How Gamers Are Ruining Games

Doesn't it just make your blood boil, the way grown-ups talk about computer games?

Doesn't it just make your blood boil, the way grown-ups talk about computer games? If the tabloids aren€™t blaming Grand Theft Auto for the London riots, then foamy lifestyle mags are guffing about how it€™s suddenly cool to be a gamer: how Angry Birds has €œrevolutionised€ the commute or how dowdy housewives can lose six pounds by jumping up and down on Wii Fit. Whether it€™s The Daily Mail wetting its right-wing knickers about videogame violence, or The Huffington Post misrepresenting Journey by reviewing it in the Tech section, there€™s enough fluff written about computer games to fill an entire DFS-load of very stupid beds. And it€™s not as if they€™ve got an excuse; with more textbooks and webazines out there than ever before, games are gathering serious cultural momentum. We€™re maybe one console generation away from being able to straight-facedly call games art - so why does the mainstream press continue to treat them with a mix of outrage and curiosity usually reserved for dog vajazzling? Because of €œgamers€, that€™s why. We€™ve created this icky, connoting label for ourselves that people want to avoid. It€™s not like film buff, or muso, which describe a compelling level of expertise; gamer is more like trainspotter, or dogger, the kind of brand attached to strange, lifeless fanatics. €œGamers€ imagine themselves at the height of geek-chic; the kind of cool, Ellen Page-character nerds who can hit 4000 note streaks and name Final Fantasy characters. For them games are a counter-culture, best represented with referential t-shirts, online usernames and hair dye. With their in-jokes and specialist knowledge, €œgamers€ proudly form a barrier between themselves and the public-at-large: this is their secret club, and you€™re not allowed in. Don€™t believe they exist? Then take a look in the front window of Gamestation - there€™s a business that knows its customers. Gamestation have tailored their mascots to look like €œgamers€; piercings, Mohawks, plaid shirts, make-up. These Jack Black-alikes and sod-society rock chicks are how €œgamers€ like to see themselves; exclusive, different, fun. It€™s an alternative style that appeals to the pomposity of anyone who€™s defeated Ruby Weapon, an offshoot of nerd culture with €œgamers€ at the top. And it€™s spoiling things for the rest of us. Films, books and music are perfectly acceptable dinner party talking points, but thanks to €œgamers€, any mention of the latest CoD is met with sneering and disinterest. €œYou bloody loser€ says the dinner party guest that I€™ve just made up €œsat in your bedroom playing games like a kid.€ It€™s a small minded opinion, but who can blame him (or her)? Thanks to gamer culture - the expensive action figures and feverish midnight launches - anybody with an interest in computer games resembles an excited child, jittering on about BeyBlades and Furbies. How can we expect to be taken seriously? When our flagship €œhardcore€ audience spend seven hours a day playing World of Warcraft with their curtains closed, how can we not look adolescent? Of course, the image crisis isn€™t all gamer€™s fault. Like I said earlier, the only time tabloids brush up against games is when they do something outrageous €“ a punch-up over the last copy of Halo, a peripheral activated by burping. It€™s not as if the non-gaming public get a full picture of our beloved industry, but it€™s not like we€™re helping them aboard, either. The kid€™s toy misconception is one thing, but we need to go easy on the jargon, too. The more time spent posturing over which console has the more frames-per-bit-pixel, the less accessible we make games seem. €œGamers€ are suckers for this sort of thing. Log on to any gaming forum and you can find twenty plus threads arguing the toss about Crysis 2€™s draw distance €“ or something - and it€™s exactly this kind of technical bullshittery that makes people afraid of computer games. There€™s not enough literature for the uninitiated; the amount of acronyms used by €œgamers€ makes it seem like you need a license before you can own an Xbox. It€™s another wall between games and the rest of the world. €œGamers€ can piss and moan about the industry€™s withering standards, but when we put up so many barricades, when we give ourselves a uniform and a language, how can we expect original ideas to get past security? The more we willingly close ourselves off from the mainstream, the more it looks like we have something to hide; we€™re happy to let mum and dad play Angry Birds, but anything beyond that is kept out of bounds in the fear that we€™ll have to justify ourselves
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Manual laborer and games journalist who writes for The Escapist, Gamasutra and others. Lives in London. Last seen stumbling around Twitter muttering to himself @mostsincerelyed