Enter the hip hop artist-gamers. An article in the Boston Globe says, "The hip hop community develops products differently." The hip hop artist community has a tendency to be a large scale trend setter. They look at what they like, and call it cool. Their fans are cool by proxy when they duplicate the artists; a trend is born.
Wu-Tang Clan started everything in 1999, with Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style, which received moderate praise and reviews. The general consensus was that the game needed a better engine to be a better game. The real revolution occurred with the help of epic record label Def Jam.
Backed by hip hop artists such as DMX and LL Cool J, they produced Def Jam: Fight for NY in 2004 and Def Jam Vendetta this past year. Both received good reviews, and actually boasted some replay value.
With Def Jam providing the foundation, 50 Cent stepped up and continued the video game trend in hip hop. In 50 Cent: Bulletproof, due to release in November 2005, 50 Cent plays a hustler who gets into trouble on the streets of New York. Bulletproof isn't the true story of 50 Cent; it will be another underground story set in New York. One has to wonder if there's much room in the inn, after Grand Theft Auto and Need for Speed: Underground.
While some hip hop artists are designing games, it has also become quite commonplace for celebrities to star in games as well. This is just another way of permanently bridging together these two types of entertainment. Snoop Dogg will be starring in next year's Fear and Respect. Talib Kweli plays the main character in Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure, which is being well received by gaming press, as its launch nears in November.
What does this spell for classic game culture? It's still there, but the culture is broadening. People who wouldn't normally play games are becoming gamers. Games aren't just for the nerds, dorks and geeks anymore, games are trendy and hip. Celebrities want to be a part of them, and fans get the opportunity to become a bit closer to their favorite musicians, actors and actresses, finally closing the gap between the entertainment you perceive and the entertainment you control. Hip hop did it better.
Whitney Butts is the "woman behind the curtain" at The Escapist. Her existence revolves around the fact that Mathematics is the key to the universe, and that she alone is the square root of all evil.