There was a Tupperware container - I can’t remember what it used to contain, but the bulbous residue seems to suggest Pumpkin soup. There was a shirt, sprawled across an entire section, laying next to a bent coathanger for some reason; a plate that I ate a giant Muffin on; a Back to the Future mug my Mum bought me for Christmas, decorated in tea stains like you wouldn’t believe.
Oh, and absolutely shitloads of video game related tat.
Blu-rays, a Mafia 2 playboy calender I never opened, WWE All Star figures, Bayonetta playing cards, Sackboy plushies, video game soundtracks...
But, you know, in this everest-esque mountain of marketing material, there were remarkably few video games.
And it got me thinking.
Most of us got into this whole gaming ‘thing’ for one single reason – the games themselves and the playing of said games. But somewhere down the line it seems like someone had the smart idea of transforming our hobby into some sort of ‘lifestyle’ choice – something that defines us, something we need to spend countless amounts of money on. I’m sure that idea has made a lot of people a lot of cash – but it has also resulted in a lot of utterly pointless crap strewn across my desk.
If I had to take a guess, I would say that it’s part of a grander effort to have gamers engaged in their universe of choice for as long as possible, until it completely consumes them, until every cent of their disposable income is spent on it. Halo fans can read the books, watch the Blu-ray, decorate their room in Halo figurines, check their stats on Bungie.net, post in the forums, flick through the comic book...
And if they have time between all that, they might even turn on the game.
This is the age of convergence at work, and it’s just the beginning.
EA is leading the way in some regards. Their franchises exist as universes waiting to be exploited – Dead Space has the Blu-ray, the comic, studios are bought for the specific purpose of building mobile ports of their biggest selling games, designing its very own online network with which to ensnare you.
And by all accounts Activision is gearing up to crank things up yet another notch with Modern Warfare 3. Its newly formulated ‘Beachhead’ studio exists solely for the task of maximising the social aspect of Call of Duty – constant quotes from Activision execs and press releases would suggest that Call of Duty is about to take on Facebook.
Gaming is evolving – I get that. I want to be a part of that, I’m just not so sure if I like the direction it’s heading. In a sense it seems as though some video game publishers, and their incessant marketing machines, want customers who define themselves exclusively as gamers. They want us to sign into our gaming network, wear the t-shirt, display the figurines, walk around endlessly as an ambassador for their brand – but is that really what we want for ourselves?
I turn 30 tomorrow, and the older I become, the less keen I am to define myself as a ‘gamer’. Not because I don’t love games – I do - and not because I’m embarrassed to be a gamer – I’m absolutely not – but because it’s merely a facet of my person. I do other things. I am other things – a husband, a brother, a son - a bloody human being!
The more mainstream a lifestyle becomes, the less it needs to be mercilessly marketed at, the less it needs to be force fed down the throats of others. As a symbol of our growth as a collective, I think more attention needs to be put on the games – not the tat that surrounds them.
My work area is little cleaner now - I can actually breathe without fear of inhaling pungent pumpkin particles. Without the clutter, I can actually see the white of my desk – I feel like I can think with a little more clarity. I still have my Sackboy plushie - I’m still drinking from my disgusting Back to the Future mug. But maybe now I’ll be able to get some work done!