I’ve been gaming since I was little and I hadn’t realized how “easy” I had it with gaming and being a nerd, compared to earlier years, until recently.
Just yesterday evening (today being Saturday) I had a conversation with one of my best friends’ mother-in-law about gaming, and Dungeons & Dragons. She immediately asked me if Dungeons & Dragons was the same game (referring to back to the 80’s) that people said was all about demon worship and satanic/cultish stuff. I said sure, but it has always had negative connotations regarding the books and the players.
Which got me thinking about a topic I’ve been wanting to write about for some time – how views on gaming have changed over the latest decades.
Gaming “Back Then”
The gaming industry really made its full force push to wide audiences back in the 1970’s and the early 1980’s with the help of arcade games and computers. Then the eventual home consoles in the mid to late 1980’s and onward helped continue that push which lead to what we know as modern gaming.
Gaming hasn’t only ever involved computer and console gaming, it also includes card and tabletop gaming – which seem to have as much, if not worse, negative connotations associated with it than video gaming.
Throughout all of those years, there was the gaming “stigma” attached to any sort of gaming nerdism. The stigma was that anyone who would hole themselves up to play in a make-believe world were probably doomed to never do much with their lives, live in their mother’s basement, and not bathe. I’m sure we’ve all met those types of people, but that by far does not describe the majority of gaming nerds.
Included in this stigma were comic book nerds, who sadly received the same type of negative attitude towards them as gaming nerds.
Anything that delved into anything not of the here and now was deemed unnecessary, demonic/satanic, and wrong. Parents didn’t want their kids holed up reading comics or playing games, they wanted them outside and/or reading.
That was then, this is now.
I grew up gaming in the 1990’s (I know, I know; I’m just a kid) when games like Mortal Kombat were causing issues for it’s blood and gore. I remember trying to play games on the computer, but my fat fingers weren’t/aren’t dexterous enough to understand the WASD controls. My first console was the Super Nintendo, which I consistently got schooled on by my older brother because he could play platform games like he was a damn god.
The release of the Nintendo 64 was yet another stride in the gaming industry because of its 64 bits of processing power, which tried to match the popularity of the cool Playstation 1 which only had 32 bits.
In competition with Nintendo, Sony released it’s second Playstation console with the PS2 in 2000, the year of Y2K when all the computers were supposed to kill everyone and everything in existence. But Sony was hard pressed for their money when Microsoft released the first Xbox with Halo: Combat Evolved that November. And thus the Gaming War between Playstation and Xbox began.
While the gaming industry took off in full swing, the tabletop industry was still having a rough go at it. Dungeons & Dragons was still in their second edition in the early 2000’s, releasing the third edition in 2004.
Dungeons & Dragons continued to have a strong negative stigma towards it and its players, despite gaming taking off, until the last almost 10 years.
With Dungeons & Dragons fifth edition release in 2014 came several confessions, for the love of the tabletop game, from well-known actors like Karl Urban, Vin Diesel, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. In 2015, Geek and Sundry’s Twitch and YouTube channel began streaming several voice actors playing fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons. Critical Role, the name of the web series, took off like wildfire among long time Dungeons & Dragons fans and even swept in nerds who had never played the tabletop game before. Today, Critical Role is on their second campaign with thousands of loyal fans and followers.
Despite Dungeons & Dragons having been under the fire in the 1970’s and 1980’s during the Satanic Panic, it has quickly became a more beloved and accepted form of nerdism in the gaming industry.
Although there are large groups of people who believe that games, tabletop and console alike, are the beginnings of dumbing down our children and incurring mass murders through guns, there are many out there who’ve come to accept the gaming industry isn’t as bad as some have believed.
So, what changed?
My personal opinion, for console gaming, is that smartphones, with access to new mobile gaming, caused anyone with a smartphone (now that’s almost everyone) to become gamers overnight. Although these people aren’t enthused with the full gaming industry, it has allowed for more people to understand what is so enthralling about playing a video game.
Along with mobile gaming, came the increase in gaming graphics. The beginning of the industry saw games like Space Invaders and those graphics weren’t anything to gab about (though they would’ve been amazing at the time). As time has gone on, and our technology has improved immensely, we’ve seen recently released games like Horizon: Zero Dawn, The Witcher III, and God of War have immaculate graphics that have brought up the argument of considering video games works of art because they’re beautifully crafted.
Although gaming, tabletop and console, has come a long way in the past 30 years, there is, sadly, a negative stigma for gaming that is still alive and in full force.
In the recent years, games have been targeted as the main causes for the increase in mass shootings and for children to not be social. Games like Grand Theft Auto V and Call of Duty are the main games people attack when it comes to blaming video games for any amount of violence our society sees.
Despite the negativity, being a nerd is not nearly as frowned upon as it used to be and has seen an increase in it being “cool” rather than gross and smelly. Conventions full of actors, voice actors, etc. like Comic-Con have increased in popularity over the years with the growing acceptance of the various nerdy fandoms.
Not only has Geek and Sundry played a major role in Dungeons & Dragons becoming accepted in society, the well-known TV show, Stranger Things, also helped boost the acknowledgment and acceptance of the tabletop game.
Even cosplaying, dressing up like your favorite movie/TV show/gaming character, has seen an increase in acceptance over the last few years.
Nerds are finally able to come out of their mother’s basements to show their true colors and not feel shamed to be who they are; people who escape from the real world to enjoy art and creation in the form of video games and tabletop gaming.
As always, thanks for reading.
What are your thoughts on gaming today? Have you played D&D? Do you think people still dislike gaming? Tell me your thoughts in the comments below!