Carly Kocurek is what you call a gamer for life. She is dedicated to spreading the word of gaming and the importance of it in our history and our everyday lives. She loves to give her opinion on the good and the bad of video gaming in the world today as well as the past. Carly has an M.A and Ph.D. in American Studies and a doctoral in Cultural Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. She also majored in English and History at Rice University. Carly currently is a Professor of Digital Humanities and Media Studies at the Illinois Institute of Technology. She teaches students about the history of video gaming as well as the way people use it to better their lives. Carly has written a book about the early and modern arcade days called “Coin-Operated Americans: Rebooting Boyhood at the Video Game Arcade” and can be found on amazon.com
Do you remember your first video game / arcade you played and what do you remember about it?
The first arcade I played at was definitely the Aladdin’s Castle — now, sadly, long closed — at Sikes Senter in Wichita Falls. I don’t remember the video games I played there, but I definitely played a lot of ticket redemption games. I still love those, actually.
What are your opinions about today’s generation of video games? How do you compare them to older, classic games?
I think there are some really cool things happening in video games right now. I’ve just played Never Alone (E-Line Media, 2014), which I think is really amazing and innovative for how it incorporates cultural education. I assigned it to my students, and most of them liked it, too. I also keep thinking about Gone Home, which I know has gotten a lot of flak. But, that game just gutted me. I finished it, and I was just sobbing on the way to the gym. It’s such a powerful game. I think in some ways those types of games really have adapted some of the best parts of interactive fiction and point-and-click adventure games, and Never Alone is a platformer at heart. I also play a lot of mobile games, and I think some of those have a lot in common with old arcade games since they’re meant to be played for short bursts of time.
What is your favorite portable gaming device?
Probably my iPad, although I use my phone more out of convenience.
Do you prefer PC or Console gaming and why?
I own several consoles, but I prefer playing on my PC. I think of console gaming as a social activity, something I do with friends or family members — which is great. But, I play PC games alone, and sometimes it’s just really great to be able to go into a whole other world alone.
What games today do you play and what are your favorite genres of games?
I love puzzle and adventure games. I get excited about figuring out how game worlds work. They don’t have to be big worlds, though. One of my favorite games is The Path (Tale of Tales, 2009), which is so simple but has such a rich, eerie atmosphere. That sense of being in another world is something I really enjoy.
If you could own one arcade game or pinball game, what would it be and why?
I think I’d go for Q*bert (Gottlieb, 1982), because it’s probably my favorite arcade-specific game. Tetris is maybe my all-time favorite game, but I prefer the Gameboy version of it.
Growing up were you team Sega or Nintendo and why?
Team Nintendo, because the only system from either that I ever personally owned when it was new was a Gameboy, plus several of my friends had NES and Super NES systems, so I got to play those the most. So, mostly due to circumstances.
Are video games aimed mainly at children, adolescents or adults?
I think this varies a lot with who is making the games. Shigeru Miyamoto talks a lot about trying to make games that can be enjoyed by whole families or by people outside of who we might think of as playing games. Numbers wise, most people who play games are adults, and a lot of games are aimed at adults. But, we also have great games that are for children or for a diversity of ages.
Do you believe some Video Games are too violent and lead to violence in America today?
My stock answer on this is that I think some games are bad for some people, just like some TV shows are bad for some people or some books are bad for some people. The research in this area is largely inconclusive, and there’s been a lot of back and forth between games researchers and the APA about this. I think the best thing researchers can do is to complete more rigorous studies so we have better information to work from.
Do you prefer playing video games alone, against friends or online against the world and why?
I like to play alone. A really good game alone can feel like the best parts of reading a really great novel to me, and I love reading because it gives me room for exploration and reflection. I like having similar experiences in games.
Which company makes the best games and why?
I think a lot of companies make great games. I really love Tale of Tales, even though they’re moving, I think, back towards interactive experiences and things that aren’t quite games. But, they do such strange things. I like their work for that. I want to have experiences in games that I might not have otherwise. That doesn’t mean they have to be fantasy; just that I really want to feel something.
Do you learn anything from playing video games?
Well, I’ve learned a lot from Never Alone, because it integrates a lot of fantastic documentary content, but I also think playing video games has helped me a lot with problem solving skills and creative thinking. There’s some research showing that reading novels can make people more empathetic, and I do think we’re starting to see games that similarly ask us to really imagine lives and experiences pretty far removed from our own in a way that can be transformative.
Are video games good for relieving stress?
They can be — that’s why I play Tetris, for sure. But, I think they can also be stressful. I really like the new Tomb Raider reboot, but that first game, I had to play in sort of contained increments, because it was such an anxious experience for me. Great game, but just really tense.
Do you like it when Hollywood makes a movie from the video game?
I have really enjoyed most of the Resident Evil movies, but there have definitely been some terrible video game movies. I’m hoping we’ll see more great adaptations in the coming years. I think it’s interesting when there are movies made from video games, even when they’re bad.
Are you still involved with gaming today, and what role do you play?
I still play games, obviously, but my main role is as a historian and university professor. I wrote a book, Coin-Operated Americans, about the early video game arcade in the U.S., and I’m working on a new book now about the game designer Brenda Laurel. Jennifer deWinter and I co-edit the Influential Game Designers book series that Bloomsbury publishes. At Illinois Tech, I teach courses on game design and the history of video games. For the history class, I send students out to interview people about Chicago’s coin-op history for the Chicago Coin-Op Archive.
Where do you see Video gaming in the next 20 years?
It’s kind of exciting to imagine. I hope we continue to see gains in diversity of types of games. I think right now that’s something that is really exciting is we’re seeing all kinds of interesting uses of new technology, innovative storytelling, diverse perspectives. I also hope we see more use of accessible controllers and things. Accessibility of games for people with disabilities is a serious issue, and I hope it’s one where we see some real progress in the coming years.