Life, The Universe, And Gaming: Gaming Is Cool But Gamers Are (Still) Not
A few years ago I read an opinion column in a local gaming magazine in which the writer drew a very unnerving picture about the gaming scene; where it has come from and where it is going in the future.
In a nutshell he asserted that as gaming slowly but surely reaches the mainstream, it becomes more popular and receives more widespread positive appeal but those of us who have always been around and can actually call ourselves gamers will not suddenly become the cool kids. The jocks will effectively still remain the jocks and, unfortunately, we will still remain the nerdy / geeky dweebs who creep everyone out and essentially, are social outcasts.
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Now I’ve been quite fortunate in my life in that I have permeated various social circles, like a human chameleon would. I have been around jocks and stoners and freaks and party lovers and geeks and nerds and everyone else enough to know the differences between each one, and that has afforded me a very eclectic type of personality where I can fit in anywhere if I so desire. That said, however, I always favour my geekier side and as soon as I come across someone else who exhibits similar qualities, I start to feel worlds better about my surroundings and current situation, whatever that might be.
This is probably also why my two visits to rAge count as some of the most comforting moments in my life, even though I was surrounded entirely by strangers. People I have never met before. And yet people I would rather be surrounded by, based purely on our mutual interests. End shameless digression.
Coming back to the critical path of this column, in 2013 we have a whole other face to gaming. Nowadays you get people who count Jetpack Joyride, Subway Surfers and Angry Birds as their games of choice. Are they not still gamers? Furthermore, you now have achievements for Minesweeper. There is a whole other realm to gaming now, that previously would have been laughable. Have a look at Slender and you will see a game that has converted so many reformed Luddites, purely because they saw or heard about it somewhere and wanted to try it out. Gaming is not just permeating the mainstream but absolutely destroying any former barriers to entry.
This has some good and some bad connotations for those of us who were gamers before it was cool. Cue the hipster memes.
The good part is pretty obvious. As our favorite pastime becomes more acceptable, we get much less shit for pursuing it and we get a lot more options as has been apparent in recent years with the popular release windows of March and October-November.
I could go on but I don’t really want to because I wanted more to address the bad parts. Of which there are quite a few.
See, while we might get less shit for being gamers now, the sheer volume of our gaming, the fervent tenacity with which we pursue our lifelong hobby, does not make us any less creepy to those who are now calling themselves gamers. It’s just that since we consider them gamers, we attempt to share our gaming with them… and sometimes we get it thrown in our faces, because it’s not the gaming they want.
So in that respect, gaming hasn’t so much permeated the mainstream as much as it has transformed into something a little different. Gaming is now an enterprise. And what happens when anything becomes the victim of globalisation? That’s right, it begins to lose the core that got it to where it is. Actually that’s not entirely true. It was the core that kept it alive initially but its success is not owed to us, the old guard of gaming. As much as we’d like to take credit.
The thing is, where previously we had games the likes of Soldier of Fortune, Quake, Doom, Half-Life and Myst, those are not the games which achieved popularity with the mainstream. No, most people have not even heard of Diablo or Neverwinter Nights. Travesty, right? Nowadays the cool games are Tomb Raider, Uncharted, Dead Space and a whole lot of similar such titles. You hear more about Call of Duty and FIFA, because that is what the cool kids play.
And once again society has pushed us, the true gamers who were around all this time, who favour Far Cry 3 and The Walking Dead over Army of Two and Medal of fucking Honor, to the side where we remain the dweebs. Even of our own passion.
Can we ever win?
Well one of the good parts, if I may come back to those for a moment, is that as a ‘new-gamer’ has their eyes opened to the gaming world, their curiosity might increase enough that they are willing to try out Assassin’s Creed or BioShock and from there, we might hopefully hook them and create another gamer like us. Who appreciates good games, not popcorn action flicks or sports titles.
That is the hope, anyway. For the most part we are forced to just sit aside as people clamour for the attention of those who are good at a game that ‘isn’t even really a game’ as the nerdiest / geekiest of us would say.
But I’m okay with this. As much as gaming is cool now, and the world knows me to be a gamer, I still find far more comfort in those who, like me, grew up with gaming. Those who didn’t suddenly have their eyes opened to it one day and decided that they would stop at flinging red pigeons towards green
So all is love, from my side. But what about you? Sometimes it’s good to get things out in the open, right? Tell us what you think or how you feel about the whole broad-span movement of gaming towards the mainstream. Let it all out… there there.