I play “Magic: The Gathering,” have a collection of all the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings DVDs, display a Where the Wild Things Are poster, read graphic novels such as V for Vendetta and Watchmen, and watch anime films like Spirited Away.
I believe that we are not only the “lost culture” in the ways of being glued to our cell phones and iPods, but that we are “lost” in the realm of these make-believe lands, characters, and stories. I find that today more people are open to reading graphic novels and comics, and are obsessed with pop culture, horror, sci-fi, anime, gaming, film, and fantasy in general. While the range of fantasy literature is vast, it usually involves a type of magic in an imaginary world and plays out stereotypes like clever thieves, wizards, dangerous monsters, and dark threats. The gaming industry has contributed to pop culture as well as advancing videogame technology. This has had a sociological, psychological, and cultural impact on the individuals who play, as well as the rest of civilization.
Men and women alike gather at Comic Cons around the world, dressed to the nines in homemade or store-bought costumes of sci-fi or fantasy characters. For that day, they get to look and live like their obsession or merely a favored individual. Just as Michelangelo sculpted his iconic, muscular statue of David, many of the characters seen in these genres epitomize what the male and female bodies are supposed to look like. The men tend to look built, fit, and agile, while the women tend to look beautiful, thin, and wear revealing clothing.
Much of fantasy-themed literature and gaming emphasizes the male ideals of heroism, responsibility, and power. In the popular game Skyrim, the hero spends his or her time running around a vast world, going on daunting quests, collecting weapons, improving skills, and battling demonic animals in order to protect the relatively peaceful community that they live in. The same ideals are seen in J.R.R. Tolkien’s tales of the Ring or J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.
The lands are spectacular, imaginative works of splendid beauty like ancient forests, forgotten caves, and little villages. Usually, years of thought and grueling work goes into them, as seen in the film The Indie Game, which highlights the history of gaming, the tedious process that gaming developers go through, and the effect that it has on consumers.
“It’s not just a game,” Phil Fish, creator of the game Fez, said in the film. “I’m so closely attached to it. This is my identity.” His game sold 20,000 units the first day it debuted and a year later hit the 200,000 mark.
In a society that constantly seems to be dealing with an overwhelming amount of unsolved problems and issues, gaming allows the user an escape to become a part of a different world. Despite the ideals of grandeur that the quirky tales and characters play out, the underlying grand themes are displayed in a sort of juvenile and child-like tenor. It is almost like regular gamers should be diagnosed with the Peter Pan effect—they reach out to these games to enter another world, where making a potion or combat have no serious consequence other than having the potion go wrong or losing a leg during the battle and grudgingly having to restart the game. But it also goes deeper than that. It is a way of communication, a relation with a character. Jonathan Blow, the creator of Braid, said his game was “making it was about ‘let me take my deepest flaws and vulnerabilities and put them in the game.’” And that was exactly what he did.
Image by Andy Simmons.