Letters to the Editor

“Do You Want to Play a Game?”


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.

-Jason Begy

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.

There are no ‘indie’ gamers because there is no indie game scene. There is no cohesive, collective, acknowledged network of independent developers, reviewers to serve the diasporic masses of gamers who want it. Truly, The Escapist magazine is a step in this direction, but there must be a division between the corporate giants and the indie collectives, and that division (in a subculture) is marked by a healthy skepticism for the merits of corporate organization and its effects on the medium. Which means declaring unconditional love for something like the Xbox, (the Martini glass was a great touch) is not acceptable. You can’t be an indie-rock band and love clear-channel, that’s not how indie works. Indie means independent means of distribution and production. It means you don’t need a big company to have lots of fans, and many of these fans you know personally.

I’ll admit I really love the new Nintendo commercials, and as a gamer, I get jokes that my girlfriend does not. Does this make me a niche demographic? Yes. Does it make it a subculture? No. Can we build a subculture anyways? Yes. But we have to resist giving in to marketing and economics-derived explanations of ‘what a game is’ or ‘what gamers want’ and instead think about what it is we want, and how we are going to do it. Our history is largely unwritten! You hear me, Blancato? Stop all this doctor doom shit.

Perhaps I’m just perpetuating the gamer stereotype of the incessantly critical video-game snot, but I’m not critical because I’m a gamer. I’m critical because it is important to be when you care about something, as I do about games and their future.

Escapist, y’all have the power to spell the future of indie games, if you want. Or you can lament the end before it comes. Whatev. I don’t care. I’m indie, I don’t give a fuck.

Keep up the killer mag.


To the Editor: Funny your columnist should mention Neverwinter Nights in an article about the use of games (or not) in the classroom: one development team in the UK has thought just that, and has created a version of NN to teach Key Skills qualifications in Application of Number and Communication…

Altered Learning

-Adam J Hepton

To the Editor: The Escapist rocks! And I finally have good reason to mail you about my own stuff!

I enjoyed Jon Woods’ article in issue 21, and just had to ask you to send him a link to www.KidsProgrammingLanguage.com. KPL is still new – v 1 released in August – but it’s very hot. Hot enough that volunteers have translated it into Russian, Chinese, Greek, French, German, Spanish, Dutch, Italian, Polish, Romanian, Czech, Swedish and Catalan – so far. 🙂 From our KPL site:

KPL stands for Kid’s Programming Language. KPL makes it easy for kids to learn computer programming. KPL makes it fun, too, by making it especially easy to program computer games, with cool graphics and sound. KPL is not just for games, though – it can be used for teaching many different subjects. Its emphasis on games is based on the belief that learning is best when learning is fun.

-Jon Schwartz

About the author