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Grunge, Grrrls and Video Games: Turning the dial for a more meaningful culture
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August 9, 2020
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Grunge, Grrrls and Video Games: Turning the dial for a more meaningful culture

August 16, 2013 Article Start Previous Page 6 of 6

"The fervent prizing of 'fun' is controlling the commercial game industry"

And yet video games continue to lavish upon shooting -- insistently, while “gamer culture” militantly defends it. In some circles of “gamer culture,” players are actually motivated to hate speech at the very idea that you might try to take their guns. This is worse than the most strident caricature of a shotgun-toting conservative -- these are young people upset about virtual guns, with the gall to liken it to a free speech issue, no less.

It’s not that culture isn’t allowed to include pointless entertainment, silly moments you can live in and then forget; of course it can. But the fervent prizing of “fun” is controlling the commercial game industry, and helping defend the corporate menu of aim-and-shoot is probably the single biggest way to ensure that games will never really mean anything to anyone, will never change lives or create memories. As long as we pretend games exist in some vacuum that has nothing to do with what happens in the rest of the world, we’ll never have a culture worth talking about.

It’s unfortunate that games are, again and again, trotted out to play the scapegoat for wider problems in cultures. We’re all outsider kids who’ve been wanting a safe place, and continually being told we’re problematic, hateful or meaningless is painful, and it makes people understandably defensive. But why don’t fans defend the right things, instead of those games that mainly exist to make rich men richer, to exploit them as a market category? Why go to bat for some console brand? You’re creating their business, but not contributing to our culture.

Instead of looking at expressive game makers, we’re still stuck trying to prove we’re valid by purchasing whatever marketers say the Hot Title is. We’re so loath to admit we’re stuck in a sad consumer cycle that we argue about console wars and repeat geek in-jokes for fear of having little to talk about among ourselves that isn’t a “this is better than that” argument.

I think right now for the most part games can only talk about games, and gamers can only talk about gamers. I don’t think this is where things have to stop, but we need to be part of the counterculture. We need to support the riot girls, and raise our own voices, and celebrate games that reflect our identity and our experiences. Games will be culture when the people who love them fully embrace them as an expressive medium.

Turning the dial

Culture means a shift, even temporarily, away from production values to actual values. What are video games if they can be made by “just anyone?” No less than what Nirvana was to me as a child discovering a guitar, creating a memory instead of just one more interaction with a hostile system.

What are games if they don’t tone up their graphics to try to make money? That’s the kind of question, however well-meaning, that made Kurt Cobain flip off Axl Rose in the 1990s.

Does it mean we have to be humorless, angsting all the time? Of course not -- 90s were as absurd, irreverent and silly as they were dark. They also gave us Beavis & Butt-Head, Celebrity Deathmatch, Daria, and songs like Beck’s “Loser,” capturing the humor in feeling like you might be going nowhere. It helps, in fact, to laugh.

I’m reminded of that time I was a child lying in the dark, and I felt emotionally I was going nowhere, so I reached out for my little clock radio and I turned the dial. If you really love games, turn that dial -- find an alternative. In 20 years, I want to be able to talk about games culture with the same fervent passion that I talk about (awful!) 90s music. I think we can have that. I think we can.

Article Start Previous Page 6 of 6

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