Op-Ed

Op-Ed
Careful What You Wish For

Sean Sands | 28 Jul 2008 15:28
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The homogenization of gaming is a mixed blessing.

There are clever, apparently Eastern, proverbs about punishing someone by giving them exactly what they wish for. Every time I buy a Powerball ticket I hope that particular adage will finally "proc" for me and unleash the punishment I so richly long for, but apparently this is a problem that keeps happening to other people. Most recently, gamers.

We gamers have long been marginalized by a popular culture that looked down on our shared digital interests. What was once unpleasant bullying during recess by thugs with early facial hair became unpleasant bullying in court rooms and legislatures by thugs with male-pattern baldness.

Gaming, which had been a niche to be laughed at by gatekeepers of popular culture, is now a booming multi-billion dollar megalith of consumerism. We wanted to turn the rest of the world into gamers, to be taken seriously, to be a dominant media empire, to see videogames breaking financial records long held by the music and movie industries, and at long last,we succeeded.

We have seen the revolution, and in so doing have perhaps also learned that if you ever want to take the heart and soul out of an enterprise, you simply need to make it popular.

This week, the ESA released the results of a study revealing that gaming truly is now cross-gender, cross-generational and homogenized throughout our culture. Frankly, I wouldn't trust the ESA of late to release a study on the likelihood of a sunrise, but for the sake of moving forward let's take it at its word. According to the study:

  • 65 percent of American households play computer and videogames;
  • 38 percent of American homes have a video game console;
  • The average game player is 35 years old;
  • One out of four gamers is over age 50;
  • Women age 18 or older represent a significantly greater portion of the game-playing population (33 percent) than boys age 17 or younger (18 percent); and,
  • 41 percent of Americans expect to purchase one or more games this year.

These are the kinds of numbers we gamers once dreamed of seeing, a clear portrait of an America that takes gaming seriously. I can walk into my full-time corporate job, announce that I'm a gamer and , the likelihood of becoming a pariah for the revelation is far less than what it used to be.

The once seemingly unreachable dream of interesting women in our counter-culture even appears to be commonplace according to the study, a fact that probably won't come as much surprise to neither my Y chromosome deficient editor Susan Arendt (yes, these things do get edited), nor our editor-in-chief Julianne Greer.

But, a closer look at the numbers, particularly on the heels of an E3 that seemed to leave us traditional hardcore gamers drowsy with boredom, reveals another tale of the tape. What does it say about the definition of a gamer with 65 percent of Americans playing video games but only 38 percent owning a game console? What does it say that 25 percent of gamers are over the age of 50? Should we expect a feature story in the next AARP magazine about "fragging newbs"?

Unlikely.

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