I knew there was a reason why I tend to prefer Newsweek over TIME magazine. Newsweek just seems to be more in-touch with reality than TIME does and I always thought it was some bias I held more so than any actual fact of the matter, but then I read an article by Lev Grossman on Microsoft’s money-printing franchise known as Halo called The Man in the Mask which is chock full of idiotic passages such as this (emphasis added) one:
There is an invisible subculture in America. Those who belong to it love it with a lonely, alienated, unironic passion. Those who don’t belong to it walk right by, uncaring, just as people walk right by that unmarked building in downtown Kirkland. It is the subculture of hard-core video games, and that oddly shaped building, which houses a company called Bungie, is one of its temples.
We start right off with a couple of absolutely idiotic statements. Does Mr. Grossman seriously expect his audience to believe that video gamers are an invisible subculture? Who the fuck in 2007, outside of Mr. Grossman obviously, doesn’t know that gaming is a hugely popular pastime among a good percentage of the population? Given all the negative attention the news media puts on video games anytime some nutcase who happened to play video games goes on a rampage it’s kind of hard to see how this “subculture” is all that invisible.
According to the Entertainment Software Association surveys show that 69% of American heads of households are gamers, the age of the average gamer is 33 years and they’ve been a gamer for around 12 years, 80% of gamer parents play games with their kids reporting that their families are closer as a result, and 49% play games online for an hour or more weekly. Lonely and alienated? Hardly. Much like my blogging habit, my years as a gamer has provided me with friends I’ve never met face to face but have spent hours gaming with and even a few that I have met face to face for offline non-gaming activities.
Bungie makes a series of video games called Halo that are among the most revered in the gaming canon. It’s doubtful that many people reading this could say exactly, or even approximately, what the Halo games are about.
If that’s true then apparently TIME has a much smaller readership than I thought, probably mostly idiots who don’t read mainstream newspapers or watch the evening news if Mr. Grossman is anything to judge by. Gamers come from all walks of life and more than a few of us take the time to read news magazines such as TIME. Considering the number of gamers out there it’s probably a safe bet that most of the folks reading Mr. Grossman’s article know more about Halo and its plot line than Mr. Grossman himself.
That much becomes clear once Mr. Grossman attempts to explain said plot:
IT’S DIFFICULT TO EXPLAIN THE STORY OF Halo, but that difficulty is in itself worthy of note. This isn’t Donkey Kong. The Master Chief is not an Italian plumber whose girlfriend has been kidnapped by a gorilla. His story is rich and complicated in ways that we’re not used to in video games.
You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. I’d be willing to bet, again, that more of Mr. Grossman’s audience is unfamiliar with the “story” of the original Donkey Kong, in as much as it could be said to have a story in the first place, than is unfamiliar with the plot of Halo. This would seem to indicate that Mr. Grossman may have once played a game or two back in the mid-80’s and probably hasn’t touched any since then. The fact that he claims Master Chief’s story is “rich and complicated” in “ways that we’re not used to” only serves to confirm that suspicion.
Maybe you aren’t used to it, Mr. Grossman, but I’ve played a lot of video games with some amazingly sophisticated story lines not the least of which would include the Splinter Cell series , the Hitman series, Silent Hill series, several of the Final Fantasy series (particularly FFXII), and many many others. Just because you’re ignorant of the current state of video games doesn’t mean everyone else is.
Moving on we come to another couple of stupid statements:
THE CLICHÉ ABOUT GAMERS IS THAT THEY’RE antisocial, if not sociopathic, but Bungie is very much a community.
The Bungies bring a grinding, jeweler’s meticulousness to what most people consider an unhealthy amusement for children.
A small reminder: 69% of American heads of households are gamers. I’d be surprised if “most people” consider video games an “unhealthy amusement for children.” Certainly some people view it that way, Mr. Grossman seemingly among their numbers, but not most nor even a majority.
We’ve got time for a couple more slams from Mr. Grossman before he wraps up his stunning display of idiocy:
This devotion is fueled by a belief, not shared by the world at large, that video games are an art form with genuine emotional meaning and that Halo 3 will be the premier example of that art.
There’s an opportunity beyond video games, too, for Halo to break out of the ghetto and become a mainstream, mass-market, multimedia entertainment property.
Not that the Bungies care. They don’t need to legitimize Halo by associating it with other, more respectable media. They sell enough units and make enough money. They’re happy in their invisible geek ghetto. But that’s the logic of the marketplace: it can’t leave subcultures alone; it has to turn them into cultures. It may be time for the Master Chief to come in from the cold and join the party, with the popular kids. Just don’t expect him to take off his helmet.
About the only way TIME could have come up with a more offensive column on video gamers would’ve been to invite Jack “Douchebag” Thompson to write it. As it is they should try to find someone who’s more familiar with video games beyond the likes of Donkey Kong for any future articles they decide to undertake. It’d be nice if he’d at least played something from this century before sitting down to bang out this tripe.