,A man inside a video game store in Paris on March 22, 2021. Video games, not cited as an essential cultural asset by the government like books or records, finally joined the list of authorised businesses in areas affected by the re-containment, one of the unions in the sector announced. — AFP
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PARIS: Confusion over France’s new partial lockdown has accidentally reignited an old debate: are video games works of art or just another computer product?
France, proud of its long history as a bastion of culture, added book and record stores to its list of essential services allowed to stay open when the lockdown came into force in 16 different regions including Paris on Saturday.
But what about stores selling video games, which were already big business in France and are surging in popularity with so many forced to stay home due to the pandemic?
Following debate among ministers, the government published a decree in its official journal on Saturday authorising the “retail sale of computers, peripheral units and software in specialised stores”.
When it came time to open on Monday, some video game stores owners and employees were still unclear on the rules.
Ouri Zagoury said his store in central Paris was open only for customers to collect games they had bought online or to drop off consoles or hardware to be repaired.
“We don’t bring people inside, or really even ask for payment,” he said.
Vincent, a salesman in a nearby store, said his girlfriend had read media reports that video games had joined book and record stores on the expanded list allowed to stay open.
“We don’t really understand anything about this reconfinement,” he admitted.
It was not just independent shops struggling to interpret the new rules.
French electronics retail chain FNAC hesitated at first, with YouTube game reviewer Julien Chieze tweeting that the video games sections in its stores were closed on the weekend.
But FNAC director of products Olivier Garcia responded to his tweet on Monday saying the gaming sections had been reopened, citing the government’s decree.
Chieze hailed the government’s decision, saying: “Yes, video games are a cultural asset just like books and records.”
Jacques Creyssel of the FCD retailing federation said “it is true that until now, we were rather uncertain on the subject of video games”.
Video gaming centre
After Prime Minister Jean Castex announced on Thursday that book and record stores would be classified as essential, the video game industry lobbied for similar treatment.
Nicolas Vignolles, of the French video game publishers union Sell, told AFP that he “made a lot of calls” in which he said that “the best cultural activity during confinement – especially to keep young people occupied – is playing video games”.