How Society Views Gamers – Now and Then
The past five years have seen a big change in how society views gamers. More people are getting involved in gaming than ever before. The stigma surrounding video games is on its way out. Where society once saw gamers as overweight, acne-faced hunchbacks, times have changed.
This is Jenkins from Southpark’s “Make Love, Not Warcraft” episode. While he still gets a chuckle out of me to this day, he was once the embodiment of every gaming stereotype.
The Tables Have Turned
The stereotype has changed. Phones and mobile gaming have made the medium more accessible than ever. Grandmas across America play match-three games like Candy Crush and Gardenscapes. You could even say being a gamer is trendy.
The Dreaded 90s.
Before big-budget titles and esports, being a gamer was something you kept hidden. If you were a gamer, you were the weird kid who spent all your time indoors. You were a nerd. Having an issue of Nintendo Power was as bad as having a Playboy. Your friends were fellow nerds. And a girlfriend? Goodluck!
As a young gamer in the 90s, trying to be cool was an uphill battle. But do you know who had it worse? Adults. Adult gamers were lumped in with devil-worshipping D&D geeks. They were the lost souls of Generation X.
Now, almost 30 years later, adult gamers are dumping their attractive girlfriends to play more video games! You may be thinking, “a guy broke up with his girlfriend, so what?”
Modern gamers aren’t untouchable nerds. They’re free spirits and entertainers who love to socialize in an online space. Some of the most popular gamers today— PewDiePie, ElRubiusOMG, and Ninja — are social butterflies, far and away from the image of a basement-dwelling Cheeto dusted nerd.
Nerds culture is a hot topic. Adult cartoons are some of the best-reviewed TV shows. Marvel movies break box office records every year. Videos games aren’t weird anymore. So what caused this shift?
What Made Gaming Popular
What makes anything popular? Celebrity endorsements.
This year we’ve seen Drake team up with Fortnite’s Ninja to break the record for most concurrent views on a single Twitch stream. We’ve also seen NBA players, such as Paul George and Andre Drummond, make public appearances at Fortnite tournaments.
It’s now common to see celebrities at esports events. Many more are endorsing video games through social media.
As for what made gaming cool, that’s a little more complicated. More than anything else, two elements transformed society’s view toward gamers: the rise of the female gamer and the impact of accessible technology.
The Rise of the Female Gamer
Males have always dominated the games industry, but that’s starting to change.
For a while, there seemed to be many social pressures steering women away from video games, with the biggest stigma being that “it’s a guy thing.”
Today, that trend is changing. A study by Google Play and Newzoo found that 65% of US women ages 10-65 play at least one mobile game.
While mobile games are often considered casual by the industry at large, women are turning toward console and PC games at a rapid pace.
This is most visible in the growing popularity of female streamers. Sssniperwolf, also known as Lia, has 7.2 million YouTube subscribers. While the majority of her subscribers are male, she has a significant female audience as well. Streamers like Sssniperwolf are paving the way for the next generation of female gamers.
So how has this affected society’s view toward gamers? In the past, gamers were in the minority, a small percentage of outcasts and disenfranchised men. Now that women are gaining a foothold in the games community, video games aren’t just for nerdy guys.
The Impact of Technology
The world is changing, and so is our culture. One of the biggest drivers of change is technology. Think about the world your parents grew up in. They were probably born before smartphones, before the Internet, and when the only console was the Atari 2600.
When video games first came about, people relied little on electronics and other digital technology. Consoles were novelty items. People filled their free time with traditional activities like hiking and outdoor sports.
Modern kids have grown up with smartphones and internet. It’s hard for them to imagine a time before everyone had a computer in their pocket. We’ve grown comfortable with technology. We’ve become intertwined with it. Some people conduct most of their social interactions through text or the internet. So how has this affected gamers?
Modern society is less judgmental than ever before. Everyone has their favorite online activities. If not video games, then maybe watching Netflix or browsing social media. Sitting at home and filling your free time with technology is considered normal.
In other words, technology has made the sedentary lifestyle acceptable. Even if they don’t play video games, we all spend a lot of time staring into screens. It’s funny how the world works.
Final Thoughts On How Society Views Gamers
Is gaming a trend or a fad? I tend to think it’s a trend. It’s around for the long haul. We’re becoming more attached to technology, not less.
The increasing number of women and the inclusion of global audiences have made gaming more accessible than ever. Who knows? In the future, it might be uncool not to play video games.
Someday it might be more than a trend. Someday gaming might be as common as watching TV.