I’m going to talk about a subject near and dear to my heart; the depiction of gamers in the media.
I was tooling around Storm Peaks last night, herbing my little wings off, when inspiration struck like lightning.
Jess invited a guildie’s alt, and I noticed the alt name had a bunch of those stupid ASCII characters in it. As a guild leader, I really don’t like those. If I need to mail someone, it adds a layer of complexity to typing the name that, with my precious vrief playtime, I just don’t need. Call me lazy, but if I need to mail someone, I just want to type a name, not look up an ASCII chart.
I gave him a little crap for it, because I am at that point in my life where I will give people crap over the names they choose for their characters if it’s gonna inconvenience me somewhere down the road. You know, because I’m a cranky old man, and because I’ve learned from past experience that it IS eventually gonna be a pain.
He related to us in guild chat a wonderful, heart warming story.
You see, back when he was first playing on another server, his main had this awesome name of Cronus. He was a Warlock, and he rained green icky fire down upon his enemies, and there was much wailing and crying and the sounds of lamentation from the women.
His wife began playing the game, and Cronus happily played together with her, and there was much rejoicing.
Fast forward to today, and he wants to recreate that character on our server, and the name Cronus was already taken… so he resorted to ASCII characters to create a name that looks a great deal LIKE Cronus.
That’s when the inspiration struck me, and I had an idea for a TV show episode.
Bear with me.
The scene opens on your typical crime scene in any NCIS or CSI type show.
- A small home office.
- A computer with a video game still up on the screen.
- A body slumped over the keyboard, shot dead.
We see what has happened… but who? Why? What was the motivation?
The investigators begin trying to put the pieces together. The guy was former service. Maybe a Marine, but it’s not relevant. Active home life. Family man. Professional businessman.
The investigators follow the stereotypes we’ve seen a million times on TV, to try and find the motive.
They look into his business life, expecting to find problems between him and his co-workers, because he was a gamer, and gamers are of course socially inept, clueless and offensive. Closed off to others. Frequently hostile. Maybe he had done something terribly offensive at work, and this was just retribution?
Nope, hmmm, he went to work, worked hard, and did a good job. Got along well with many others at work. Relaxed and open and helpful, are the comments.
Let’s look at his home life. Must be problems there, right?
Well, aside from a tendency to spend most free time indoors, leaves not raked and lawn not mowed as often as the other lawns, nope, no signs of problems there. No hate, no violence. Just a nice, pleasant family.
Okay, but a former serviceman. There must have been a typical military/gamer combination there, loves violence, loves guns, likes bullying people, loves the video games, so clearly he got caught up in bringing his fantasy life of video game violence into the real world, unable to distinguish between what is real and what isn’t.
What? how strange! He served honorably, lived a quiet life, wasn’t a bully, didn’t go shoot things or blow stuff up on the weekends, didn’t even own any guns. The most hostile thing he ever did was vote Republican after researching all of the candidates and the issues at the library first, making sure he was as best informed as possible. And while that is a horrible thing, so far we haven’t directly proven a link between voting Republican and being evil. Although we’re working on it.
Okay, there’s gotta be something. He was a gamer! How can someone be a gamer and not be socially inept, offensive, desensitized to violence, angry, hurtful, and filled with envy and hate? How can he not be a gun fanatic living with the dream of killing people every time he leaves the house? Isn’t that what a gamer is?
He’s hiding something!
So they begin looking at his computer usage… and they find a guy that writes some stories, even children’s books, played some video games with other people online, corresponded with some of his old friends from the service, and had a few other things going on of an entirely boring nature. Nothing strange. Nothing unstable. Nothing to pin our prejudices on and claim as the motive.
In fact, the guys’s friends claim he was so stable, he’d been playing the same character, on the same video game, for over 5 years.
And that’s when they get a lucky break.
They check into the game to see if it’s actually a group plotting a conspiracy to take over the internets and the YouTubes, and find that the guy’s character that he’d been playing isn’t there anymore. It’s been deleted!
In talking to the gaming company, who of course means talking to one lone geek in a lab coat working the night shift surrounded by huge high tech monitors showing thousands of lines of scrolling text that the guy monitors to detect bugs in the system as they happen in the source code, they find the character was deleted the same day the guy was killed.
Did somebody kill him just to kill his character? Was he involved in a secret gaming death cult, plotting to kill the President in a crazy Republixcan scheme, and this guy lost his nerve and planned to blow the whistle, wo the group hunted him down and killed him in real life? And then killed the character to send the rest of their online group a message?
Or was some gamer so crazy they had mistaken the character in the game as being a real person, and frustrated over being killed in game by this character, he resolved to track down the character’s controller in real life and kill them both?
The investigators go into overdrive. It IS about evil crazy gamers! And maybe conspiracies. It’s all better with conspiracies between crazy gamers.
With something to dig into, they begin checking for signs of someone trying to track down a player of a video game through the internet. They find that someone pretending to be the player had done some social hacking of the customer support offices at the game company, the lonely customer services person involved was, of course, local to the caller and not in a phone bank thousands of miles away, and had been convinced to cough up the address of the player tied to that character’s account.
They track it back to the suspect, who turns out to be….
Another former serviceman with a family, busy career, and relatively decent home life… and when they bust in on him, they find him logged into the game, playing his character.
A character whose name matches exactly the name of the murdered man’s deleted character!
And the story all comes spilling out.
This one guy was obsessed with having this one name with special personal significance for his character. A name that had this huge personal meaning for him.
He started playing the game almost from day one of the release date… but someone else had taken that name first.
For years he waited, trying and failing to create a character with that name, patiently hoping the player of that character would stop playing the game, would delete the character, would transfer off the server, something, anything that would let that name become available.
Finally, he started approaching the player in-game, asking for the character to change his name, pleading with him to let this guy take the name, telling him how much it mattered to him.
Nothing doing. The first guy’s been playing this character for 5 years now, it’s like a virtual member of the family, and he’s not going to change the name. He just doesn’t take it seriously. After all, it’s a character in a video game. He has played the character for five years, and is attached to the name… but the other guy has never had that name. How important could it really possibly be to him?
So, the guy finally snapped. He couldn’t make the other guy see reason. So, he did what he had to. He HAD to have that name! Why couldn’t the guy just see? Well, the name is his now! It was worth it! Ahahahaha!
Now THAT would be a TV episode where I’d feel gamers were finally portrayed as what they are… normal people. Maybe one or two are bloody strange, but mostly… they’re normal folks!
It’d still just be a TV show, with a plot utterly unlikely to happen in the real world, because in the real world the vast majority of normal people don’t go that far in their obsession. Even if they did… the internet is for porn… and anonymity. Finding the dude in real life is completely ludicrous. Most likely, he’d just camp the guy and get on his ignore list, and then create a new toon to hastle him and get on the ignore list again and again… until he re-rolled on another server.
We know it would be just a show… because unlike the normal TV world, we know that video games are just an interest, and the people that enjoy them are not mutants, or evil, or have a strange brain chemistry that gives us desires and motivations unlike real humans.
They are an interest, and the people that choose to play them are still human. Except for corpse campers, anyway.
Stamps, fast cars, guns, coin collections, horror movies, knitting, scrapbooking, geneology studies, gravestone rubbings, fantasy football, darts, line dancing… you name an interest, any interest, and you will find many people that enjoy it, and a very few that allow their interest to turn into obsession.
And obsession is something that people can understand. It’s universal. It doesn’t spring from the interest, it springs from the nature of the person involved in the interest.
I’d enjoy the episode, because you could take the video game aspect out of it, replace it with, say, envy over a rare stamp that the first person wouldn’t sell to the other, and the plot would work exactly the same.
Sometimes, I wonder why the constant discrimination against gamers.
Gamers do share some characteristics that might make them picked on, but they’re not the same as the stereotypical bullshit I see on TV that I lampoon above.
From what I’ve seen, the common characteristics of video gamers, computer gamers and table top role playing gamers are;
- Curiosity about the world
- Active imagination
- Sense of wonder
- Romantic soul
- Free time
When you break it down like that… well, I can think of a few reasons why you’d want to stomp on these people.
Most of those reasons kind of revolve around my own prejudices about small minded, small souled people that like to pick a group to attack to make themselves feel better, and give themselves something or someone to feel superior to.
Sigh. Am I the only one that gets tired of the discrimination shown to gamers in media targeted towards the widest possible demographic, as though video games are somehow able to transform people into subhuman caricatures of ‘normal’ people?
I’d really like to see more portrayals in the media of imaginative and involving games in general as being just another interest, and the people that take part in them as being no better nor worse than those interested in any other subject.
I have noticed that, where there are changes being made… it’s usually driven by what I perceive as respect, not for the activity or the people, but respect for the power of the money and numbers involved.
WoW was ‘just another MMO’, until those 11 million player numbers started going around.
You don’t actively mock 11 million potential consumers, not if you’ve got a brain.
Is that what it takes? Simply uniting in such large numbers that the media planners, writers and producers fear a loss of revenue if they mock them?
Will we someday see gaming become so accepted from sheer numbers that it gets the media attention and mainsteam marketing blitz that the NFL gets?
Will we someday see Monday Night Raiding on CBS?
Man, I can’t wait to see what happens when everyone alive grew up playing computer games. That’s going to be hilarious.
Hmmm… I can accept that. It’s a place to start.