Saturday, 27 August 2011

Where Did You Come From?!

I’ve noticed there’s a new kind of gamer around lately. You’re probably familiar with many of them and some of you may even be one. These ‘gamers’ are unlike the rest of us and haven’t owned a single console in their life - the few that do probably only bought it to follow the new fad/trend. They’re not even casual gamers that have reared their heads since Nintendo became family orientated either. No, these gamers are different.

They’re trendy, have cash to burn and keep up to date with the latest gadgets – and they want everyone in a 5 mile radius to know about it and believe me, you’ll know about it because they crank the volume up full. If you’re as unlucky as me, you’ve probably heard them on the train (invading the QUIET carriage no less!). They enjoy mindless repetition and opt for short bursts of gaming and their weapon of choice is their fancy new smart phone.

I have dubbed them...iGamers.

These same people are the ones who criticised us years ago, the ones who bullied us all the way through school for playing video games (and also but not directly linked to, being a nerd). While I fear every school bully taking away the thing I love and proclaiming it as their own, I have to admit I’m quite happy about it; essentially, it’s a victory for geeks everywhere. The games and apps that have become popular of late take the form of many basic arcade style games, often reminiscent of those oh-so-addictive but simple retro games we played as a child.

It’s because of this I can resist the overwhelming urge to scream at that guy on the train playing Angry Birds with the volume on full. I want to shake him and tell him what a hypocrite he is and how I’ve been playing these games for years, damn it! YEARS! The games he’s playing now are akin to the ones I played when I was eight years old. Yes, eight years old. A mere child! To us, you look like a monkey that’s just discovered a yo-yo!

Instead of ranting angrily at passersby, I refrain and recollect all those times I opted to stay home to play video games instead of socialising and all the flak I received for enjoying games -- it would just feel somewhat hypocritical. These iGamers are actually discovering all the exhilaration, excitement and thumb-blistering frustration I felt all those years ago...and you know what? I envy them for it.

With the advent of smart phone technology, adaptations of classic gaming genres and platforms have been given a new lease of life; the popularity of Minecraft is just one example. It’s been so popular that it sold over a million units in its first month and there is an Xbox 360 version currently in development. For a game played on a phone, that’s pretty damned impressive. Dare I even mention the equally successful Angry Birds and the countless memes and spin-offs it has spawned. One of my favourites is by Rooster Teeth, the creative minds behind Red Vs Blue:

Games like Minecraft, Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja and many, many more have edged their way into popular culture in the last six months or so, precisely because they appeal to a wider range of audience. This trend has also provided a launch pad for a new wave of games developers. Creating games and uploading them for other people to play is the equivalent of a public show-reel and many developers are getting jobs simply by independently releasing games and apps for mobiles. Similarly, Xbox Live Arcade are having the same success with titles such as last year's Limbo, which received more BAFTA nominations that Halo: Reach, God Of War III and Super Mario Galaxy 2.

Mobile phone games have infiltrated society so well because just about everyone owns an iPhone or Blackberry and casual, expert and non-gamers alike all enjoy being part of the latest craze - even if some don’t like to admit it. I’m actually a little bit embarrassed to confess I’m one of a small percentage who doesn’t own a smart phone; needless to say, I really want one if only to be part of this electronic renaissance. Besides, after years of gaming experience doesn’t that makes me an expert? With the arrival of all these iGaming noobs, for once I can declare “been there, done that” which effectively makes me cool. Post hoc ergo propter hoc, right? Um...probably not.

Stranger things have happened I suppose but it does make me wonder what other niche past-times might get a revamp? What with films like Knights of Badassdom on the way, perhaps LARPing is next? Maybe it’s just wishful thinking but it fills me with hope... and quiet dread. After all, if all our secret joys are pillaged and distributed, how will we define ourselves? Sure, they like our stuff but no one’s thanked us yet. Where the hell’s our recognition?

Maybe the geek will inherit the Earth just not as we know them.

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