Friday, December 11, 2009

New Age Socialites

For our Gaming Culture class Final I have chosen to focus on how video games are reshaping the way that American culture comes together. I have also been fiddling with the idea that creating a strongly knit gaming community could have lasting benefits for society, as well as each individual that is included. Video games are developing a new kind of socialite that is far removed from its philanthropic past and provides a means to avoid today’s socialite pop culture lead by figures such as Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan. In early 2008 a study on the number of United States gamers discovered that around 59% of the United States Population is considered a “gamer” so it should be no surprise that these people want to come together and share their similar interests (Sinclair). Although this is a big number it has been helped by the recent spike in the casual gaming circle, which has been spearheaded by the Wii. This casual side of gaming is also influencing how the video game industry is placing more emphasis on multiplayer capabilities rather than gameplay (which would include control schemes, depth of player control, expanding storyline, length of game etc…). I’m not saying that they are losing gameplay, but I am simply saying that there is a shift to make these great games into games that can be played with others in order to increase each game’s replay value. The first half of this project I will be explaining why I think that it is important to allow gaming to morph into a significant part of socializing our society. Secondly, I will use my own study and the work of other academic writings to explain how games are paving the way for interactions between all types of gamers. Recently I had a video game group social at my house so that I could create an atmosphere that allowed many different gamers to come together and casually compete. I like to compare these gatherings to the Grange Halls that are dying off across America, these halls developed when large farming areas needed a means and reason to come together for events and a social atmosphere. Because of the establishment of the grange people that lived only miles from each other were able to get together and share stories, giving them a real sense of brotherhood and sisterhood. Today there are organizations such as “GamerchiX” that have created a community of women and girls that play games together, but I think that this is not as close as we should be in the gaming community. In the late 1800s the Grange was a driving political force and it makes me wonder if a true community of gamers could hold as much influence as they did. Personally, I would love to develop a strong group of gamers and a gaming community center where gamers are able to come together to share and be a part of something bigger than themselves. Gaming parties have many great aspects to them, my favorite being that you do not need to get drunk or high in order to have fun. People want to have a great time and release many of the frustrations during the week, but I think that drunken parties shouldn’t have to be the only means to get a large group of people between the ages of 18 and 24 together and have a good time on a Friday night. Alternatives could be made many different ways, but I think that gaming is a pretty obvious way to do it. In the long run these gatherings could provide a strong enough connection between the people that enjoy them that anyone could avoid alcohol and drug’s sweet temptations, and go far beyond that by developing friendships that have the potential to last a lifetime. To me, the American society during the 1960s, 70s and 80s lost its sense of family and community, and I couldn’t imagine large groups of 1980s youth getting together to do something that could positively affect the rest of their lives. But today the youth of our culture is strongly connected thanks to cell phones and facebook, when I was in high school I knew almost everyone and just about everyone knew me, but I had to push myself to make sure that I made friends with everyone, if I was in high school today I would have pushed myself even harder to meet new and different people. However, not everyone is like this and I certainly was too shy to introduce myself on many occasions, but knowing that you are going to a place where you will meet people that share your passion can mean all the difference. At the party 64% percent of the people were people that I had not even met before the beginning of fall term, and we had so much fun meeting and conversing at the party that I have received many messages wanting me to inform them when I’ll be doing it again. The party itself was quite a success, I have never put forth so much effort when throwing a gaming party before, there was plenty of food, enough seats for everyone, good conversation and we avoided having a complete sausage fest. I had hoped that there would have been more girls actually playing Video games with the larger group, however, they decided to play the casual games found with the Nintendo 64 downstairs, making their own fun and socializing together. We took a couple of breaks in between groups of games so that we could eat food and talk about how much we kicked each other’s asses, it was obvious that this comradery had an effect during the party. In another setting a big fat “f*%$ you!” from Patrick may have been offensive, but knowing that we were just being a little competitive made it great, in fact I love knowing that my opponents are in complete anguish when corpses are flying and the battlefield is empty except for my awesomeness. Just kidding, I’m not really that narcissistic but beating and being beat by your friends is lots of fun. As you have heard me say before, I really disagree with Lars Konzack and the idea that most players prefer philosophical game design above all other aspects of gaming (). I believe that the multiplayer component is going to be the largest part of gaming in the years to come; in fact I have noticed small but important trends that show significant changes in the way we are gaming. Halo 3 racked in over 170 million dollars in sales on its first day of availability, making it the number one selling game ever at that time. The Halo franchise has been built from its great storylines but it has sustained and projected itself by being the best game for connecting sixteen people into one game with ease. On November 10, 2009 Modern Warfare 2 was fully unleashed into our world, making over 310 million dollars within the first 24 hours breaking every other release record to date (Gaylord). It wasn’t just because of the thorough storyline, most people bought and will continue to play Modern Warfare 2 because of its strong multiplayer component that now has much more depth (when it comes to class, guns, killstreaks etc…) and that it also has two-player cooperative campaigns and side challenges. I think that this aspect is very important because the people that enjoyed the campaign exclusively are now able to play with a friend, both side by side or on Xbox Live. This expands the replay value for the campaigns as well as giving them a reason to have a friend (or stranger) over to their house. Halo 3 is the only game that I have seen that has four player cooperative campaign, and I think that this is where many games are going or should be going in the future because when you get tired of slaying your friends it’s nice to be able to work together and massacre a computer. In the article titled “Video Games: Do they have educational value?” there is a section down at the bottom where two academic writers have chosen to respond to either the pros or the cons of gaming’s effects on literacy, and I believe that each of them makes valid points. Howard Gardner (speaking about the cons) talks about how video games are not providing people with the social skills that are needed when moving out into the workforce. Gardner states, “I am happy to have medical students or future airplane pilots train on simulations — but they also require real, high-stake experience. Patients have feelings; simulacra and robots don't” (Glazer). This article was written in 2006 just a little bit after the Wii was released into the United States, this tells me that Gardner had not been able to see that casual gaming was about to hit its peak, and that a “triforce” of gaming would emerge, urging players to interact with each other and the games in order to get the most out of nearly every gaming experience. Today, I think that all roads point in this direction and we must acknowledge that interaction has almost everything to do with the learning process, and that we may have an opportunity to move the human race into the next era by focusing this technology. Before the gaming party I had every one that I invited do a short survey so that I could see what they thought about many topics that come up within the gaming world. I would like to say that I would not use this information in true academic research because of the extremely small sample size and the fact that everyone that filled out the survey is a “gamer” but it still provided brief insight into a subgroup that I would like to call “Gaming Culture gamers roughly between the ages of 18 and 24 that live in Bend, OR USA.” There were a few questions that I would like to focus on from my research; these are all statement based questions that were answered by using a scale of agreement and disagreement (which includes neutrality). The first statement is, “I tend to neglect my social life because of video games.” I discovered that 76.5% of these people answered that they were either neutral or disagreed with the statement, telling me that even the people that registered for the gaming class at COCC have a good handle on their gaming lifestyle (as long as they considered themselves gamers). I would argue that we could get rid of this problem completely by having everyone playing games with others, thus keeping people social and also feeding their cravings for playing games. Actually, this question surprised me a bit because I’ve known a few people that struggle to keep their social life because of the way that they play the games, heck, I almost found myself in that position because of World of Warcraft. However, I was not surprised to find that only one person chose philosophical gameplay and design as their influence for playing video games. Even in our gaming class we were unable to show a significant influence from the all powerful philosophical gameplay and design that Konzack ranted about in the VGTR2. To end this blog I want to talk about one final question that was within my survey and which was that “Video games are a positive part of our society.” I think that this is an important question that everyone (both gamer or not) needs to answer because I personally would like to hear more of the cons against gaming, so that the industry can then focus on the negative aspects of the games. It will be a step at a time process but I think that it could make a remarkable difference in our future, but those that despise video games should realize that it is already engrained into our society, so we must all work together so that we all benefit. Works Cited Bantick, Mike. “Halo 3 almost triples opening day sales of Spiderman 3.” September 27, 2007. Gaylord, Chris. “Modern Warfare 2 sales nuke all previous records” November 12, 2009 The Christian Science Monitor. Glazer, Sarah. “Video Games: Do they have educational value?” CQ researcher. November 10, 2006 Konzack, Lars. “Philosophical Game Design” The Video Game Theory Reader 2. Pgs. Sinclair, Brendan. “NPD Revises Gaming-Survey Stats” April 3 2008