Something is happening in USA. Gaming is becoming cool. I mean, as far as I’m concerned, it always has been, but these days, with the popularization of Overwatch and sexy cosplayers dominating IG and Snapchat, gamers have found themselves on top of a mainstream pop culture wave. As a proud member of the “Oregon Trail Generation”, I remember a time when playing video games past the age of 14 was considered ‘lame’ or ‘anti-social’. Those days are dead. Good riddance. The online gaming community is positioning itself to take a spot as one of America’s favorite ‘sports’. ESPN is actually paying attention to the goings-on of LoL comps in South Korea. This is real life, people!
The fine people of Blizzard Entertainment are paying minimum salaries, instituting coaching staffs and building eSports stadiums on US soil, online gaming is set to take a bigger role in our collective social conscience than we may think. Yes, even us gamers. Will working class mothers in South Philly be seen wearing BoomBox jerseys? Maybe not this year, but as a 32-year-old parent I can promise that day is coming sooner than we may have imagined. In about a month from now, tens of thousands of gamers, cosplayers, and tech nerds will descend on Boston, Massachusetts for the yearly pilgrimage to PAX East, the largest of the PAX events. This year, as has been the trend, will be bigger than the last. With the advent and success of the Overwatch League I suspect to see a wider swath of ‘normies’ (lol) at the con, trying to wrap their heads around our yearly celebration of all the ‘anti-social’ and ‘lame’ stuff that brings nearly 100,000 people together annually.
Beyond a more widespread acceptance in pop culture, I have noticed that gaming is becoming more competitive, even when it’s a throwaway match or a ‘fun’ dungeon raid. Where there used to be friendly-ish trash talk, there is real vitriol and frustration. This new “gaming can be a career so it’s a serious thing” crop of young people miss the point so often. My usual Discord channel is a group of similarly aged (late 20s- mid 30s) guys and ladies who jab each other with expletive-laced insults about various bad in game performances or insufficiently sized body parts. Where we all have a good laugh and just have fun. But something happens when I dare to join voice chat with a team of randoms. The age dynamic shifts and I find myself being accurately critiqued in a malicious way by 18-25 year olds who, apparently, think that if they lose a QP Overwatch match their dreams of being the next Miro will fade into the abyss. Regardless of my insecurities and the delusional aspirations of the younger set we will all be rubbing shoulders in a month’s time and I can’t wait. It’s an interesting dynamic to see the generations of gamers all together in one place, and as the gamer-lifestyle continues it’s journey into the mainstream nexus, we can be assured that this dynamic will proceed to grow!