From the off, I’d like to state that the following is categorically not an attack oncasual gamers, bandwagon-jumper-on-errs, or people who wear thick-rimmed glasses without any prescription in the lenses.
Nor will it be a discussion on where the ‘cool’ line is drawn. Are you only a real gamer if you can remember the theme tune to New Zealand Story without looking it up on YouTube? Are you just a dumb poser if you don’t know what the hell New Zealand Story even is? Who the hell cares, man? We’re not at high school anymore.
But I’m sure the very recent (and very sudden) culture shift hasn’t gone unnoticed.
For the first time in history, it’s apparently now cool to be a geek.
The global value of the video games industry has surged over the last decade, now hovering somewhere around the $70bn mark. Make no mistake, the industry has always been worth a dime or two (even in the Atari home console days), but for the first few decades the money only ever circulated between those who made games and those who played them. Maybe a bit of merchandizing too, but whatever.
All of a sudden, gaming and all the nerdy associations which go with it are now heralded as a fashion statement, and people buy into fashion statements. Before you know it, some savvy marketer realizes this and starts cashing in on it, selling a lot of pointless crap that he doesn’t understand to a group of people with more money than personality.
Can’t be angry at the marketers. Their business is to make money, not care about gaming culture. But can we be angry at the vapid consumers who are buying into the culture only because it’s now deemed acceptable?
Kinda. But being irritated by it isn’t the same as hating all the new fans who suddenly like Band X because you’ve been following them since ’82.
The difference is, nobody treated you like a social outcast for liking Band X for thirty years, then all of a sudden agreed the band is awesome after all.
So that’s an annoying aspect to the whole ‘geeks are cool’ thing of late. I’m not saying that growing up as a nerd is anywhere near the worst stigma at the puberty party, but it’s a bit rich that we had to almost seem ashamed of such an innocent hobby for so many years only for everyone to join the road after we’ve paved it.
But the Hipsters Might Cure Cancer. Seriously.
What? Yes, I did just say that. Stick with this as we move over to the flip-side.
Firstly, the reason why it’s a bit puerile and childish to hate your favorite indy band as soon as they become mainstream is because you’re supposed to want them to succeed. You haven’t been supporting them all these years with the hopes that they can’t fill out anything more than a small club or buy decent coke, have you?
A similar principle could be argued for the explosion in gaming, minus the drugs (although playing Guild Wars on mushrooms is one hell of an experience). Gaming is now accepted as a social experience, as an art form; already the shrill accusations that games turn you into a school-shootin’ psychopath are becoming more infrequent and sounding sillier by the day. If the price of having this brilliant art form accepted by – and accessible to – the masses is having some hipsters on board who claim to play games to look ‘alternative’, then I’m all for it.
Without the glorification of geekdom, we almost certainly wouldn’t see the likes of Felicia Day making a mainstream success of herself, and that’s not the kind of world I want to live in. Remember: for every wannabe ‘gamer girl’ who puts on some thick-rimmed glasses, an actual hot girl who genuinely loves WoW just came out of her basement.
The Knock-On Effect
Taking things one step further, the more society embraces nerdy pursuits as being ‘sexy’ (whatever that means), the more society benefits. Compare and contrast Bill Gates’ image in the 90s, with Steve Jobs’ image in the 21st century.
The acerbic web writer Maddox ruthlessly picked apart the ‘geeks are sexy’ thing in an article last month. While his schtick has always been to go a bit over the top, and he talks about science rather than gaming, he does hit the nail on the head and I’ve even borrowed a couple of his observations here.
But I think he’s missing the bigger picture.
This isn’t about protecting hobbies and interests. If gaming is embraced, it puts a lot of money into the industry. This money creates the kind of jobs out-of-work creatives would kill to get into. It fuels interest and puts bums on seats at places such as the NYFA game design school. In turn, it creates better games.
And outside of gaming, this glorification of intellectual pursuits can by a boon to the science and technology sectors, to such an extent that I wouldn’t be surprised if someone who got into biochemistry after Portal left a big impression on her went on to cure cancer.
Honestly. It’s just a numbers game – someone is going to do it, so why not a newly-transformed geek?
So let’s welcome everyone, old and new, into gaming. Let’s get more people into programming and app development and science.
But just not like this…
… Good lord, not like this:
Do you agree with my irrefutable logic, or do you still think get irate at hipsters jumping on the game bandwagon? Either way, leave a comment below. Fiiiiiiight!