Hawkes Editorial: Preserving the Culture of Gaming

In: Uncategorized by David LaMont

27 Oct 2008

WARNING: This article contains spoilers from Fable 2 and Bioshock.  If you have not at least progressed to the adult years in Fable 2 or met Andrew Ryan in Bioshock, I would avoid reading this editorial for the moment.

Last warning!…

From Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary:

Culture, definition 5-B: The customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group.

While playing Fable 2 last night, I got to the point where the brother and sister are escorted to the big castle on the edge of Albion, where we were brought to the master of the house who had suffered an unfortunate tragedy years earlier.

As my character conversed with the master, it was revealed that the master needed to test us out and asked: “Would you kindly step onto the circle?”

I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I knew it wasn’t going to end well. How could it? He said: “Would you kindly?”

Now, I do understand that the term was around well before Bioshock turned it into something more sinister, but you can’t ask me to believe that Peter Molyneux just threw that phrase in to keep with the timeframe.

It was a warning, but also a sign: We can’t avoid the destiny that awaits us on the circle. So like Jack, the slave obeyed in the the hope that the man at the other side will choose.

As the scene played out, I couldn’t help but smile to myself at how the gaming culture has grown its own brand of heroes and villains… and catch phrases. How the parts of gaming that we have touched have started to push their influence in ways we may not even be aware of.

The “gaming culture” has been thrown around as the catch-all name for all things gaming. This could be from a simple game of Tetris to as nail-biting as a raid in World of Warcraft.

But the lable itself can be an almost dismissive, if not insulting, brand to throw at someone who dares spend free time with keyboard or gamepad in hand. I personally experienced this on several occasions, and the idea that gamers on a whole are a sub-level of society that drags it down is about the biggest load of crap since Hitler decided that Poland was a nice place to build a summer home.

Yet, there is growing evidence that, as a culture, we are starting to have an influence in a more mainstream way. The use of 1337 speak, which started in Quake matches from days gone by, has easily found its way into chat rooms around the world.  The ever-famous LOLcat speaking in a form of 1337 speak is proof of that.

But it’s more than that. Many times when a political discussion comes up at work, invariably someone will say, “The cake is a lie,” which will crack up everyone. What was really funny was that I would start talking about Portal and half the group would stare at me dumbfounded.

Whether it was the Wii or the Jack Thompsons or World of Warcraft, gaming has found a way to touch the lives of people who aren’t even aware of it.  My wife, though merely appreciative of my love of gaming and not necessarily a “gamer,” is well aware of many of the controversies and sayings that have erupted from it.

It thus falls on us, the real gamers, to preserve our heritage.  I have found myself explaining where “The cake is a lie” comes from, who Leroy Jenkins really was, Mario’s humble yet successful beginnings, and why husbands scream obscenities to faceless foes on Saturday night during a strenuous Call of Duty 4 match.

It was also gamers who exposed the fraud that was Jack Thompson, who took Cooper Lawrence for a horrible ride down the book charts for her outrageous Mass Effect claims, and who berated the unfair DRM that slowly seeps its way into the lives of all.

We are the front line, the start of a new revolution of thought and idea. We are the deep thinkers who see the beauty and horror in Solid Snake’s world, who understand that the innocent must not suffer at the hands of the Flood, and who will fight with our last breath to protect the world from the zombie apocalypse.

And like all those at the front lines of a new culture war, there will be collateral damage. For every step we take forward a lesser among us will engage in violent protest of the world, and the blame will fall on the games they play. We mourn the passing of those who have suffered but persevere in the name of games.

Time was I hid my love of gaming the way some hide their Hustlers and Playboys from any and all prying eyes. I proudly talk of it now, exemplifying the best of our genre when I can, and when someone points to the lower end of the spectrum — games like of Postal – I remind them that for every Citizen Kane there are five Toxic Avengers.

We as representatives of our  culture can show the world that we’re not just a bunch of basement-dwelling plebes who jerk-off to headshot after headshot but cultured individuals who appreciate the art and tremendous hard work that goes into the creation of that which we love.

Fine, I know, preaching to the choir here. But aside from the group I talk with on a daily basis, how often does one mention their love of gaming casual conversation?

Usually people will hit with politics, then maybe some TV. (“OMG, Toni Braxton got kicked off Dancing with the Stars!”). Perhaps move on to movies, but isn’t gaming in many ways above most if not all of that?

I’d take gaming over those three examples any day. The worst experience I’ve ever had with a game can sometimes still be better than the supposed best of TV and movies, and considering the amount of gamerpics available for both McCain-Palin and Obama-Biden, you can easily see how gaming can really “cross the aisle” and bring a level of harmony to this twisted world of politics.

This again, brings me to the responsibility of the gamers.

We are legion, but we are starting to be overshadowed by those with a passing interest. It is to them that advertising money is going. It is their money that all the video game companies are after. It is completely understandable to fear them, as it runs the risk of ruining the very culture that we have been masters of for so long.

I, too, feared the inclusion of casuals, until I reached that room in Fable 2, and I was reminded of the beauty and terror of a simple phrase spoken from a kindly master.

We are the masters. We are the educators of the incoming group of mainstream gamers. It is our job to help them understand this strange culture they have found themselves in and we shouldn’t be name calling them in multiplayer, but embracing them, showing them how they can do better. We are the new coaches and professors of the next generation of gamers who will then pass that knowledge down.

To simply forget these people puts our culture in danger of becoming nothing but a tiny footnote in history. Instead of yelling, “N00b,” at those who are obviously not experienced, why not take the time to show them the ropes? Friend them, then introduce them to new games.

We are the ambassadors of gaming culture, it is our privilege to spread the knowledge to all those who come seeking knowledge and fun. We do not prejudice based on console, we do not prejudice skill, we should appreciate that someone took enough of an interest in something we love to try to play it with us.

Most people today hardly know any movie before 1970. Heck, it’s getting to the point where they hardly know a movie before 1990. We have an opportunity to show people how rich a culture we are.

We need to teach those who come today about those who forged this future, the Miyamotos, the Schaffers, the Wrights, and the Kojimas — these are people they need to know in the same breath as Spielberg, Welles, Ford, and Cassevettes.

We are the preservers of our gaming culture.

Don’t blow it.

Hawkes

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6 Responses to Hawkes Editorial: Preserving the Culture of Gaming

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Slymanx

October 27th, 2008 at 10:55 am

Hawkes, will you have my children?

Avatar

Kacper

October 28th, 2008 at 2:35 am

Hawkes, a lone tear has just flown from my eyes. I wish for the whole world to see your words of wisdom. Truer words have never been spoken.

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CooperHawkes

October 28th, 2008 at 5:10 am

Slymanx/Kacper,

Thanks much for the props! I’m surprised I’m not getting any “DIE HAWKES DIE!” comments.. :)

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X3R0 9

October 28th, 2008 at 6:00 am

Very nicely put Hawkes! I enjoy reading your editorials. Yours are the best! I’m going to start rambling phrases during my work meetings just to see how many get them.

Avatar

Gemini Ace

October 28th, 2008 at 6:11 am

DIE HAWKES DIE!

Ok, sorry. You know I can’t pass up the joke.

Anyway, that’s a great editorial. I totally agree that we are a culture unto ourselves. It’s like being a comic book geek or a car guy. We just speak a different language.

I admit that I don’t spread the word about gaming to the non-gamers I come in contact with. I have given advise to people that have come to me asking what console to buy.

By the way, one of the local morning radio guys said “the cake is a lie” the other day. It felt good.

Avatar

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October 28th, 2008 at 12:19 pm

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