This dynamite column from John Brindle at Nightmare Mode compares the years of socialziation and knowledge-accumulation necessary to become a serious modern gamer to the tiny subset of people who make it through the most prestigious colleges at Oxford, and analyzes the ingroup-outgroup dynamics that this creates. He pivots off of Jim Rossignol’s argument that gamers
shouldn’t worry about what non-gamers think of games, because “in this instance,” he wrote, “we are the highly educated elite.”
It’s a good point. It arouses in me the instant desire to defend the fruits of the traditional education I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy (a word I choose advisedly) in both games and ‘real life’. Complexity of the kind impenetrable without years of copious and counter-intuitive study is valuable and beautiful for those who want to dance with it and I will defend it forever and always on those terms. Not everyone, however, gets invited to that party – and others are denigrated simply for not wanting to go.
He takes some wonderful shots at critics who spend their time trying to justify gaming to some amorphous arbiter of good learning and taste (“attempts to show the disapproving dad of high culture that games really can be worth something”) as well as critics who maintain that gaming is already good enough and must never prostrate itself before the rest of culture. They are missing the point, Brindle says: the real problem is that having a highly developed game education is itself a form of cultural and economic privilege. Gamers may see themselves as persecuted and misunderstood, but in fact, as a group, they are educated, wealthy, white (at least gamemakers are) and powerful.
Gaming needs to spend less time thinking about how others regard it and more time opening itself to others:
We need to make it a mythic and foundational ideal that our medium and all the forms of education it involves should be open to everyone without scruple or exception. Everybody gets to play and everybody gets to learn.
I heartily agree, and I also think this is a problem that will resolve itself in time. As casual and free-to-play games mature, the child who has never played – many – games growing up will be the rarest exception. Game literacy, or to use the unfortunate term, luderacy, will be ubiquitous, and everyone will have the choice whether or not to join the club.