Warren Spector says gaming must go mainstream to survive. As a girl gamer, I agree.
“The geeks have inherited the earth, now what are we going to do with it?” he asked a cheering audience at the annual Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle.
Spector, who has been developing role-playing tabletop games since 1983 – the year I was born – spoke to self-proclaimed nerds of all ages at the annual expo held in Benaroya Hall, a 2,500-seat theater located in downtown Seattle. Spector, in the convention’s keynote address, explained that games test a person’s creativity and ability to think quickly under pressure.
I agreed with Spector’s words because, for me, gaming is a challenge and an adventure. I appreciate the creativity involved in role-playing games. I love working on a team to accomplish a goal. And I enjoy seeing the progress I’ve made and how I’ve improved.
Spector added that gamers are unique, and they’re here to stay. “We have a sense of brotherhood,” he said, showing maps of World of Warcraft and The Legend of Zelda‘s Hyrule Castle on the projector screen. “We go outside our borders, we yearn to be accepted. But when casual gamers try to join us, we feel like it diminishes us.”
More people join the gaming world every day, and Spector said it’s time for gamers to get past not letting people in the club. “We spent 20 years trying to convince the masses that we’re cool – and we’ve won.”
It’s time for gamers to embrace mainstream gaming, and encourage casual gamers to discover the fun of computer, video and tabletop games. Every outsider activity either goes away or becomes an insider activity, Spector said. “Diversity is the best thing that can happen to us.”
Diversity often comes in the form of older gamers and female gamers, including this writer. When my husband and I started dating, he encouraged me to try gaming as a hobby we could share. I’ve been hooked ever since.
During “Girl Fight,” one of the convention’s panels I attended at the Washington State Convention Center, five female editorial staff members from IGN.com discussed how they got into gaming, as well as some of the issues facing women and girl gamers.
“If you don’t know what you’re doing, a (hand-held game) controller is terrifying,” said Dana Jongewaard, editor-in-chief at IGN.com.
The panelists encouraged men to find out what types of games their wives and girlfriends are interested in playing. Good art and storytelling appeal to women more than first-person shooter games, said Jessica Chobot, IGN.com staff writer.
Nicole Tanner, associate editor, said increased diversity in the gaming world means a bigger industry with more options and more room for growth. Gamers evolve and become more hardcore over time, she added.
Personally, I still consider myself a casual gamer – my husband is hardcore – but I have branched out over the years. You’ll usually find me playing games on my PC, such as World of Warcraft, Sid Meier’s Civilization V or Left 4 Dead. I also enjoy Plants Versus Zombies, Dungeons & Dragons, The Settlers of Catan board game, Steve Jackson’s Munchkin card game and Zombie Dice.
As newlyweds, my husband and I decided to attend another panel, titled “Raising Geek Generation 2.0: Roll for Parenting Ability.” During the discussion, five fathers tackled parenting issues for a gamer audience.
Dave Banks, a father of 8-year-old triplets and a core contributor to the Wired Magazine blog GeekDad, agreed with Spector that “geeks are taking over mainstream culture.” Banks described geeks as intelligent, independent and inquisitive people who are interested in reasoning and problem solving.
“What used to be a derogatory term is now seen as a badge of honor,” he said.
Banks and the other panelists advised parents to set time limits for screen time, to provide rules regarding cell phone use, to encourage physical activity, and to be role models for appropriate use of technology (don’t text and drive).
“It’s about finding the balance that will make them conscientious users of technology,” said Ken Denmead, editor of GeekDad and father of two boys, ages 10 and 12.
For me, balance is essential to living a happy, healthy life.
If parents want their children to enjoy gaming, they must teach them how to lose well and how to win well. One of the panelists said he tells his young children he loves losing because he got to play a game.
The fathers also cautioned parents to watch out for signs their children are being bullied at school. They said 25 percent of children are bullied one to two times per week. They recommended parents be approachable and remind children that home is a safe zone.
In real life, there’s not always a solution to bully situations. Talk to your children about avoiding or outsmarting bullies and, most importantly, be nice to your kids, the panelists said.
As Spector stated in his keynote address, now that “the geeks have inherited the earth,” it’s up to them to craft its future.
The Penny Arcade Expo, PAX, is a three-day convention and game festival for tabletop, video and computer gamers. It includes tournaments, free play areas, concerts, panel discussions, an exhibitor hall and more. To learn more, visit http://www.paxsite.com/paxprime/index.php.
Journalist Lauren Brooks lives in Bellevue, Washington. She is a CSU, Chico alumna who graduated with a B.A. in journalism in spring 2006. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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