There are claims and counter claims about the psychological dangers of playing violent computer games. They said the same things about Rock and Roll. Bottom line is most people, gamers included, can tell the difference between reality and fantasy.
Putting aside the delusions about games dangerously warping the minds of young people, I think there is a more mundane change happening. For some boys and young men, games may be taking over from reading. The stories in console games are more immediate, engaging and appealing than the written word. Console games give gamers an opportunity to be part of the adventure, and in most cases play the part with friends in co-op or multi-player games.
Steampunk, cyberpunk and its off-shoot nanopunk, portray particular ‘worlds’ through which the normal story conventions are played out. Gaming is based in a story telling tradition just like Rock and Roll grew out of a long history of people telling their story through music.
Most of the big games can be seen as classical quests. Most hero based stories in science fiction genres like Steampunk and Cyberpunk, have a quest structure. Console games also have a similar aesthetic and sets of ideas: All games are basically a quest. There is progression through difficulties, acquisition of additional resources, abilities or assistance, increasingly difficult challenges and opponents to face, overcome or conquer. Lightning Seed follows a similar narrative structure. Quests have been the mainstay of heroic adventures for thousands of years. Games like Modern Warfare, Destiny, Uncharted, The Last of Us; Halo, Destiny and the Lara Croft franchise continue that tradition.
Jeffrey D. Wilhelm, a professor of English education at Boise State University in Idaho states that boys, “experience video games as stories” and suggests that schools figure out ways to use the games as a resource to get them interested in narrative. Perhaps stories such as Lightning Seed, that read like video games, with the same narrative pace, might also be a solution.
Gaming (a $100+ billion dollar industry) like rock and roll and the introduction of mass production, electric guitars and radio; has kick-started another revolution in providing a different way to interact with the conventional narratives in social culture. Moving us as passive consumers of books, comics and movies into becoming active participants in a story – provided with the console technology and means of communication, identification and participation with a mass of others.
Developers launch their games like blockbuster movies and make just as much money. Destiny, to date the world’s most expensive video game, cost $500 million to make. Grand Theft Auto V, launched in 2013 cost $265 million (£165 million). In 2014 the video game business was worth over $100 billion, with $48 billion going to console games. The 2015 estimates put video games revenue in the $115 billion mark, again with around half of that going to console games and the rest into handheld, phone and pc games. (source: statista.com.
So are we seeing a quiet revolution happening with the kids in front of their video screens and consoles? Has the youth cultures that diversified and grew out of the Rock and Roll era been joined by a new gaming culture? Proliferating in individual homes to occasionally gather at the launch of a AAA game, E3 or other expo?
A simple google search for the term ‘Gamerpunk’ will bring up blogs and websites of people referring to themselves, or what they were interested in, or creating, as ‘Gamerpunk’. If you ask the people that go to gaming conventions would they be happy or agree with being called ‘gamerpunks’? It would be interesting though to keep an eye on the label; it may well gain traction over time, or it might just fizzle out.
Usually, with the other *punk genres, the literary or artistic style was recognised first (perhaps not emerged in that format first, I don’t know). Only later did the style expand out into or manifest in the real world as a cultural phenomenon with its own fashion and morphing of current technology and styles.
Focussing on the literary genre angle, in my mind if gamerpunk is a genre, it is recognised by its adherence to a gaming narrative and plot elements. Other books, like ‘Ready Player One’ ‘readme’ and even movies like ‘war games’ and ‘Tron’ are more referential or derivative. The same would go for movies from games, though they do have similar narratives but are still basically ‘quests’
(Originally published at www.softmachine.net)