Some in the public eye still think games are terrible. But as technology slowly infiltrates our lives, pulling out a 3DS isn’t seen as childish anymore.
In middle school, everyone played Pokemon. Girls got in on the action too, battling and trading and generally not giving a care about what the world thought. It was a peaceful time between the hectic nature of classes, when a 500-word “essay” seemed like the end of the world. However, no one judged each other for playing games. It was a natural occurrence to form a little circle during recess and compare notes on which creatures were best, which sucked, and share tips for defeating gym leaders.
In other words, there wasn’t a stigma. Students proudly wore Charizard t-shirts and Pikachu pants. If any ribbing happened, it was due to type preference. (“You like grass types? They’re the weakest!”) But as I grew, began to learn and understand the world more (and write longer essays), our collective demeanor changed. I stayed a loyal fan; classmates discovered different things and forgot about games. The same people that I vividly remember collaborating with to make some excellent memories ended up demonizing others for loving games.
And so began the cycle of high school. Kids reinvented themselves, starting doing drugs, threw their lives away just to impress the student elite. At the time, my love for games was hard to relinquish, but mentioning Pokemon or any title perceived as childish was a social death sentence. But graduation and college came and my very narrow view of games in public life changed: League of Legends and World of Warcraft are daily events, and a club even exists for both communities. What was a pecularity became a badge of honour – around new friends, new adventures, and a new social culture.
Walking to a coffee shop, though, I still see crowds throw dirty glances at someone across a room for whipping out a 3DS. Like the act is criminal. Even obsessing over Candy Crush Saga is a a crime to some, as if playing mobile games is inappropriate. It’s a reputation the industry has had a terrible time shaking, and one that continues to permeate falsehoods about games, the developers behind them, and most damagingly, the people who play.
When games first became popular, companies poured out the cheapest of crap and inundated the market. The crash of 1983 followed, casting doubt on if the video game console was a viable product. Nintendo, the hero, began marketing the Nintendo Entertainment System as a “toy” and not the next necessary electronic device. That solely reinvigorated the North American market, and by 1987, market analysts again sang the praises of video game companies.
What nobody anticipated back then was that the gaming generation would grow up. They became college grads, parents, house owners. But Nintendo’s advertising campaign was so powerful and so recognizable the reputation carried on. Parents blindly buy their kids Grand Theft Auto V even when the cover clearly displays two small weapons and Trevor holding a sniper rifle. Do they blithely stare at the “Mature” rating and not think twice? Not that often–Nintendo may have been the industry’s saviour 30 years ago, but it elicited in the collective conscious a wrongful way of thinking.
Though, these things take time. Comics were still vilified in the late 1980s for warping young minds before video games became the new lightning rod. It’s the fear and anxiety of change, sadly, that charges the outspoken in society. They reject items that complicate our lives, and that hasn’t changed even to now as smartphones sit in every pocket. The image of a grown man pulling out a 3DS today isn’t absurd – the handheld now has Netflix – nor is a woman checking Facebook on her iPhone. Each action is equally representative of a technological shift in society, which people hate or refuse to think about.
I say keep playing Pokemon and Candy Crush Saga in public. What’s the worst someone can do? Tweet about it?
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