of interactivity significantly alters the experience (versus film); what motivates players to play a game, and what makes a "good" game.
Again, most of these questions are largely subjective-- answering these questions is why we have countless chat rooms, message boards and other secret geek outlets to discuss amongst ourselves, never arriving at a definitive answer. Me, I'm a perfectionist obsessed with achieving, completing and collecting. I also like to manipulate, alter and smash my environment. I won't lie-- I like me a little sex and violence, too, but MMOs put me to sleep and I never play fighting games alone. I certainly could explain my opinions and preferences more precisely, but just because I can categorically define them doesn't mean they are the single answer, or even representative of the norm.
As to what makes a "good" game-- I've been masticating this one myself for some time, and I'm fairly certain that this is one that has no definitive objective answer, either. I think it's pretty safe to say that the gaming audience is largely disillusioned by the review system (hence interesting little gems like this cropping up); in turn, then, one could fairly say that the game media "pros" don't really know, either. And the constant heated arguments that are part and parcel of fanboyism will attest that just because a game is "good" doesn't mean that everyone will actually like it. To its credit, the study's findings basically say as much, putting weight in the corner of individual taste as the primary judge of a game's merit.
Significant conclusions include the fact that, far from promoting antisocial behavior, people play games, in part, to socialize. Additionally, the quality of a game's graphics has a strong influence on a game's favorability, whereas storyline's influence is "weak". Most surprising among the study's findings is that games are less engrossing than films (the repetitive action, save-and-reload technicalities take the lion's share of responsibility for this).
The only assertion I'd be inclined to dispute is that gamers are less emotionally invested in games than moviegoers are in films. What?
Anyway, if you check out the study, do comment; I'd love to hear thoughts.
These damn things are friggin' cute.