Lightness of Being (a Gamer)Alone in the CrowdLightness of Being (a Gamer) - RSS 2.0
I live in Manhattan, a city piled wall-to-wall with people. Commuting, strolling, traveling - there are so many people that before long, you cease to notice individual features. We don't do eye contact here; wrapped in our destinations, we hardly even speak to each other. And yet, we all want to identify, to be identified.
The woman with the Kate Spade bag and Jimmy Choo heels is a fashionista. Baseball fans proclaim allegiance, either Yankees or Mets, by their ball caps and sports jerseys; during the season, the Branded exchange conspiratorial (or confrontational) nods. A successful marketing exec knows when it's the season to make an impression with a lavender tie, and the coffee houses are overrun with hipster chic - a veritable movement to which the young telegraph their fealty with wristbands, ballet flats and tousled hair.
The man across the aisle on the train with the tweed jacket, reading the Observer? If you assumed "professor," you're probably right. What does a biker look like? An artist? A rapper? Chances are, you can guess.
But what does a gamer look like?
The popular stereotype about us is we're all socially maladapted geeks. That we escaped into digital fantasy because we can't integrate with society. Are we all, then, utterly nondescript, in an effort to keep our secret? Or does every single one of us stick out like a sore thumb, in those awful oversize shopping mall shirts emblazoned with Japanese characters? Isn't that just a stereotype?
In the human crush of New York City, the constant invasion of personal space, I know there must be other gamers in the crowd - mild-mannered and well-comported by day, wild-eyed console jockeys by night. Maybe you can't tell by looking. But the fashionista, the professor, the Yankees fan - couldn't they all be gamers, too?
The odds are on my side. Recent Nielsen data shows that over 50 percent of the population has a console in the home. Of these, 20 percent are serious players, clocking five or more hours in a day. In a city of 8 million, then, one could safely estimate I share this tiny slice of America with 1.6 million other "hardcore" gamers. But how would I identify them?
How would they identify me?
OK, so maybe I own some videogame shirts. Generally, though, we don't broadcast our passion in our external presentation. Maybe the surest way to find other gamers is actually the simplest: Look for people who are playing.
And then, I get an idea. Maybe my games can do the broadcasting for me.
The Nintendo DS is Wi-Fi enabled, which means where it can find a wireless hotspot, it can find a fellow gamer. Users on the same wireless network can play the same game together, even when only one user has the cartridge. The DS is also embedded with the PictoChat firmware, which lets up to 16 users create profiles and chat. This kind of capability creates an idyllic mental image: gamers young and old, casually bumping elbows in this increasingly wireless world, pausing for a little head-to-head.
I've never used it. I've never even tried. But what would happen if I did?