No one ever got laid by going to a GameStop. The only woman here is a mother with her preteen son; he is trying to convince her Grand Theft Auto V is an appropriate game for someone whose balls haven’t dropped yet. The kid reminds me of myself at that age, but nowadays all I want to do is play Pokémon Alpha Sapphire.
Every GameStop has the same pair of employees. In the words of Darth Bane, “Two there should be; no more, no less. One to embody power, the other to crave it,” except in this case the power is having a healthy BMI and being slightly less socially awkward.
Since Fatty is too busy facing the Amiibo figurines, Skinny is my opponent at the cash register. I ask him for a copy of Majora’s Mask 3D. He says, “You can’t buy it new unless you pre-ordered. Would you like it used?”
How the hell do they have used copies already? I don’t like sloppy seconds, so I ask for A Link Between Worlds instead.
“What’s your phone number?”
“I don’t have one.” Skinny knows I am lying.
“Debit or credit? Would you like to join our PowerUp Rewards program? Can you take our online survey? Is there anything I can preorder for you?” Thank God print journalism is dead, or else I would have to endure another ten questions asking if I would like to subscribe to EGM or Nintendo Power.
Amazon, I am never cheating on you again.
Book stores have a quaint romanticism. The shelves are filled with a wide variety of products. There’s cute girls drinking coffee and reading a books.
Video game stores are the opposite. The shelves are filled with either first-person shooters with RPG elements or third-person shooters with RPG elements. You won’t find girls, but you will run into somebody with Asperger’s. Even back in the day, Blockbuster Video was infinitely cooler than EB Games.
But this quality gap exists not only for the retail space, but also with creating those works. When people ask me what my hobbies are, I mention writing, but I hesitate to include game development, afraid that the listener will look down on my lame hobby.
Why is writing cooler than game development? Part of the reason is video games have a limited audience. I’m not sure what women do with their free time, but I know most of them are not playing video games. Anita Sarkeesian’s Tropes vs. Video Games series points out negative messages sent towards female gamers, but the larger problem is that most of the messages video games send to women are not harmful, just uninteresting. Macho space marines are not appealing to the female gender. Despite billions of dollars in sales, video games are still a niche product. This is the reason video game stores target themselves towards teenagers and man-children.
The second reason for game development’s unpopularity is that the average person has no idea how games are made. Whenever I show a stranger one of my games, the first question is, “How do you even make games?” Telling them you programmed it in C++ is a meaningless statement. To most people, computers are these magical black boxes, and they never give any thought to how software is created. With no idea how they are made, video games seem like magically appearing products, not personal statements someone slaves over.
Most game studios perpetuate this interpretation of games-as-products by having huge teams. Additional artists water down the personal message, which is why multi-author books are rare and novels with 100 writers are non-existant. Single man game projects are rare, since video games require code, art, music, and design, each having deep specializations. Bold, artistic statements are hard to make when your job is implementing particle effects.
When I was in middle school, I dreamt of running a game studio and managing a huge team of developers. Nowadays, I just want to make games by myself. I don’t want my message to be diluted. I just want to say something true.
I enjoy both writing and game development equally, but I wish the latter was more prestigious. However, the two aforementioned problems will not be resolved in the next decade, so I have to accept the fact that video games will continue to be looked down upon. Fortunately, the words of Paul Graham eased my worries:
Prestige is just fossilized inspiration. If you do anything well enough, you’ll make it prestigious. Plenty of things we now consider prestigious were anything but at first. Jazz comes to mind—though almost any established art form would do. So just do what you like, and let prestige take care of itself…
Similarly, if you admire two kinds of work equally, but one is more prestigious, you should probably choose the other. Your opinions about what’s admirable are always going to be slightly influenced by prestige, so if the two seem equal to you, you probably have more genuine admiration for the less prestigious one.
One day, the ladies will appreciate my sick memory management skills.