RKD on… 2010: Part 6 – Social constructs


What a beautiful day! The sun is shining, the barbecues are sizzling, and the local drunks are congregating for their annual meet. Meanwhile, the RKD 2010 retrospective would rather stay indoors and talk some more about games. Pfft, social judgement… who needs it?

Fraser: 2010 seemed to be the year that most people started to have an opinion about games

In the past, I found that any mention of videogames in the company of people who didn’t identify as “gamers” would be met with a pained expression and a brief awkward silence. But in 2010, I met people right across the demographic map with at least partially formed ideas about how games are significant and where they might be going.

At work, when I told people I was interested in games, I used to get comments like “how old are you?” Recently I’ve had several long conversations with colleagues who profess not to play games but have read about how pro gamers’ brains work differently during some tasks than the brains of non-gamers, or have identified the videogame market as a boom industry for creative production, or have thought about how motion gaming could be partially replacing outdoor sports.

I gave a presentation at my (non-games-related) workplace on games as learning engines. I pitched it for a broad audience, and I probably did get some silent scorn from the audience, but there was plenty of interest as well. It was overbooked; I was asked to do an encore session.

No doubt Nintendo has had the largest role in this broadening of the public perception of games, although the traditional game market did a lot to make itself impossible to ignore. Where Nintendo came in by the side door with its strategy of presenting games in appealing new ways, the likes of Call of Duty: Black Ops crashed straight through the window by selling enormous amounts of copies. CODBLOPS made twice as much money in its first 24 hours ($310m US) as the largest ever opening weekend for a film (The Dark Knight, $158m US).

Harry: *insert tired comment here about how videogames cost more than movie tickets*

Fraser: And games have continued the trend of successfully tying themselves in to existing cultural touchstones, to a greater extent than perhaps ever before. The Lego movie games are widely recognised; Gorillaz new album Plastic Beach promoted its tie-in game world on the cover; music games continue to squeeze sales and widespread enthusiasm off the back of famous bands. A musician friend of mine who has been openly suspicious of videogames in the past turned out to be even more excited than me when I was given The Beatles: Rock Band as a present.

All of that is why earlier this year I thanked Roger Ebert for giving his opinion on games. He was being a crotchety closed-minded fool, but he was treating the medium as a serious topic that merited the time and attention to think and write about. (Apparently they didn’t merit enough time to actually play one, it must be said.) Even people who irrationally hate games are finding them difficult to ignore.

Daniel: And yet a friend’s mother laughed in my face at a get-together last month when she found out I was writing a PhD on videogames. It will never be roses and sunshine until at least the baby-boomers die out (can I get arrested for comments I make on a blog?).

If we manage to break Daniel out of prison in time, tomorrow’s penultimate instalment of RKD’s 2010 retrospective series cordially invites you to attend our first annual RKD videogame awards ceremony. We’ll try keep the blunt truths and crappy jokes to a minimum.

Related posts:

  1. RKD on… 2010: Part 1 – The “meh” year that was?
  2. RKD on… 2010: Part 3 – There’s something about Minecraft
  3. RKD on… 2010: Part 4 – Portable preferences

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Harry Milonas

A writer from Melbourne, Harry prefers you follow him on Twitter rather than home.

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