"GTA is a no-no, and Dead or Alive is a bit risqué for them. But they really love Tekken." The eight-year-old started demonstrating a few moves, which Dad did his best to suppress.
My next quarry was an elderly man alone near the DVD rack. He had the look of a grandfather; big glasses on a big, friendly face and slept-in causal business attire. I asked him about some new releases, specifically the 5 million strong Halo 2 and vastly over-hyped Half-Life 2. He mentioned his granddaughter being verbally assaulted on Xbox Live, but also how amazed he was by the lines outside the local EB on what he later found out was release day. I asked him if his children were gamers, which they weren't, but his granddaughter would be a social outcast if she didn't at least have a PS2. He tries to keep up to date on future releases she might like by cruising the internet, reading previews. When I brought up the success of relatively indie titles like Katamari Damacy, his eyes dimmed. He then asked me what I thought about two different versions of Madden games.
The rest of the people I spoke with were in similar camps. They knew what their kids knew, with the exception of one woman who tossed her preteen a twenty and told him to get whatever he wanted. Despite the fact she's what's wrong with the gaming industry, I owed it to pollsters everywhere to approach her.
She wasn't as clueless as my prejudice had me expecting; she only gave her son $20 because she knows the PS2 platinum list by heart, and limits him to games with a "teen" rating and below. I asked her if she played GTA; she did, and decided her boy wasn't ready for it yet. When I brought up the chances of him playing at someone else's home, her response was direct:
"I can't be there for him all the time, but when I can control [his environment], I will."
While the general public's vast knowledge of not only what's out, but what's classic, might surprise some circles, it really shouldn't. Most people in the gaming demographic are between 18 and 24. We are the echoes of the Baby Boom, which pretty much paints a massive advertising target on our backs. As the largest generation to come through in many years, PR machines loom massive over our heads and are beginning to look in our direction for the Meal Ticket. Our pastimes become relevant. Like all things pure, good hype rises. The Diablos and Halos make their way into the lives of people normally untouched by gaming's long fingers, as the marketing machine gears up and the voice directed at us grows louder.
The not-so-clueless Wal-Mart mother I spoke with last definitely isn't alone. Like my own mother, she listens to her children, takes the time to at least get the basics of what her children do. Whether in regard to media outcry or genuine interest, Mom and Dad more than likely know what gamers are up to these days. Our generation is the first to be truly immersed in gamer culture and these savvy parents knew what was OK and what needed to sit on the shelf for a few more years. This can only mean children beyond the Baby Echo will have an even more knowledgeable parental eye cast in their direction. My old "it's not as bad as it looks" ploy may never be uttered again.