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How videogaming graduated from geekiness into mainstream

30 July on Blogs, Editorial  

I may have serious issues about the way Sony handles their gaming and its marketing operation, but I think I can say all gamers owe them one thing: being thankful for the respect they brought us.

Some of you may not entirely realize if you didn't live the pre-PlayStation years, but videogaming was once synonymous with a nerd and socially inept. Sure, part of the stigma remains, but not NEARLY as bad as before then. I think all old-school gamers sighed with relief when watching "The 40 Year Old Virgin" bit with the two characters throwing insults at each other... possibly the first realistic mainstream representation of two people playing games. Try as you might, in commercials, movies or any other media, people playing videogames were always kids with glassy eyes, mouths open in dark rooms. No exceptions.

But how did this transformation come to be? Believe it or not, in great part due to Sony's marketing strategies in launching the very first PlayStation. One could argue that Sega dabbled into that a bit trying to antagonize Nintendo, but it was the usual "2nd place exploitation" than actual strategy. Their whole viral ENoS launch (RED E-> Ready Ninth of September, date of the launch of the console) with the "U R not E" was somewhat of a gamble in my opinion, but it brought great changes for gamers.

And I must admit credit is due: their timing was impeccable. Around that time was then the first generation of young gamers were turning into young adults, and therefore the market was ripe for someone promising "more mature" entertainment. It's worth noting that European game advertising has usually been a couple of steps ahead of its American counterparts, including some fabulous PlayStation campaigns directed by people like David Lynch and one of my favorite (albeit banner) commercials: this magnificent Xbox 360 piece.

The interesting result of that approach was that people who didn't grow up with gaming - the ones who were not labeled "nerds" actually dipped their toes into gaming, and *gasp* some COOL people were trying Madden Football and some select titles. Heck, the original US spot for Final Fantasy VII barely clued you into the fact this was a text-heavy RPG (which, other than making it one of the best-selling PSOne titles, also gives it the dubious honor of one of the most returned videogames in the US this side of Atari's E.T. and Pac-Man.

It's important to notice that this is very different from what the Wii did. The PlayStation was still sold as a videogame, and it was a stepping stone to the current college dorms full of Xboxes and Madden and Halos of today. The Wii, on the other hand, disguised itself as something that was not even to be thought was a videogame - but I also think that it had to use these previous stepping stones to get there.

We've certainly come a long way.

Esta postagem também está disponível em: Portuguese (Brazil)

Author, freelance videogame journalist, cinematography major and a little insane.