Videogames, politics, science, all the important things in life.

Your Culture Sucks– Gaming Celebrity Part 2

Posted by nfinit on April 7, 2010

(Hey! You’re reading Part 2!  Click here to read Part 1!)

Gaming is unique in that most of our celebrities hang on the periphery of the  industry, and usually have little to do with the actual production of games.

Traditionally, gaming culture has been portrayed as a pursuit for hormone-fueled manchildren, and far be it for us not to live down to these expectations.  sometimes all you need for celebrity status is a pair of boobs and a willingness to lick… things.

jessica-chobot-psp.jpg picture by bigredcoat

Now it’s entirely possible that Jessica Chobot is a talented writer and wholly deserving of her celebrity status, but it’s hard to deny that she’s blatantly used her sex appeal to her advantage.  After all, few people outside of the gaming intelligentsia know of Chris Kohler despite being widely regarded as the best journalist in the industry, mainly because he’s a big goofy looking dude who lacks a tendency to treat Sony gaming hardware as unsubtle phallic substitutes.  Along these same lines you wind up with Ubisoft‘s Frag Dolls, who are something of gaming’s equivalent of the Swedish Bikini Team, only without the silly 80’s camp and more implied Facebook stalking by creepy gamer dudes.

Gaming has a habit of making celebrities out of people who happen to be very good at playing games.  In some circles this makes good sense–  Phil Ivey is probably the most well-known poker player in the world, and with good reason; he’s the absolute best there is at what he does.  But poker, by it’s very design, is a competitive pursuit, and its foundations have existed as long as card games themselves.

But it’s hard to equate video gaming with poker.  Poker has built up a sexy, sophisticated romance about itself that extends beyond the game and into mainstream culture itself.  Video games?  Not so much.  Unlike poker, video gaming is largely a singular experience whose evolution is in a state of constant flux– After all, it’d be hard to go up to the creator of Texas Hold ’em and ask his opinions as to the state of card gaming.  That’s why people who’ve gained celebrity off the ability to play video games seem so strange to me.  Take Johnathan Wendel, for example.

You probably know him as “Fatal1ty“, which clearly translates to “Fat Al’s  #1 Taco Yard”, demonstrating Johnathan Wendel’s propensity for seeking corporate endorsement began quite early.

Somehow Johnathan Wendel’s ability at Quake 3 Arena has managed to manifest itself in corporate endorsements, mainstream media attention and an invitation from Time Magazine to opine on Shigeru Miyamoto.

No, really. And given an opportunity to educate a national audience as to why Miyamoto is important, he starts with this:

I vividly recall playing on my Nintendo from the age of 4, and to say the least, it changed my life forever. Video games became my life when, at 18, I set out to become a full-time professional video gamer. In the past seven years I have won 12 major championships playing five different games.

Keep in mind, we’re talking about Shigeru Miyamoto, the man who’s probably single-handedly responsible for saving the video game industry after the Crash of ’84.  So naturally this little shit immediately starts talking about pw0ning n00bs at Quake.

Gaming celebrity based off one’s ability to play videogames is like earning street cred in literary circles for being the world’s best speed reader.  You wouldn‘t go up to a guy whose renowned for his ability to sit in a theater for six hours without needing to get up to take a piss and ask him for his opinion on There Will Be Blood; why are we asking Johnathan Wendel to give his diseased, narcissistic opinion on anything not directly related to Quake 3?

Finally, you wind up with a group of people who have made it their mission to harm gaming culture; yet for some reason we deem it necessary to give them the media attention they so desperately desire.

Jack Thompson is a prime example– Jack was disbarred nearly two years ago by the Florida Bar.  Despite randomly flaring up in the mainstream media he’s no longer a real legal threat.  Nevertheless you have media outlets such as Kotaku and Joystiq who cannot stop themselves from running features on Jack Thompson’s latest manic diatribe, and he remains a favorite of creatively bankrupt webcomic artists who can’t think of anything better to talk about.  Which is, of course, precisely what Jack wants– he feeds off outrage. Yes, at one point he was a real danger– even going so far as to be called upon to draft legislation.  But he’s a joke now, and it’d be far more damaging to his reputation if he were to fade into obscurity.
Uwe Boll is the other best example of this phenomenon, although after making a career out of systematically ruining videogame franchises and punching critics in the head, he’s sort of fallen out of relevancy.  This is probably due to changes in  Germany’s tax laws making it less lucrative to produce movies that are doomed to never make up their operating budget, but it’s a fair bet to say that the Joystiqs and Kotakus and IGNs of the world will be quick to pick up on his latest insane stunt whenever the urge for attention and/or production dollars spurs him forward again.


FRIDAY!  The people who get it right.


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