In 1993, the year I began my career in video games, the public face of the industry was Mortal Kombat. In this martial-arts fighting game, two players would pummel each other until one opponent was sufficiently stunned—and then deliver a “Fatality” move. One character could grab his opponent's head and then rip his spinal cord out of his still standing body. Not surprisingly, parents, teachers and politicians were horrified. Congress held hearings about the game and its influence on youth. The episode led to the creation of the Entertainment Software Rating Board, which today rates games based on their age appropriateness.
My friends and family thought I was crazy for working in the game industry, particularly because I had left a good career in independent filmmaking to do it. They were convinced that video games were frivolous at best, dangerous at worst. Yet when I started my work as a studio executive at Activision, a popular video game publisher, it quickly became clear that games were much more diverse and textured than most people realized. They were not only an emerging entertainment medium—they were a new art form.