As the World Turns

by on Mar.09, 2006, under geek culture, new media


Both online and off, I’ve found more and more people love to talk about games. Moment by moment seems to edge ‘our realm’ closer to the mainstream, and the perception of “the gamer” appears to gradually shed its awkward social heredity.

In some ways, the plight of videogames is echoed by the comic books that sprung into the hands of the masses over sixty years ago. Having to battle a mindset that viewed them as ludicrous, even dangerous, comics slowly ground down the resistance and became a cultural staple for storytelling. Like videogames, comic book makers even faced Senate hearings in the U.S. to answer for their depictions of violence and crime.

Nowadays, change has become an efficiency unto itself. It comes far more rapidly. In the space of a few years, games are becoming bastard rockstars of our culture. When the cool factor outpaces the nerd factor, true acceptance is within reach.

Why do I know that games are nudging mainstream? Forget about “game profits eclipsing Hollywood movies”, as I suspect that statistic is probably so narrowed as to be meaningless. Really, I know mainstream when I can have a conversation about PS2’s “Black” with someone I’ve bumped into on the street. Or when my sister phones me up and asks me about “story themes” in Halo for her highschool english class.

Can we call that progress? I’d say so, and finally! Ideas and interest in games has been viewed as the purview of nerdly distraction. I cannot count how many times articulating the merits of a particular game’s value were met with cold dismissal. Games are fringe shows for nerds, I was told. But as I said, things are changing. As the audience widens and discerns, I can easily imagine the choices and varieties will deepen. Perhaps even to penetrate the barrier barring our idle distractions from forming into a semblance of cultural relevance.

Right now, every highschool classroom is full of kids whose daily lives are steeped in technological influences. Computers are no longer the fringe, they are practically central to their teenage experience. In the face of this, its obvious that gaming has finally busted through into the realm of cool. The face of gaming at this point is not only on a cell or a PDA, but on t-shirts and tatoos. Music inspired by 8-bit sound chips of yesterday feeds on a youth appetite for retro. All this isn’t new at all, but now this stuff is clearly embedded into our culture. Not even comics enjoyed this level of interest.

As I roam online, or perk up in conversation at a party, one thing is for sure : everyone sure does have an opinion about games. Good, bad, ludicrous, insightful, artsy, musical, useless. Whatever. I’ve heard and engaged more on the topic in the last year than any other.

As someone who’s been in it right from the beginning, its been fun to not only observe and participate, but also be an agent of that change. When clans were new, my friends here and around the world pioneered their definition. Shaped them! And as an observer in that time (and incidentally studying Communications and Media at SFU) I recalled wanting to study and record all of it.

As we form on the precipice of monumental change in gaming as I believe, things will quickly become more complex and fractured and both niche and mainstream, I believe recording today is even more important. There is real history here, and I’m hoping it can be captured and displayed for the future. In that vein, Wikipedia is trying to bolster its entries in their games section. If you have an opinion about a particular game or genre, they have a weekly contribution page on a random topic. Get over there, check it, and lend a hand… if you’re so inclined.

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