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The Top 10 Best Portrayals of Gamers on Television

Bob Chipman | 17 Nov 2014 12:35
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I took a shot at The Big Bang Theory last week, which I feel was wholly justified by virtue of The Big Bang Theory being a cancerous cultural polyp made vaguely less noxious only when Wil Wheaton turns up. But I don't, like many, hate it for being a "nerd minstrel show" -- I hate it for being a bad formula Friends riff (and I don't even like Friends very much) that panders for web traffic with a superficial gloss of trite "geek references" that Tim Buckley would find hacky.

The real Great Geek Sitcom of the era is, of course, Community, precisely because it doesn't wear its nerd bonafides like a "look at me!!!" rainbow-wig -- it wears them on its heart. So of course, it's also given us heavily game-inspired moments like the shooter-influenced paintball episodes and the very concept of the Dreamatorium. But the crowning gamer event of the series (so far) was watching The Greendale 7 zap themselves into an 8-bit game to fight for Pierce's inheritance in "Digital Estate Planning."

Where in The World/Where in Time/Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?

You could run a college lecture course on the enigmatic meaning of the Carmen Sandiego franchise: A strangely complex feeling Latina antiheroine seared into the pop-culture DNA of a medium today largely defined by beefy Caucasian fratboys. A franchise from the much-maligned "edutainment" genre remembered with an unironic fondness befitting a Smash Bros competitor. Most improbably of all: The source of some of TV's great game-adaptations.

Turning WITWICS's thief-hunting-as-geography-bee setup into an educational kids game show was an obvious stroke of brilliance (a clever if typically eyerolly 90s FoxKids cartoon perhaps less so), but it was also one of pop culture's first direct, qualification-free acknowledgment of video games as worthwhile teaching tools -- the importance of which cannot be overstated considering this was also the era of Joe Lieberman's Congressional witch hunt against "violent" gaming.

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