Among mediums, video games are the relative new kid on the block, and therefore get very little respect from the older bullies of the playground. If game references in most TV shows and movies don’t openly mock game culture, they are often embarrassingly incorrect, which would be totally unacceptable when referencing most subjects. Even professional journalists often refer to dated characters such as Pac-Man, or use archaic terms like “scoring points” when reporting on video game related news. Even the tone in which reporters say “video game” typically sounds silly and patronizing. Unfamiliarity with technology is not cute or charming; it’s antiquated.
For decades, gamers have sought to earn the respect of mainstream culture. In order for any medium to accomplish this feat, it must become accepted by a majority, and the device on which it exists must become commonplace. Although video games initially met the same problem faced by television and radio (convincing consumers to buy a large, expensive, unfamiliar piece of hardware), today’s video games can be played on any number of platforms already owned by most consumers. Just walking by a bus station, through an airport, or past any office cubicle proves this to be true. Technology has seemingly made the gamer’s dream of mainstream acceptance come true. But in reality, video game culture has become deeply divided between the “hardcore” gamers, and this new population of “casual” gamers. However, the genie is out of the bottle, and there is no going back. Granny is not going to stop playing Angry Birds, nor should she.
“Hardcore” gamers’ condescending attitudes towards “casual” gamers stems from two major issues. First, the “hardcore” audience feels betrayed by publishers and developers who they believe, in an attempt to cash in, have begun catering primarily to “casual” gamers with an ever-growing number of simplistic, short, poorly designed games. This “quality over quantity” business model is frighteningly similar to that which caused the video game industry crash of 1983. Their second gripe is that they feel as though their hobby (which they use to define themselves) is no longer an exclusive club. In the grand scheme of things, this pretentious, elitist attitude towards “casual” gamers is completely antithetical to the acceptance of gaming as a respected medium.
“Casual” gamers aren’t completely innocent when it comes to this situation either as they often fail to identify themselves as gamers as at all. It’s not uncommon for a middle-aged adult to play Farmville at work, and Words With Friends during their commute home, but still consider an Xbox 360 to be nothing but a toy. This unintentional hypocrisy occurs for two major reasons; the first simply due to a lack of understanding as to what video games actually are, thanks mostly in part to the media’s antiquated attitude towards gaming. The second reason is more complex as it deals with an individual’s expectations from a medium. Many “casual” gamers play games strictly to waste time. These same individuals would never play games at home as it would take time away from valuable activities like watching television. This expectation that games are simply a “time-killer” is perfectly acceptable. However, it’s also important to realize that video games can offer so much more. Like any medium, video games can provide experiences that entertain, inspire, engage emotion, and even educate. The all-encompassing notion that every game is simply a waste of time is like assuming that all television shows, including long form programs such as Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones, are equivalent to Jersey Shore. This attitude is not only condescending, but it cripples an individual’s ability to discover a variety of things they would probably enjoy.
Luckily, these issues are nothing more than bumps in the road that will inevitably be smoothed over in time. “Hardcore” gamers will eventually realize that their beloved hobby isn’t under attack, and that as more people play games, gamer stereotypes disappear. At the same time, ”casual” gamers will realize that they themselves are actually gamers and therefore have the right to demand more than just reality show quality from their games. Slowly but surely, video games will earn the respect enjoyed by television, cinema, radio, and literature. Gaming has reached puberty, and these problems are simply the awkward growing pains of a maturing medium.