The whole world is against us.
We take a look at whatâ€™s going on and what we should do about it.
The world hates us. Even to this day, despite being part of an industry generating billions, the world still looks down on gamers the world over. Yes, Iâ€™m including all of us in the world wide gaming industry. That includes game designers, developers and most importantly consumers. All the way down to lowly game reviewers, editors and website administrators. The reality is that the world still looks at us as children, as nerds, as pathetic and lonely and smelly, and we are always (and I mean â€˜alwaysâ€™) male.
While we may occasionally be these things, we are also brave (at least we are if we hang out in Hawaiian Internet cafes) as well as inherently intelligent, effortlessly creative and above averagely good looking (after a shower and if we can find a clean shirt). And, we also have exceptional digital dexterity - which has to count for something.
But no, digital dexterity doesnâ€™t seem to count for much. Not if we take a look at how gamers are presented in the media, be it mainstream news or popular culture. If weâ€™re not being slagged off by pillars of the local community like Michael Laws, weâ€™re being labelled racist by the well respected and undoubtedly well-meaning Italian/American service organisation UNICO National. (And no, Iâ€™m not being nice because Iâ€™m afraid of getting whacked). Thatâ€™s if weâ€™re lucky. If weâ€™re not, weâ€™re stereotyped as drug dealing minor criminals passing the time between stalking high school girls and dying horribly at the hands of miniature, purple-haired crime fighters. While I will admit that gamers are guilty of some pretty horrendous crimes (I still remember the weekend I rented out, and played, the Little Britain game â€“ and Iâ€™m still trying to find redemption) in terms of say, whackings, I think the gaming community is still a fair way behind the hi-score posted by those in the Mafia.
So if countries, religions, ethnicities, Nazis, zombies and invading aliens can complain that we are portraying negative stereotypes, that we are reinforcing racism and discrimination, that their culture is being undermined by our focusing on a few extreme cases, then so can we.
So, without going for the obvious films like War Games, Galaxy Quest or Live Free or Die Hard (films where Mathew Broderick, Justin Long, Kevin Smith, and Justin Long again, play absurd stereotypical Internet Gods that can hack into the pentagonâ€™s mainframe, to charge their Steam account to the Presidentâ€™s discretionary fund, while living on pizza and being nagged by their mum to put their dirty underwear in the wash) weâ€™ll look at whatâ€™s going on out there, and what we should do about it.
We wonâ€™t look at films specifically set in the world of games or gamers; films like The Nines or Gamer where itâ€˜s just science fiction. In these films, the world they are set in represents our entire society, so characters encompass a wider range of humanity. In these films there are heroes, villains, victims as well as tough, badass killers. The other reason we wonâ€™t look at them is because theyâ€™re pretty lame.
We also wonâ€™t look at documentaries like Second Skin or The King of Kong. Not because theyâ€™re misleading or disrespectful, but because the whole point to them, their selling point, is the strangeness of the people they follow. As gamers, we can look past the cosplay and sitting in your shed for hours on end playing Donkey Kong, and see them as stories about people. For us these films are about real people overcoming obstacles, meeting challenges, finding themselves and reaching their potential. For us these people are musicians, or doctors or film makers or fishermen. But for everyone else the oddness of these gamers, these people who play video games and donâ€™t mind being filmed playing video games, is something they canâ€™t see past.
So letâ€™s have a look back at six films that have come out over the last ten years. Ten years where the gaming industry has grown to rival the film industry in terms of size and sales. Six ordinary movies with little or nothing to do with gaming. Comedies, dramas, action films and horrors. The characters in these films arenâ€™t there to play the games. The scenes would work just as well if the characters were driving, or cooking, or watching TV. What the films show us is what kind of people play video games; what kind of people pick up a controller and start killing Italian gangsters, African zombies, Arab terrorists or Nazis, from wherever Nazis come from. Are these characters strong and powerful? Are they intelligent and sexy, outgoing and in control of their lives? Letâ€™s take a look.
Easily the best re-make of an old seventies series ever. Still holds up after ten years as a fun movie that somehow manages to be both an adolescent male fantasy, while staying firmly on the side of girl power. In the film two young boys are indulging in their boy fantasies - playing video games - when they are presented with an actual real life fantasy in the form of a naked Drew Barrymore knocking on their door asking for a little help. As an audience we know they are completely unequipped to take advantage of the situation, and that even naked, Drew Barrymoreâ€™s character is in charge.
Shaun of the Dead
Awesome horror/comedy with typical foul mouthed, bleakness and irreverence that only comes out of the British independent film industry. In it Simon Pegg and Nick Frost play the iconic Shaun and Ed. While the zombies take over the world, Shaunâ€™s buddy Ed is camped in front of the telly eating, drinking and playing video games. What can we say. Edâ€™s a complete loser. Heâ€™s a fat slacker. Smelly and without a chance of ever getting a girlfriend. However, he is pretty good at killing Zombies. But then, all of us know that when the aliens land or the zombie nation rises, weâ€™ll have our cricket bat, and weâ€™ll know what to do.
Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston in a typical Vince Vaugh/Jenifer Aniston romantic comedy. Vince is a typical man-child. Heâ€™s not grown up, has no proper plan for the future and no sense of responsibility. And he never will until he throws away his toys and gets in touch with his feelings. Jennifer only wants him to open up and participate fully in the relationship. Yes, the film is that bad. Of course to reinforce all these stereotypical man-child attributes, Vince is always on the lookout for a spare hour to hit the streets of San Andreas and is more than willing to indulge in some man-on-man sport sim bonding with Jenâ€™s new trophy boyfriend.
Reign Over Me
Now the serious stuff. Adam Sander plays Charlie, a man drowning in personal tragedy. Then he meets his old college roomy, who tries to pull him back from the brink. Charlie plays the fabulous Shadow of the Colossus a lot. As a metaphor itâ€™s as big, lumbering and obvious as the monsters he is trying to scale. Charlie is withdrawn, isolated and totally screwed up. He hides in the video game to escape a world he canâ€™t cope with. If only he could scale the colossus in real life like he does in the game.
The Hurt Locker
War is hell, and not at all like a video game. Except in The Hurt Locker where its almost exactly like a video game. It doesnâ€™t matter if James, Sanborn and Eldridge are searching dusty Iraqi streets, clearing factories or targeting snipers, gamers around the world have seen and experienced it all before in any number of video games. So when we see the young Eldridge playing video games while talking to his psychiatrist, we like him. Heâ€™s likeable, brave and has a proper job. But itâ€™s not the experienced, tough, professional, highly skilled and in control James and Sanborn playing the games, is it? No, itâ€™s the scared, unsure kid.
My new favourite film. Itâ€™s very violent with a heap of cultural references drawn from all kinds of media - McLovin, Mark Millar, Nick Cage doing TV Batman and the guy who produced Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. You would think at the very least it would be kind to gamers. But no. Here the gamer is a stalker, drug dealer and murderer. Of course he is. Would we expect anything else?
So itâ€™s true. They all hate us. The man (yes heâ€™s still there) is still trying to bring us down. And while we donâ€™t have any international, or national, organisation to speak for us, no gamerâ€™s UNICO to distribute a worldwide press release damning the film industry for propagating such demeaning and hurtful cultural stereotypes, weâ€™ll just have to endure. We are by now all used to being used as examples of lazy, juvenile, drug addicted criminals. As being portrayed as emotionally stunted adolescents, unfit, unattractive and obsessed with violence. We know in our hearts that it wonâ€™t change. At least till we get our own flat, take more regular showers, and maybe get out a bit more.