Gamers have an Image Problem

Abstract: This image problem is rooted in a failure by the mainstream media (and film) to treat video games as an acceptable pastime, making gaming “a dirty word“, and perpetuating the notion that women shouldn’t have authorship over technology around them. The male gaming community is only partially responsible, and this will be discussed in a subsequent post. This post was formulated after analyzing video game coverage by major female-oriented publications and by my personal memory of video game scenes in movies.

“One of the things we were trying to combat with 3G was how girls are discouraged from learning anything about technology beyond how to use it, [not] to be responsible or have a form of authorship with it.” – Terence Hannum, Internship and External Relations Coordinator at Columbia College

Any female in her 20’s that plays video games knows gaming has an image problem. Not only does the community you play in make you feel unwelcome a la the blog “Fat, Ugly or Slutty“,  your parents find your enjoyment of video games off-putting, as do 30-somethings co-workers. I’ve had more than one conversation at slightly older dinner parties become painfully awkward when I mention I like/want to write about video games. The women scan the room and decide it is time to mingle. Then I am left with some guy, and as the silence continues between us, I begin to question his intentions. Sometimes I can see this male have an OMG-GIRL-GAMER-freak-out moment, all in the eyes, and when it abides he hesitantly remarks I must be the male gamer fantasy or some other weird crap.  Then I decide it is time to mingle.

My mom keeps thinking I will grow out of my love of video games. She is not impressed when I tell her I am laying down plumbing because my city’s population explosion is  forcing me to expand my city limits.

There is a common thread behind these awkward interactions: people born before the 80’s view video games as either a waste of time or a childish hobby. How can that be, when video games have been around for 30 years  – and adults now play video games and teachers use video games as part of their curriculum? Read the rest of this entry »


Gaming CEO runs for Governor of California

Seal of California

Image via Wikipedia

GamersFirst CEO Joshua Hong is running for Governor this year as Arnold Schwarzenegger is ineligible to run again. The initial reaction on the internet has been skeptical, as many believe this is a PR move designed to get some free advertising. While the nay-sayers do have a point, considering Mr. Hong’s initial campaign pitch (on April 1st) focused on his company and his “Free2Play” idea, I don’t think he should be dismissed so quickly.

Asked if Hong is using a political campaign to simply promote his gaming company, Mukhopadhyay replied, “[The free-to-play business model] is where a lot of the inspiration comes from. It’s what he knows best, and he translates that to what would work best for the government.”

She added, “Yeah, there will probably be people that think ‘Oh, you can’t do that, it’s a gaming company versus a government and that just sounds ridiculous.’ But it’s more about using the experience that he’s acquired and using the inspiration from the GamersFirst company.”

via Gamasutra “GamersFirst CEO’s Political Campaign Is For Real, Says Company Rep

Today’s current video game industry is a multi-billion dollar money-maker… so you cannot deny that any one from the industry would be out of touch, or without influence over the general public.  If you read Mr. Hong’s 3 tenants  for change and innovation in California, you see he is just applying his technological know-how to politics in general. Mr. Hong’s tenants make sense, like improving education, infrastructure, and government transparency by fulling utilizing modern technology.

This reminds me of President Obama asking Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to design a video game to fix the budget deficit:

The co-chairman of President Barack Obama’s fiscal commission is working on a video game to make plain what it would take to eliminate soaring deficits.

Erskine Bowles has discussed with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer a new game “that would enable anyone with a computer to take a stab at balancing the budget.”

via The Hill “Obama debt panel co-chair working on deficit reduction video game

And if you are still skeptical about using video games to save the world, I refer you to Jane McGonigal’s TED Talk “Gaming can make a Better World“.