"The internet is a bigger part of daily life these days than when I first started putting tracks up," notes Hess. "In 2000, if you spent all day on a computer, you were either a web developer or a PC gamer. Or both. Penny Arcade, obviously, is gaming focused, so the huge number of folks who came into contact with my music via PA are all gamers." Though Hess admits the Penny Arcade connection might skew his perspective slightly, he says it seems like 80 percent of his listeners play videogames.

With the growing popularity of gaming, you'd be hard-pressed these days to find a household that doesn't own some kind of game system, notes nerdcore rapper and self-described digital gangster YTCracker, aka Bryce Case Jr. First-rate hacking skills won Case some notoriety, but that's far from his only brag-worthy feat: He's also finished Contra without dying once. His prowess at the mic is matched only by his infatuation for old-school games ("It kinda sucks now because my NES blinks red / I blow and blow but all my games are dead / Thank God for ROMs and Nesticle / played at every geek rap festival"). In fact, Case put together his first solo album NerdRap Entertainment System using a mixture of beats and sound files from classic NES games like Mega Man and The Legend of Zelda.


"I think the diehard gaming fans like having a genre out there championing the lifestyle of wireless keyboards, cool ranch chips and late nights on Ventrilo," Case says. Both musically and lyrically, he feels hip hop and gaming culture are a good match. "Videogames are a decent microcosm of the real world, featuring failing economies, lackluster cooperation, gratuitous violence and the cutthroat spirit of competition, so they translate well into lyrics that people understand."

Case's later work is less Nintendo-centric, covering a broad range of topics beyond games. Still, he frequently takes every opportunity to work snippets of lyrics about his gaming habits into other tunes, like in his track "Birth of a Phish" on the Digital Gangster LP he recorded in collaboration with hip hop pal MC Lars. A Starcraft fan, Case coolly slips a quick nod to the popular RTS game in mid-verse ("Speaking of Starcraft, I'm like Raynor / But I've never been a vulture, just a savior / Locke like Lost, teched-up like Protoss and I'm carrying the game / nerd Randy Moss").

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