Saturday, August 21, 2010

Stereotypes Do, Stereotypically, Exist for a Reason Though

So, I really really want to see Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World. I think it looks like an awesome movie, and I fully plan on seeing it while it is in theaters sometime in the coming weeks. Like many do, I pay attention to reviews for movies that I plan on seeing. For example, I really wanted to see the Percy Jackson movie, since that's based on a series of purely AWESOME books. Once I saw the reviews however, I noticed that they listed a lot of changes that were made in the movie that sounded atrocious to me. And they were. And that movie was awful. Eugh.

But while viewing an article about the disappointing opening weekend for Scott Pilgrim, I found the opening line of one newspaper's review of the movie.

"First of all, I'm not a video gamer. I have discovered more appealing ways to not have a life."

Cue the nerd rage.

Gamers are thought of in this way, far too often. I mean, this isn't by a long shot an isolated incident. Gamers, far more so than any other genre of hobby, are portrayed as anti-social angry haters of all things good and holy.

So, let's look at why this stereotype exists. I mean, why is it that gamers are portrayed in a manner like this,

in the first place? I mean, film lovers aren't portrayed as antisocial, although movie watching as a hobby isn't exactly the most social of experiences. I mean, the first result you get on google images when you search "gamer" is this:

Not exactly flattering. I mean, even comic book lovers aren't portrayed quite as anti-social as gamers, with TV shows often showing a comic book shop as having a tight-knit group that goes there regularly, and where absolutely everyone is on a first name basis.

What do we mean when we say that someone doesn't have a "life"? We aren't referring to a dead person. We're referring to someone who, plain and simple, doesn't get a lot of socialization. This, is probably why games are thought of as an anti-social experience. I mean, when you think of video games, you think of Mario. Zelda. Half-Life. All sorts of great... Single-player experiences.

But, Mario always had Luigi. Games are quite possibly the most social art form. Books aren't social. When you're reading a book, you're interacting with absolutely no one. Sure, you can talk about the book later, but really, you're not interacting with anyone WHILE READING THE BOOK. Movies are the same, you don't exactly interact with anyone while watching a film. Again, any social aspect comes afterward. I suppose you could argue music can be a social experience, but.. Even that's a bit of a stretch.

But games, games can truly be a social art form. The very existence of multiplayer shows this. The fact that with games like Team Fortress 2, you can actually interact with other real people, that makes it more interactive, and yes, social, than movies, literature, or music. The fact that there is more interaction than just discussing it, to actually be interacting within the medium, makes it more social than any other media.

Now, it's true, most of that interaction does involve watching the other players head explode as you get sweeping headshots on him and his buddies, but hey, anyone who doesn't understand the interaction that comes from that sort of interaction, can't truly have it explained to them. They must experience it for themselves.

Let me take an example from my own life. A couple of good friends of mine (who yes, I only know through the internet) and I used to play the free FPS Combat Arms quite often. Most of the time, however, we wouldn't play with anyone but the three of us, in a deathmatch mode. In voice chat. And you know what? There was trash talk. There were laughs. There was a sort of social experience gotten from that, that I don't think could ever quite be matched by watching a movie, or reading a book.

I have great memories of exploiting the terrain, and falling onto a small ledge and sniping one of them with a pistol, that certainly couldn't be matched by a movie, at least.

But there's way more interaction than that. There's a sort of teamwork gotten from gaming that can never be matched. With the advent of online gaming, there's great teams being formed to do impossible tasks, on a daily basis. Take the game Borderlands (review coming soon... probably.) which features 4 player co-op. There's levels of teamwork needed in that game, and there's truly social entertainment that can't be matched by a movie. A movie can't recreate the social experience that is Borderlands. Having one guy distract an enemy while the other shoots him/her/it in the butt, that's entertaining, and it's SOCIAL.

Beyond that, there's games that take that on a HUGE scale. Take World of Warcraft for example. World of Warcraft is infamous for having many "no-lifers". I mean, we're talking about the game people have literally died of, because they didn't want to stop playing to eat... Right?

Well yes, but those people are crazy. What most people don't notice is how social WoW is. I mean, there's very little you can do without the help of other players at endgame. Once you reach level 80, you pretty much need to group up with 4-24 other people in order to progress. There's different paths, PvP, 10-Man raiding, 25-man raiding, but still, they all take various levels of OTHER PLAYERS (real live people) to do.

Guilds (groups of people who form a kind of club in game) have a sort of community in them that's unmatched by many experiences outside of games. Good ones, at least.

The point is, gamers get plenty of socialization, and for a large part, do have lives. The thing people fail to understand is that gaming is part of their lives. A big part. And until people do understand, and accept that, the stereotype will stick. People fail to accept that killing bosses in WoW is as much socialization, as going to the movies with a group of friends is.

Ah, but the real question is, is it as valid a form of socialization? That, unfortunately, is a question for another day.


  1. Ok, so, I agree with everything said in this post...I think. I have one question: Were you intentionally implying that games are superior to books? I mean, you didn't come right out and say it, but...the implication was there. I don't know if you meant it or not, but it was.

    And, actually, books can be social during the reading of them. I've had my parents read books aloud to our family, and we discuss them, we laugh about them, good social experiences are had by all. Of course, then there's the question of whether or not talking with your family is social, but I say it absolutely is. Not everyone would agree with me, but I think you would.

    Now, don't get me wrong here. I'm not arguing the socialization of gaming. I'm simply saying it CAN be matched by books, and even movies, sometimes. Movies not as much, but a movie that you and several friends all love and have seen before can be watched with comments, quoting lines with the characters, even parodying the lines. It's fun. And it's social.

    So, all that to say, yes video games can be social. But it's not true that that can't be matched in other art forms.

  2. See I disagree there. While I wasn't by any means saying that video games are, in general superior to books as an art form, I couldn't disagree more with that, BUT, I don't know if most non gamers realize just how social gaming is now and days.

    What I'm getting at is that, with a book, even if you're reading it with your family, it's still not the BOOK that is the social experience. Experiencing the story is still, strictly speaking, an experience that, while each of you are experiencing, even at the same time, you're still experiencing it separately. Isolated. Discussing the book afterward can be a social experience, but that's not the same as the book ITSELF being a social experience.

    The same with movies. You see, movies can be experience by entire theaters at once, but again the experience is still isolated for each person. I suppose I'd agree a bit when it's to the point of quoting, and commententing on the lines with good friends... But even then it can't match the social aspects of a good multiplayer game.

    A game however, is a social experience. A raid, in World of Warcraft for example. We are all experiencing the content, not only at the same time, but are depending on each other to do their parts perfectly. Talking strategy... Calling out commands... Healing, tanking, even DPSing, these are all innately social experiences. A top tier, current raid CANNOT be done by yourself. It is mathematically impossible. It requires 9 or 24 other people (depending on the mode) and a large amount of TEAMWORK in order to complete it. Talking over Ventrilo, theorycrafting, explaining the fights to people... These are innately social things.

    And that's why, Video Games, as a social experience, are in my opinion superior to books or films. Now, that's a completely different subject from books or films as an ART FORM keep in mind. Those are two entirely different subjects.