Video games are my chosen pastime and avocation, and I’m not in any way embarrased by it (clearly, since I write about it in the newspaper next to my name and photo). Unfortunately, gaming culture has been under fire for so long, and from so many directions, that it has developed an inferiority complex.
I’m a gamer.
Video games are my chosen pastime and avocation, and I’m not in any way embarrased by it (clearly, since I write about it in the newspaper next to my name and photo).
Unfortunately, gaming culture has been under fire for so long, and from so many directions, that it has developed an inferiority complex.
I was reminded of this at 11:55 p.m. Monday as I stood in line outside GameStop waiting for the midnight launch of “Fable 2” for the Xbox 360. It’s a game I’ve been looking forward to for a long time, and I make no apologies for waiting in line in the middle of the night to get it.
Some of the people waiting with me, however, were not so self-assured.
One group in particular was very vocal about just how "gay" it was that they were waiting in line for a game, particularly this one. They went on, at length, about the underlying, deeply ironic reasons they were "really" buying the game, and in general tried to look too cool to be there.
My question: Who were they showing off for?
Everyone else was there for the same reason they were. Were they trying to make the rest of us feel inferior by being more effective poseurs?
That group wasn’t by any means the only one engaging in this kind of talk, just the most vocal. Others were on laptops looking for unsecured WiFi connections (because that’s not at all geeky) or sitting in their cars playing their stereos at volumes unsafe for passers-by, let alone those in the vehicle. They tried to give the impression that being in line to buy a video game didn’t define them.
This in spite of the lengths they had already gone to just to be there: reading about the game months in advance, preordering it in order to qualify for the midnight release and, of course, showing up at midnight at GameStop.
This attitude is now dominant in the culture of games. It’s been helped along by a burgeoning gaming media desperate to cash in on the culture while avoiding the dork stigma that goes with it, and the mantra goes something like this: “I play games, but I’m not one of those gamers.”
You can read it between the lines at Web sites like gamespot.com and IGN, as they replace their smart but aging editorial staff with twentysomethings who never owned an NES or played games in an arcade, but look better in a video review.
It screams beneath the surface on G4TV (a cable channel focusing on games), where shows are hosted by women I’d be too nervous to ask directions from, and whom I’ve certainly never seen at late-night LAN parties or waiting in line for “Fable 2” at midnight.
Apparently, gaming is for the beautiful people now.
It creates an environment in which – even within the bounds of "geek" culture – we have to be self conscious, worried that we’re not the "cool geeks." Let’s not even get into what this may do to the minds of female gamers who don’t look like Morgan Webb or Jade Raymond [I, at least, like you anyway].
Somehow, while we weren’t looking, popular culture made gaming cool by marginalizing gamers.
As a result, some of us feel the need to stand in line outside GameStop at midnight, waiting to buy a game, while trying to avoid looking like gamers. It’s a tough balancing act, and it’s one we shouldn’t allow others to impose on us.
James Post is copy desk chief at The (Corning, N.Y.) Leader in addition to writing a regular column on gaming. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.