Stereotyping Gamers in Popular Culture: A Review of Pure Pwnage

Stereotyping Gamers in Popular Culture: A Review of Pure Pwnage

Socially Isolated…
Addicted young people…
Few real-life social ties

These are just a few of the phrases used to describe the traditional “lonely gamer” (Schiano, 2014). This has been the stereotype of the traditional gamer for the past two decades. As Kaust (2012) states, “popular stereotypes rely on assumptions, are often mistaken for reality, and usually have negative connotations” (p 373). If you are a gamer, you know that this is an untrue assumption and if you aren’t a gamer, you probably don’t realize the social impact that games are having on society and young people. With the move of gaming culture from the public to the private sphere (arcades to personal consoles) this stereotype became ingrained in the public’s mind and framed gaming as an anti-social hobby. When gaming consoles were able to exploit the internet to connect gamers socially with other gamers, the stereotype remained.

Geek and nerd culture has seen a surge in popularity over the past few years. One of the most popular examples of this is The Big Bang Theory (Robinson, 2014). This rise in popularity has spilled over into gaming culture as well. As Robinson argues, video games and comic books are the aspects of nerd culture most accepted in popular culture.

As gaming popularity rises so does its representation in popular culture. Pure Pwnage, is a popular web series, turned television series, turned feature length film (due out in 2015) about the traditional gamer stereotype. The show, produced in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, was created by Jarett Cale and Geoff Lapaire and follows the life of pro-gamer Jeremy and his film school brother Kyle in a mockumentary about his adventures in life, love, and gaming.

What started out as a simple video quickly turned into a social commentary on gaming in the early 2000s. The character Jeremy was based on what Jarett and Geoff saw as an extreme case of the lonely gamer. Geoff’s character Kyle takes on the role of cameraman, filming Jeremy’s exploits in the world of gaming culture. The character of Jeremy is, for all intents and purposes, socially-isolated, addicted to gaming with few real-life social ties, the traditional stereotypical lonely gamer.

In an Ask Me Anything on the popular message board Reddit, Jarett explains how the character of Jeremy came to fruition.

We wanted to make a sort of talk show about Command & Conquer: Generals because we were both totally obsessed with that game at the time. We borrowed a camera from the library and shot some test footage where I improvised being one of the many d**** bags from cncreplays.com (a replay sharing site for competitive CnC players). The test footage ended up being pretty funny so we asked the forum to host the file for us (there was no streaming on the Internet yet) and it just took off. After a few episodes of exponential audience growth, we decided we’d better make a story. It really just grew organically. (Cale, 2012)

In episode 1 of the Pure Pwnage television series, the audience is introduced to Jeremy’s mother. In an interview with Kyle she says, “Frankly Kyle, this is very embarrassing for me. How many mothers you know who let their 26 year old son live at home who…doesn’t have a job, who doesn’t do any chores, who doesn’t do anything. I’m still paying for his food and his clothes” (Cale, Lepaire & Kennedy, 2010). I feel like this is a common ideology amongst people still under the traditional guise of the lonely gamer.

In fact, gamers are continuously moving toward more social gaming platforms. Gaming is a growing industry that generated $13.5 billion in 2013. Still, it has been difficult to do away with the traditional idea of the lonely gamer. In a recent Washington Post article, Hayley Tsukayama (2014) argues that the gaming industry is not as anti-social and awkward as previously thought. A recent study done by Twitch, a popular video gaming streaming site that gets approximately 45 million unique hits per month, attempted to re-evaluate the classic stereotype of the lonely gamer (Tsukayama, 2014). This industry profile doesn’t match up with the old gamer stereotype. Matt DiPoetro, Twitch’s Vice President of Marketing, argues that there is a perception that the gaming community is primarily loners and rejects but the popularity of Twitch indicates that gamers are more socially, albeit virtually, connected (Tsukayama, 2014) . According to Sandvine’s Global Internet Phenomena Report 1H 2014, Twitch accounted for 1.35% of the total internet traffic in the U.S. (Sandvine, 2014. p 6). This is a substantial portion of total internet traffic in the U.S.

Why should stereotypes of gamers matter to the information professional and why is it important?

If we look at Ellen Greenblatt’s lecture, “Exploring and Countering Stereotypes”, we see a long list of traditional stereotypes of librarians. These include, but aren’t limited to, the old maid, the enforcer, the sex object, the sage, and the superhero. In many cases the stereotype is not flattering. An example of the old maid stereotype can be found in the classic film It’s a Wonderful Life, in which if Mary Bailey hadn’t married George she would have been doomed to live a life as a librarian! The fact that this was used as an awful future for Mary is humorous.

Like librarians, gamers suffer from negative stereotyping as well. Gamers are seen as geeks, antisocial and a lot of the time unmotivated to contribute to mainstream society. I feel that this is one reason gaming in libraries and in education has been slow to gain traction. No right minded educator would want to turn their students into basement-dwelling, no-friend zombies! Instead, like librarians, gamers must reinvent their image and showcase that these stereotypes are not true.

In the case of Pure Pwnage, the satirical, comical, over-the-top depiction of gamers has captured the attention of gamers worldwide, bringing them out of the stereotypical basement and into the mainstream media.

More Pure Pwnage

Watch the full Pure Pwnage series on Hulu.

Watch the full Pure Pwnage web series here.

References

Cale, J. (2012, September 27). Hi Reddit! I’m Jarett Cale, AKA “Jeremy” from Pure Pwnage. AMA!. Message posted to http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/10kffd/hi_reddit_im_jarett_cale_aka_jeremy_from_pure/c6e8vp7

Cale, J. (Writer), Lepaire, G. (Writer), & Kennedy, M. (Director). (2010). The Life of a Pro Gamer [Television series episode]. In J. Cale (Producer), Pure Pwnage. Canada: Show Case.

Greenblatt, E. (n.d.). Exploring and countering stereotypes [website]. Retrieved from https://sjsu.instructure.com/courses/1138092/pages/exploring-and-countering-stereotypes

Kosut, Mary. (01/01/2012). Stereotypes. Encyclopedia of gender in media. Retrieved from www.ebrary.com

Robinson, S. (2014). Fake Geek Girl: The Gender Conflict in Nerd Culture. Retrieved from https://scholarsbank.uoregon.edu/xmlui/bitstream/handle/1794/18385/Robinson_oregon_0171N_10998.pdf?sequence=1

Sandvine (2014). Sandvine’s Global Internet Phenomena Report 1H 2014. Retrieved from https://www.sandvine.com/downloads/general/global-internet-phenomena/2014/1h-2014-global-internet-phenomena-report.pdf

Schiano, D.J., Nardi, B., Debeauvais, T., Ducheneaut, N., & Yee, N. (2014). The “lonely gamer” revisited. Entertainment Computing, 5(1), 65-70 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.entcom.2013.08.002

Tsukayama, H. (2014, June 7). Data contradicts gamer stereotypes. Washington Post. Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA370499599&v=2.1&u=ocul_carleton&it=r&p=AONE&sw=w&asid=f0c0f4feb3483162b9c0e232e45ca11e

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