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

Your Culture Sucks– Gaming Celebrity Part 3

Posted by nfinit on April 11, 2010

(Hey!  You’re reading part 3!  For Part 1, click here!  Or for part 2, click here instead!)
While I could sit here and bitch and moan about gaming culture and come off as Bitter Internet Dude, I would like to recognize that sometimes gaming culture gets it right and produces celebrities who are credits to the community and worthy of the media attention paid to them, even if it’s usually not nearly enough.
And honestly, I could begin and end this segment with Jerry Holkins’ and Mike Krahulik’s Penny Arcade media empire.  Whether it be their (usually) hilarious (although perhaps less so in the light of fatherhood and  World of Warcraft) webcomic or the one great gaming philanthropic institute known as Child’s Play, or the one great gathering of gaming culture itself– Penny Arcade Expo– Holkin and Krahulik have taken gaming culture by the scruff and have attempted to drag it kicking and screaming toward something resembling credibility, and for that they’ve earned every bit of popular culture recognition that’s been heaped upon them.
Not that Penny Arcade isn’t without its failures.  Their games publishing effort, Greenhouse Games, is largely redundant in the light of Steam, and it would appear that the Penny Arcade’s experiment in game design is sadly done for, but they get more things right than they do wrong, and what they get right they do exceptionally well, even if at some point during the Summer of 2008 Mike Krahluik lost his ability to draw noses.
Seriously, what happened there?
Going beyond Penny Arcade feels redundant, but at some point you have to accept that Penny Arcade revolves around characters called “Fruit Fucker” and Mike’s fascination with enormous flopping dongs.  So despite Mike and Jerry’s good work, it comes with a certain amount of baggage.  For gaming culture to have the same sort of mainstream credibility as literature or cinema or even comic books, we need celebs who aren’t quite as cock-centric as Penny Arcade.  Luckily, we have Johnathan Coulton on our side.

Yeah, yeah The Cake is a Lie LoL.  But you can’t hold that against him, there’s no way he could have known the great collective derelict of gaming culture would latch onto a throwaway joke hidden in a Portal easter egg.  But his talent is undeniable.  Would he be as big of a success if he’d not based his act around geek culture?  Maybe not, but he at least seems genuine, even if he’s more a geek icon than a gaming icon.  Plus you have to respect anyone who’s smart enough to realize that keeping DRM on his own works is largely futile and has no problem giving away his discography for free.
Finally, I don’t know how fair it is to round her into the milieu of “gaming culture” when she’s obviously more of an overall “geek culture” figure, but Felicia Day has somehow managed to make the loves of hopeless World of Warcraft addicts seem interesting, so that has to count for something, and she’s turned The Guild into the nearest thing gaming has ever had to a legit television crossover.  She’s also a good example of a gamer who’s done something positive to promote gaming culture as a whole.


I didn’t go everything I wanted to here– I really should have touched on Peter Molyneux’s blatant media whoring, but truth be told I like most of his games even if he does spend more time explaining why the latest Fable feature list failed to materialize.  I also really wanted to mention John Carmack as a positive influence on gaming culture, but it was either him or Felicia Day, and only one of those two is a qualified vampire slayer.  And then there’s Ice-T and his singular ability to make being a hardcore gamer (seem) cool.
But what I hope hasn’t been lost here is that gaming culture and the media outlets that service it pay attention to the wrong people.  Why is Jessica Chobot more credible than Chris Kohler?  Why is Dennis Dyack given more press time than Ken Levine?  Why do we give as much credibility to Uwe Boll and his latest plundering of a respected gaming franchise as we do something that’s genuinely entertaining and has legitimate mainstream appeal, such as Felicia Day and The Guild?

Our culture comes off as loud and brash and boorish in large part because that is the face we have chosen to present to the world.  More importantly, it is painfully obvious that our media outlets rely upon this.  It’s easier to sell Jack Thompson’s newest isolated outrage than it is the good work Penny Arcade does for needy children.   We need to demand better.  Sadly I’m not sure if Kotaku and Joystiq and IGN are particularly interested in helping our cause,  Indeed, it’s readily apparent that they are complicit in shedding the wrong light on the wrong people.


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