It was really interesting to read Rise of the Video Game Zinesters as it came out in 2012 and I feel like the video game industry has shifted dramatically since then. I remember back in 2012, the storm around the “big three” consoles had started to fade and we saw the rise of PC gaming in my high school. Back then gaming was for the “guys” and was a pretty nerdy, exclusive place to be. Games like Modern Warfare, WoW, and Halo were the center of attention.
Cut to 2022, a decade later and I feel like there has been such a massive shift in gaming culture. Sure, there are still the games that attract heavy toxic masculinity, but no one treats them like they did 10 years ago. The kind of atmosphere Xbox Live brought about has been criticized and memed to the point where it feels like the gaming community has moved on. I see the rise in indie games as the new kind of culture that Anna Anthropy was hoping for in this book. Nowadays, my friends in gaming and my online communities don’t eagerly await releases from massive studios; they wait for the next indie release that will introduce them to some new world, new mechanic, or new learning. For example, my favorite streamer grew obsessed with Sifu, an indie game that has a rogue-lite mechanic of aging on every death. The story of revenge was so interesting that it kept him and his audience intrigued and amazed at the graphics and gameplay.
There is one phenomenon I want to highlight and to preface it, I think toxic masculine gaming culture is deeply unhealthy and I don’t want to come across as sympathetic to it. One thing that I see occurring and Anthropy rightfully criticizing is the gatekeeping of games from external groups that weren’t part of the “old school gamers”. These gatekeepers claim that game developers are “selling out” by bending to the criticisms and making games that don’t appeal to the male fantasy. This is clearly ridiculous. However, I believe a part of this mindset is built around the idea that games are their escape and by being more inclusive, they will be pushed out of the space. Games were like a religion for gamers when they began. It was a status symbol and a mark that you spoke the same language as another gamer. However, as more gamers enter the space, there are more “dialects” of gaming. To me, that’s a good thing! There is more room for us all. However, toxic male gamers see this as taking their identity away from them. Its not that this mentality is right, but any solution to fixing gaming culture needs to account for this.