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Thinking Thursday: Gaming Culture Part 5 – Why It’s Great To Be a Gamer

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(Photo: Flickr user gamerscoreblog)

Last week I thought I had finished my gaming culture series when I explained how we need to change. I had also spent the previous weeks discussing language, and sexism in how we treat women gamers, and how we portray women in our games. Apparently I'm not quite done yet.

After reading all of the comments, I came to the conclusion that perhaps I've been a bit too hard on the gaming community. I don't take back anything I've said: It's all pretty much true, but I think it's time I look at what makes the community around gaming so great.

Early this month I had the great fortune to attend the Music and Gaming Festival, also known as MAGFest. It was here that I was able to witness all of the best facets of gaming and who we are as gamers. I experienced the community, the fandom and even saw some pretty inspiring acts of generosity.

If there's one thing we need to do away with it's the public perception that a gamer is someone alone on a couch or in front of a computer. Someone who is a gamer or just cares about gaming is a part of a community. We pull out games to have fun, relax, or even to deal with complex issues in our lives. We share experiences in what we play and through that form a communal bond.

Community is a big part of what made MAGFest, and it was the community brought by gamers. Everyone there was welcome, and it's impossible to properly describe how amazing that felt. I was a friend even though I didn't know anyone's name. I could sit down with a group of gamers and they would immediately strike up a friendly conversation.

At one point I sat down at a table of gamers playing Mario Kart for the 3DS so I could use an outlet to charge my camera. Not having a 3DS myself, I just started talking with them. Five minutes later, one of the gamers stood up and handed me their game, asking me to play for them while they went to get lunch.

I stared blankly at the guy, trying to figure out what would compel him to leave me alone with this $170 game system. He just grinned at me and said "I trust you." Sure enough, he returned half an hour later and I returned his game before I packed up my camera equipment and went to one of the concerts.

There was another instance that exemplified the communal aspect of gaming. On the last day of the event the panel rooms were pretty much empty, except for one. There wasn't a panel running, but instead a projector was set up with Rock Band attached, and a line of gamers waiting to play.

Everyone was standing there, chatting or singing along to the music coming from the speakers. They weren't playing for high scores or to compete with each other. Instead, they were just there to have fun and relax before heading home. The moment one group finished, the room would open up in applause no matter the scores and the next group would sit down. The only thing that mattered to them was bonding and having a good time.

This community was in part inspired by the fans who cared deeply for every aspect of gaming. They loved the voice actors, the composers, and the other fans who wanted to add something of themselves to the community.

There were fans who could call out Colossus' battle cry from the X-Men arcade game or tell you that if you modify the connection of an original NES power cable, you could use it to help power the concert sound system. They made the community what it was.

The fans were in their own way inspiring. Just walking through the dealer's room revealed people who took what they loved and showed it through their own creativity. Fans made crochet head crabs or stained glass murals, or even created their own games or fan films just to show them off and show how much they loved games.

The fans and the community also inspired some interesting acts of generosity. One of the last events of the weekend was a charity auction for Child's Play. The items were donated by vendor, panelists and attendees.

The panelists and guests of the event like Nobuo Uematsu, Ellen McLain, and Jon St. Jon all donated their fame to the auction. The most amazing part about the event, though, is what happened with the last item.

An original, Japanese Famicom edition of Final Fantasy signed by Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu started at $30. The auctioneer held it up gently, as if holding an object of great significance. The bidding war was quickly under way. The numbers rose fast, $50, $60, $100, $300, $1,000. As the bids got higher we could see this was a two man race.

But it wasn't just two men doing the bidding. As soon as one of the gamers bid, you could tell the other was out of money. Then someone sitting next to him slipped him some extra cash which he quickly pledged. The other bidder experienced the same thing. Soon there were two boxes floating around the room as gamers started putting their money behind the bidders they wanted to win.

After an intense bidding war the price was settled. The game sold for $1,550. The room agreed that the leftover money in the boxes would be donated to Child's Play. No one asked for their money back.

It struck me then: this is exactly what gaming is about. We came together at that convention. We ignored the pretenses of "casual," "hardcore," "social," or other labels we like to dream up in our heads. The only title that mattered was "gamer."

At that auction the fans fought for something that obviously mattered greatly to them, which inspired the community to rally behind them. The boxes weren't about who we wanted to win. The boxes were about the community sharing in the joy of the fans and using that joy to inspire an amazing sense of generosity.

We can see this happen outside conventions as well. Desert Bus for Hope, Mario Marathon, and the Humble Indie Bundle all show gaming at its best. It's through these lenses that we can see the best of our community and what we should never forget as gaming evolves.

Gaming is something many of us care for to an incredible degree. What makes gaming great isn't the exclusivity, or the amount of time we put in, or even the skill we have. The experiences, and the willingness to share what we care so much about are what make us awesome. That's why I love being a gamer.

About Stephen Crane

Stephen was hooked by the NES at a very young age and never looked back. He games on a daily basis and is currently trying to climb his way up the ranked ladder on League of Legends! Outside of the video game world he actually likes running and owns a rapidly growing collection of toed shoes. Stephen Crane is the owner of Armed Gamer.

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