Transcending the Gamer stereotype in Popular Culture
Fat, unhealthy, unhygienic, lacks of friends, recluse, hacker, bullied, male, and living in the basement of his parents are examples of how popular culture portrays gamers. However, most people do not realize that this is far from the truth. The gamer stereotype is a thing of the past. As I began my research, I soon realized that popular culture in one way or another had began to deviate from this stereotype of gamers in the last 20 years. Popular culture began to show that gamers are much more than the stereotype that we think of when we think of gamers.
Lets start in the nineties with the movie “Hackers”, released in 1995 and it’s about a teenage computer genius, Dade, and his friends who are hackers and the events that unfold when one of the newer hackers hacks a computer and gains access to a computer file that contains information about stolen money.
Then the hackers are accused of planting a program that would cause a disaster. The movie ends with the hackers clearing their names and actual people stealing money being sent to jail. Now lets jump into how gamers and hackers are connected. In the nineties, there really was no difference to how people thought of gamers or hackers. They were one and the same back in the nineties and even still sometimes today with the older generations. The movie also tends to reinforce the connection between gamers and hackers as all of the hackers were mostly male teenagers. The movie also portrays hackers as a subculture that the mainstream culture disliked and thought that they were a danger to society. They were seen as criminals that had uncontrolled power through the use of their computers and one of the cops in the movie went as far as calling what they did as “commie bullshit”. All of these portrayals of the hackers fit in well with the gamer stereotype.
The Internet or the cyberworld, which can be seen in the above gif, was shown as a tron like world where the hackers could do anything they wanted to do. The cyberworld was almost like a mini-game that the hackers played while gliding through the cyberworld to gain access to other computer systems. The hackers were not fat, unhealthy, completely male, and everything that popular culture portrayed gamers/hackers as. They transcend all of the stereotypes and were a rebellious group of people that challenged the norms of everyday life to find their niche in the world. The leading female role, Kate or Acid Burn, played by Angelina Jolie, was one of the elite hackers of the group in New York and didn’t follow the norms of girls such as not knowing how to use a computer or play games as she had the highest score in one of the games in the movie. “Looking for Gender: Gender Roles and Behaviors Among Online Gamers” also points out that 40 % of all gamers are female, showing that the females comprise almost half of all gamers are female and that the stereotype is losing its grip. The study also showed that female gamers were more dedicated to certain games such as MMOs; MMOs are shorthand for MMORPGs which means massive multiplayer online role playing game. It also shows that females of Everquest 2 had an average playtime of “29.32 hours/week” compared to the average male with “25.03 hours/week”. This shows that the stereotype of gamers being male and playing longer than females is wrong with Kate being an example with her dedication to hacking and her elite status. “Hackers” was a movie that did not conform to the gamer/hacker stereotypes in its entirety, but created complex characters with more to them just some male gamer in the basement playing games and browsing the cyberworld.
Now lets jump to 2012, when Rocket Jump Studios released the webseries “Video Game High School”. The series was originally released on Freddie Wong’s Youtube channel freddiew and funded through a kickstarter and then later added to other mediums such as Netflix.
The first season follows the character Brain known as BrainD and set in the near future where playing video games is the most competitive sport in the world. BrainD was a unknown FPS player on Field of Fire and gets admitted to Video Game High School an elite school for top video gamers by killing the Law, the most popular player from VGHS and the leader of the varsity team at VGHS on TV. The show is a classic underdog tale mixed in with video games, action, and comedy. This shows transcends the gamer stereotype by making everyone a gamer. Playing video games had become so ingrained into everyday life that it became the culture. The sport of video games became the most competitive sport in the world and the top players were considered celebrities. Gamers were no longer thought to be the fat, unhealthy, stereotype. They were praised by everyone in the world. Not only were video gamers being praised, but people who programed games and designed games also achieved similar status as gamers. Most people think that the idea of video games becoming such a huge sensation is something out of fairytale, but the real world is becoming more and more like “Video Game High School”. The games in the show may be a bit out there as video game graphics haven’t achieved anything close to the realism that VGHS has, but the concept of people making a career out of video games is something that we have seen in the real world. Pewdiepie is the most subscribed Youtube channel of all time and his yearly income is estimated to be in the millions. Pewdiepie’s channel consists of countless video game videos where he records video of himself playing games and overlaying it on top of the game footage. This shows that people in the real world can make a living out of playing video games. The competitive scene is also been increasing over the years. Games such as CS:GO, League of Legends,and Dota 2 are one of the most competitive esports right now, drawing in thousands of people to their streams and competitions. All this shows that “Video Game High School” portrays gamers in a better light by transcending the gamer stereotype of the past and creating new ways to think of gamers.
Overall, the gamer stereotype has been wrong for a long time and has been changing to create a better image of gamers as playing video games has become more and more popular. Female gamers comprise almost half of the gaming community, they don’t spend their time alone in the basement, and they are different like any other group.
One learning moment I had was when we had to read the article about the doltish dad. It had never occurred to me that fathers could be the way that the article made them out to be. I read that most people in the comments also agreed that the evolution of the doltish dad is new to them and that’s when I realized how much of the world we fail to perceive because there is just too much out there. I always like the feeling of learning something new and then applying it and with that article I started to think about other TV dads and trying to find out which dad they were. This class has truly opened new doors for me to explore and to learn new things.
Another learning moment I had was during week two and we were learning about advertising. One of the prompts asked about finding an advertising that was “effective and convincing” . I found several Thai commercials that were all about evoking an emotional response. The thing that I learned was how much different commercials are in Thailand than in the U.S. Those Thai commercials were pretty much a short movie with the company name that paid for it at the end with a couple of sentences to tie the commercial with the company. As amazed how much different they were. In the U.S. some commercials are much shorter and have the company brand, logos, and the name shot several times while the Thai commercials had one thing at the end.
Here’s some extra gifs I found amusing.
Hackers. Dir. Iain Softley. By Rafael Moreu. Perf. Jonny Lee Miller, Angelina Jolie, and Fisher
Stevens. MGM/UA Home Video, 1996.
Wong, Freddie, Matthew Arnold, and Brandon Laastch, dirs. Video Game High School. N.d.
Williams, Dmitri, Mia Consalvo, Scott Caplan, and Nick Yee. “Looking for Gender:
Gender Roles and Behaviors Among Online Gamers.” Journal of
Communication: 700-25. Print.