The Changing Face of Video Games

My girlfriend and I are both gamers.  She’s actually a bigger gamer than me, but. . .

While we argue a lot over who is the player one in the relationship (I let her win when we play Mario, because I prefer Luigi), we play a lot of co-op.  One of our favorite on-the-couch experiences has been the Gears of War series.

This is what we look like:

me Stella

And this is what our avatars looked like in the first game:

GOW 01 - Marcus Fenix GOW 01 - Dominic Santiago

And in part two:

GOW 02 - Marcus Fenix GOW 02 - Dominic Santiago

Things got a little bit more interest in the third part, switching characters through the process:

GOW 03 - Marcus Fenix GOW 01 - Dominic SantiagoGOW 03 - Cole Train GOW 03 - BairdGOW 03 - Anya Stroud

Recently, we’ve gotten a peak at the major protagonists of Gears of War 4.

Here’s what they look like:

GOW 04 - player one GOW 04 - player 2

Okay.  For those of you that have short term memory loss, here’s my girlfriend and me again:

me Stella

Why, that’s us!

My sister is not exactly a hardcore gamer, but she loves to kill hordes of Lambent and Locusts with her boyfriend.  Games have gotten a wider and wider appeal since 2006, when the first Gears came out.

It should be noted that the history of gaming once reflected a wide appeal.  When Pong, Pac-Man, and Atari were invading living rooms, everyone was learning to play games.  Not long afterward, the market collapsed and developers had to focus on a more hardcore (and younger) audience in order to bring back the medium.

E3 2015 was my fourth show.  My first was 10 years ago, and I can tell you first hand that the demographics of those who fill the halls has drastically changed.  I remember that 2005 was the year when Game Informer Magazine erroneously identified all the women at the show as either “booth babe,” “pr rep,” or “long suffering girlfriend.”  Even at that time, I knew they came off as braying jackasses with their brilliant assessment, but the majority of the attendees were male.  We were big, awkward males with guts and receding hairlines.

We’ve heard a lot of big, awkward males with guts and receding hairlines decry the “co-opting” of their hobby, accusing cos-players of being fake model-wannabes, calling female gaming journalists liars, and suggesting the hipsters and jocks are stealing their culture.  It’s gamer gentrification, and the hardcore gamers have doubted the authenticity and have worried about the future of their passion.

I know a ton of cos-players, had Jessica Nigri in a music video, and have networked with costumers the world over. While I have expressed concern about when costuming goes from art to commerce, I can tell you that these people don’t work their fingers bloody sewing costumes just to sell prints.

As to female gaming journalists, I can personally attest to the incredible knowledge of those I have personally met, and I have never stopped being impressed by Olivia Munn.

Finally, many hardcore gamers were once mistreated by people that look like those who now loudly announce they are huge “nerds.”  It can be difficult for gamers to set aside the humiliation they suffered because they had the courage to celebrate games, fantasy, cartoons, etc during those tender years.  But those things were always awesome, and you were simply smart enough to know that before they did.  It’s sort of an “I told you so” situation.

The halls of E3 in 2015 more accurately reflected what the world as a whole looks like.  Sure, guys that look like me are still the biggest slice of the pie chart, but that part is getting smaller.  That’s a good thing.  I saw all kinds of people.  I saw guys that actually look like Marcus and Dom from Gears of War.  I came across a seven and a half foot tall NBA player and about ten steps later was passed by Verne Troyer on his scooter.  I saw more pretty blond girls than they have on Fox News, and no, they weren’t anyone’s “long-suffering” girlfriends.  They were geeking out over the same stuff I was.  There were people from a hundred and nine different countries this year, and more people than ever were watching the show from even more corners of the globe than that online.

It is clear that developers are taking notice.  This was not only a great year for games, this was an incredible year for the female protagonist in these games.  With Horizon, Tomb Raider, and even just the cover of Beyond Earth, women are popping up on the gaming landscape.  And one big reason is that there are more women building these worlds than ever before!

The face of gaming is changing.  All the world’s a gamer, and this is not the end of anyone’s passion.

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