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To the Editor: RE: "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Xbox"
Haven't I heard this before? Gaming is undeniably expanding, but a wholesale cultural shift anytime soon (and through convergence devices - a notoriously disappointing format) is rosy speculation. Hollywood's pop cultural hegemony is still unchallenged, despite those nice numbers comparing game and box-office gross (as if those mattered post-DVD). And it's not gaming but its digital sibling, the Internet, that's promising - and is largely delivering - the next leap forward in media consumption.
Add to this our ongoing cultural fragmentation, and even the idea of a "forefront of the nation's entertainment pulse" looks ludicrous. Pop culture is becoming increasingly balkanized, and has been since we realized that nothing could ever be as big as the Beatles again. That's why Nevermind was astonishing; it succeeded despite this. Fifteen years of Internet-abetted fragmentation later, and any type of success on the scale Nevermind, let alone a gaming Nevermind, looks unlikely.
To the Editor: In his article in last week's Extra ("How I learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Xbox"), Joe Blancato depicts a very rosy future for gamers, and he is not the first. However, I believe that while all gamers have hoped for this to be the future all their lives, it is not going to work out the way we would all like, simply because the main driving force behind the gaming industry is not innovation or imagination anymore, but glitz. The gaming industry exploded with the Playstation because not only was it cheap, but my goodness, it's three-dimensional! Who cares that the early PS games were all garbage? They looked so cool!
Unfortunately, this is the tendency of all American media. Movies used to be about stories, heck they would even have actual themes, but for the most part those movies fell by the wayside in favor of special effects. Sure there's a backlash starting now, but only some twenty years later. The popular writers are Steven King and Tom Clancy, who write for entertainment, not to challenge. This is what's happening to games right now, and the saddest part is that gaming has yet to hit its true stride. I personally feel that games have the potential to be considered art, not just for their stories or graphics, but for their very mechanics.
But right now there is no room for that. And Mr. Blancato may be correct, maybe in ten years gamers will be the new athletes. Call me a Costikyan-ian, but if things do not change between then and now, I will want no part in it. The games of the future will be style over substance to an even greater degree, and the gaming superstars of tomorrow will be no different than the popstars of today.
To the Editor: I don't understand the latest issue at all. Joe Blancato's article seemed to be trying to describe how a gamer subculture might survive the stresses of corporate co-optation, but instead comes out sounding at times like some Xbox marketing hack ghostwriter trying to entice us to buy into the look and attitude of the next new thing. (Black leather and Mario T-Shirts? How punk! 13-year-old girls? Sexay!) Seriously, the article did more to disprove the existence of any 'gamer subculture' at all, but if it did it was selling it out to the lowest bidder anyways as a limp package of absurd imagery, shiny devices and mario-nostalgia.