Will [insert geeky medium] ever grow up?

Kotaku recently compiled a bunch of articles and quotes from critics in a debate about whether games would ever “grow up.” To summarize, some arguments include:

  1. Comics and games are “infantilized” because artsy content is the exception, with most of these media targeted to teenage boys;
  2. But games “have more to achieve” as a medium, and some creators are pushing for that;
  3. Moreover, dominance of the low-brow “isn’t inherent” to these media, but actually is common across all entertainment media;
  4. And in the meantime, part of the problem is that consumers “expect too little” of games (as evidenced by Bioshock, which is not nearly as sophisticated as its reception might have suggested).

My response to this is sort of a follow-up to recent posts addressing the perceived immaturity or unmasculinity of geeky pursuits like games and comics. In short, I agree with just about all of these to some extent, but I’d contend that these stereotypes can be escaped through creative and marketing efforts. Just look at the “graphic novel.”

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D&D “Nerdrage”

Slashdot recently posted a Q&A between its readers and the designers of the upcoming 4th edition of Dungeons and Dragons. Several of the questions are irritable in tone, especially as many feel this comes hot on the heels of the last major D&D overhaul. (The post is tagged with: “rpg, nerds, complaining, nerdrage, greed.”)

The only question which didn’t get an answer, though, was the one that I found most interesting, especially given the talk I’m delivering next week on the relative acceptability/respectability of geeky interests:

Short intro, I read a lot of fantasy and sci-fi. Play a lot of computer games. Enjoy reading up on lore and the like. But I never got into D&D. I had friends that played it but I was never into it. I tried playing it a few times and had some fun experiences. But there’s always been a sort of negative stigma associated with it among … well, the general populace. What are you doing to break free of this? Or do you embrace it? What are your thoughts & opinions on this strange negative publicity that popular movies push onto D&D players? Do you ever try to break free of that?

(Note from Gamer_Zer0: Sorry Zonk, I tried my best to get this question answered for you, but apparently the Sci-Fi channel was having an original Battlestar Galactica marathon and the entire D&D team was no where to be found!)

… Is that a joke? Some sort of glib suggestion that geeky pursuits are cool enough to be mainstream now (though the original question certainly singled out D&D as especially stigmatized)? From a business standpoint, I guess I can understand why Wizards of the Coast might want its employees to dodge such a question, but I’d surely be interested in how the stigma of role-playing games figures into marketing (and perhaps even design) decisions.

What Does Bill Gates Have to Do with the Revenge of the Nerds?

I’m giving a talk on my dissertation research soon, which means figuring out how to distill a few years and a few hundred pages of work into a 40-minute presentation. Kicking around ideas with my advisor about how to do this, he suggested that I post a super-concise core argument for the talk here on the blog just to see what you all think of it. This is what we last discussed:

People have often told me in interviews that it’s “cool” to be geek ever since Bill Gates demonstrated that geeks can be rich—echoing, as it turns out, earlier research that has suggested the same. This may make sense coming from a computer programmer, but for whatever reason, I also hear it from comic book fans, gamers, and plenty of other geeks and nerds who make no claim to computer skill or a lucrative job. The prevailing assumptions of “geek chic” being rooted in economic power, then, may be an oversimplified reflection of a new value accorded to what “geek pride” is really rooted in: intellectual curiosity, on a continuum between the technical and the playful.

What do you think? Is “geeks aren’t rich (and therefore shouldn’t be considered cool because they are rich)” an aha! kind of statement to you? Should the above argument imply (as one person I discussed this with suggested) that geeks are just as powerless as ever if they’re not really making more money than before? Please let me know your thoughts, whether kind or brutally honest. (I do have other parts of the dissertation to draw from, after all.) Thanks!

A Couple Brief Notes

Posting has been sparse here as I take care of a series of important tasks and imminent deadlines. I hope to report some good news soon, at least, about some ongoing research efforts. (Plus, I have about a thousand links to share with you over here.) In the meantime, I wanted to just jot a couple brief notes on things I was afraid I might forget otherwise.

What I Learned from Kane & Lynch: I played Kane & Lynch: Dead Men for the Xbox 360 a few weeks back, and I realized I learned some things about my own tastes in gaming from it.

  1. I don’t mind repetitive gameplay if there is really interesting dialog over it; the shooting makes the dialog feel more intense.
  2. While I enjoy Halo 3, Half Life 2, and certain other games where you save the world/galaxy/universe, in general, I am tired of playing the messiah, and glad to play another sort of character.

  3. I find myself disappointed by games—like Kane & Lynch—that set up a grand plot and then only deliver on half of it. Movies are generally no more than two hours, and games are generally between twice and forty times as long as that. Why can games not tell a complete story in that time span?

Jedis in the Park: While wandering around Rittenhouse Square last night, pondering over how to phrase something I am writing, I came upon a group of people swinging around light sabers. I asked if they were part of some organized light saber group or if they were just, you know, random light saber enthusiasts. They immediately held out the handle of a light saber, inviting me to join, and gave me a colorful flyer, directing me to PAjedi.com. I was too busy to join, but they were so friendly (and strong with the Force) that I wanted to give them a link.