Editorial: It Was A Bad Day For Stereotypes!
As most of our loyal readers know, I've often spoken about stereotypes within the industry and how they've changed over the years. Recently, I've taken more of a negative view by saying that while the gaming populace has made great strides, there's still a deeply entrenched sense of inferiority in regards to the mainstream public. Even if gamers aren't "nerds," video games still aren't a legitimate entertainment industry, and nobody will ever take it as seriously as movies, music, books, etc.
Now, I still stand by that as today is merely one day and in the larger scheme of things, it's not indicative of the entire picture. However, in my modest travels on a Friday afternoon and into the evening (nothing too spectacular, mind you), I saw multiple examples of how some of the more commonly accepted gamer stereotypes have disappeared in the recent past. First, I went to the mall - oh yes, we're having wild times now - and hemmed and hawed over a Resident Evil 5 purchase. But after reading Arnold's review and remembering my time with the demo, I decided to wait. I wouldn't have if I didn't have Star Ocean: The Last Hope sitting at home, but with an RPG there...well, I've got enough to play. And there's this little thing called "work," too, even though I know some of you still think that it's more like playing. ;)
Anywho, there's a man and woman in there, and while I don't make it a habit of eavesdropping, they were pretty loud so it was difficult to ignore. It only took seconds to realize they were married, and the instant I heard the raised voices, my pre-programmed brain settled on the obvious conclusion: the dude wanted to buy a game but she didn't want him to, for whatever reason. But I forgot what year it was! They weren't arguing over whether or not to buy a game; they were arguing over which game to buy, in exactly the same fashion a couple might argue over a DVD or CD. The guy wanted RE5 and the girl wanted Star Ocean. It wasn't even a prototypical Wii game, or something! I couldn't help but grin in their direction; the girl noticed and quickly said, "he always gets to pick." Oh, and if any of you were wondering, no, these two in no way held any of the other common stereotypical gamer traits.
Then, I was in Best Buy and I overheard two people arguing over Killzone 2 and Halo 3; I heard before I saw them, but as it turned out, they were two guys in suits who had to be 40+ years of age. They almost sounded as if they knew what they were talking about, too... Finally, I turned the corner, and you know how they have the demonstration systems set up at the end of the aisles? I just started fiddling around with the PS3, sifting around to see if they had any cool videos or demos on there. I was about ready to put the controller down when a voice near my shoulder said, "hey, let's play." It wasn't a kid and it wasn't a teenage boy. It wasn't even male. It was a girl, probably in her mid-20s, who - if I liked the bleached blonde cheerleader look - would be extraordinarily cute. I said I had no idea what they had in there (or if they had anything at all) and she said, "oh, I don't care. I just want to play something...I'm bored."
There was a MotorStorm: Pacific Rift demo in there, so we played a few races of that. She didn't win, but she wasn't terrible, and she certainly enjoyed herself. She even chattered on about some of the games she had played recently and while none of them could be considered "hardcore" titles, the mere fact that she was standing there was enough to dispel a few major stereotypes. This all happened within the span of a few hours, mind you, and upon leaving Best Buy, I found myself thinking: "well, that was an encouraging little excursion." Some days, I don't even want to look at another human, but others...they can surprise me. Today was such a day. And bear in mind that I'm 30 years old now and my mind is still set in the '80s in some ways, so while you 20-year-olds might not find any of this surprising, you didn't grow up in a very different time. Consider that before saying something like "well, duh" in response. ;)
3/13/2009 Ben Dutka