Sorry I’ve been gone for a bit. First it was the holidays and work, then it was just work, and then SMITE world championships rolled around… okay, fine, I got a little lethargic over the holidays and the blog may have gone more or less forgotten. I’m back now though, and want to kick 2016 off talking about a hotbed topic that’s ripe for the new year: the perception of gaming!
(What? Everyone’s talking about VR? 2016 is “The Year of VR”? For who? Rich people? VR still has a bit to go before it’s year is truly upon us. I’ll cover it some other time. Maybe when more people can relate.)
I was raised to think for myself, which instilled a sense of independence that seldom leaves me questioning how my interests are perceived by other people. However, a few weeks ago I came across an IndieGoGo campaign that made me think about the perception of gaming an how it’s changed over the years.
I didn’t want to have a kneejerk reaction to the campaign, and at the time I didn’t really think it was worth talking about or mentioning. But it’s a new year and so much has changed since I played my first video game back in the 1990s that I feel like it’s a topic that’s certainly worth discussing.
Twin Galaxies’ #Right2Game IndieGoGo Campaign
From what I can surmise from their IndieGoGo video, Twin Galaxies is a video game hobby shop that holds regular events and tournaments that players can get involved in participate and meet with people who have similar interests. The shop has been around for a while and is now looking to branch out onto the internet by creating a social media site/platform tailored for gamers.
Sounds good so far, right? Or at least understandable. Had Twin Galaxies outright stated their intent and history, they may have had a decent shot at a successful IndieGoGo campaign. Instead, they chose to focus on their #Right2Game message. (For the record, the hashtag was mistake #1.)
The first minute of Twin Galaxies’ IndieGoGo video consists of various people and well-known celebrities introducing themselves and proclaiming their support for “our right to game”. They’re followed by Jace Hall, the founder of Monolith Productions who’s also running the campaign, stating, “Society has trivialized the activity of video game playing. It doesn’t see it as a good use of a person’s time. It puts a lot of downward pressure on millions of video game players… getting hit with all this negativity is incredibly depressing. It leads video game players into dark places, not wanting to be part of society.”
The video continues from there with the people who introduced themselves backing up Hall’s claims. For instance, Jamie Lee Curtis summed up the campaign by saying, “They’re trying to elevate the gaming world from this pejorative culture to one of group support. To be able to give legitimacy and value to the pursuit that these young people have dedicated a lot of time and a lot of their passion and skill and energy toward.”
Honestly, the campaign initially struck me as outdated and out-of-touch with reality. Who doesn’t feel like they have the “right to game”? If a 30-year-old businessman (or woman) sitting in first class on an airplane pulls out a 3DS and starts playing Pokemon, are the rest of the people nearby going to look down on him for doing so? Maybe a few will quietly judge him as being a bit childish – I think most of us would expect him to be playing Monster Hunter – but no one’s going to berate him for his interest or look discouragingly at him as if he’d just pulled out his dick.
Sure, not too long ago gamers were looked down upon by the general public, but is that really the case today? Market research by Newzoo claims the gaming industry made $83.6 billion in 2014. That’s double the $36.4 billion Hollywood made in the same year. It means that a lot of people spend money on video games, and the number is steadily increasing every year.
Video games aren’t just a teenage/childish hobby anymore. People from all walks of life play games, from hardcore simulator players with ten thousand dollar gaming environments to 70-year-olds playing Candy Crush and exercising with Wii Fit.
Last year, The International – which is DOTA 2’s championship esports tournament – reached a prize pool of over $18 million, 91% of which – .i.e. more than $16 million – was crowdfunded by contributions from players. If money could talk, it’d say gaming is hardly the basement-dwelling past time it used to be characterized as.
Hall does address this monetary argument in the comment section of the campaign. “Industry sales, popularity and widespread use of a product does not work to alter mass-society’s negative undertone regarding an activity. If it did, then society’s negative view regarding participating in porn would be alleviated because it meets the above criteria completely.”
Comparing video games and porn is a bit of stretch. Ideas of sexual propriety greatly differ between cultures and run deep over centuries of passed down programming. Also, porn makes less money. To be fair, the $13 billion porn makes each year only represents US sales and the $83.6 billion gaming made in 2014 is a global figure. But the US accounted for $20.5 billion of the global gaming industry’s revenue in 2014, which is still 36.6% more than porn.
I’d be happy to take a different approach and point out Twitch’s 24/7 concurrent viewership of 250,000 people or more at any given time, YouTube Gaming Live’s inception, or the fact that the most subscribed and viewed channel on YouTube is a gaming channel, but I don’t feel like beating that dead horse any further. Anyone who pays attention to the news has already heard about gaming’s mass appeal. The numbers don’t lie.
#Right2Game Has Failed
It would seem a lot of people feel the same as I. At time of writing, Twin Galaxies’ campaign has raised $103,164 out of the $250,000 it’s asking for with 25 hours left before it ends. It looks like they’re not going to make it halfway.
13 out of the 17 comments are people asking about how to redeem their H1Z1 Twin Galaxies Hoodie, which was added as a $10 donation perk. Unsurprisingly, 70% – i.e. 864/1093 – of the contributors paid $10.
Jace Hall doesn’t care though. It’s a “flexible funding” campaign, which means he’s going to get the money regardless of whether or not the goal is met. This little tidbit of information isn’t noted in the campaign’s extensive pitch and Hall doesn’t say anything about what happens to the funds if the project’s goals aren’t met.
#Right2Game failed because gamers already have a right to game. We already have hundreds of global communities to be a part of, where we can meet people with similar interests within gaming – not just other gamers in general. More communities spring up each month and none of them require $250,000 to get going. If Hall and all the celebrities featured in the video care about the cause as much as they claim, why don’t they fund the project themselves?
If anything, I think the lack of funding has shown that gaming isn’t a “pejorative culture”. How can it be pejorative if most of us don’t think or feel like it is?
It’s a fact of life that ignorant people look down on others with interests outside of their own. From football (American or otherwise) to model trains, people negatively judge others who don’t share their interests. These people will call your interests a “waste of time” and dismiss you as a waste of a human being.
Pro tip: Those people aren’t worth worrying about. Let them think what they think and move on.
Life’s too short to worry about how other people judge your interests. (Unless that interest is illegal. Then you may want to care.)