The Rest of the Story

The Rest of the Story
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Russ Pitts | 14 Nov 2006 07:01
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What this shows us is that there is a small minority of people in the U.S. who can barely read, a similarly-sized minority who are extremely literate and a large swath of people who fall somewhere in between, capable of reading, but choosing not to do so enough to become proficient. It's fair to say that these people in the middle do not spend the majority of their time reading videogame news - or, to remain on statistically safer ground, that the people who do read extensive news and reviews of videogames are toward the top end of the NAAL's scale, most likely in the "proficient" category.

This, however, is not a Pulitzer Prize-winning revelation by any means. Once the province of the rare few who not only owned a computer, but also knew how to operate it, games have never been in danger of association with illiteracy. Games' association with adolescence is another story.

Were we to base our understanding of world events solely on television news and political speeches (which a large majority of Americans apparently do, according to the NAAL), we'd have a hard time believing that mature, responsible adults play videogames. Even the people doing the videogame marketing seem to be of the belief that their products are solely for the benefit of pimply-faced latchkey kids looking to get their next high-octane, adrenaline-fueled, boobie-infested entertainment high. Those who Microsoft's Peter Moore calls "Boys in Their Bedrooms."

The phrase brings to mind seedy activities: taking pictures of naked children, manufacturing counterfeit currency, viewing pornography and masturbating. This is no accidental collision of phraseology. To many people, "boys in bedrooms" can only mean one thing. Whether the joystick is made of plastic or flesh, it's still wankery. Moore uses the phrase to distance noble Microsoft from the still somewhat disreputable practice of playing videogames, and suggests to his shareholders that the goal for Microsoft, in its quest to make its videogame division profitable, is to expand its reach beyond this core market and woo more moderate consumers. Yet, according to a recent study by NPD, so-called "heavy" gamers, almost half of which include the magic 18-34 demographic, only constitute about 3 percent of the total game-playing audience, which lends a lot of credence to the assumption that the game audience is maturing, and that games are playing a more viable role in society, not just as youthful diversions for wankers.

More fuel for that fire is the recent finding of an (admittedly biased) study conducted by casual game maker PopCap, suggesting that almost half of the 150 million casual game players are over 50. The ESA's data concludes that these over-50 casual gamers only make up about 25 percent of the total game-playing audience, but that almost half of the total game-playing audience is between 18 and 49 with an average age of 33. Again, the bell curve. The ESA's data agrees with NPD's, concluding that only about a third of all gamers are younger than 18; which, while substantial, is a far cry from being a majority of the audience.

So it's fair to say that regardless of what Mr. Moore may believe, the "boys in bedrooms" mystique may not be entirely accurate. The videogame audience has matured, and so has the industry. One would expect, therefore, the industry's attendant press to have kept pace. Unfortunately, the gaming press seems to be just as confused as Peter Moore.

The Lester Bangs of Gaming
"There's only a few writers who are any good and I'm not saying who they are. ... [Most writers] don't have the passion for the music that somebody who gets into it because they really love music has. ... I hate that kind of shit. That's what I hate anywhere, people who are just being trendies or opportunistic."
- Lester Bangs

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