Leigh Alexander: [Full interview transcript]

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Leigh Alexander, video games journalist extraordinaire, talks about community in the world of gaming… It’s a massive community, she says, and as more and more of the population identifies as “gamers”, it’s only going to get bigger. Read Leigh’s full bio here…

Click here to watch Leigh’s full interview, “Out of the Basement: A New Community of Gamers.”

Leigh: My name is Leigh Alexander, I am a videogame journalist, that’s how I think best encapsulates it. I’m editor at large for Gamasutra, which is a website that targets game developers and people who work on the art and design and business of video games.

Are we all “gamers”?

Leah: I think its important to look even at how broad the term video games has become. I talk to all these friends and people who say well “I’m not a gamer, I just play iPhone games” or someone says “I never really played video games, but I loved those story driven adventures that were on my computer when I was in high school”, or “Oh I don’t play video games, I just play this one 60 hrs a week”. I think there’s sort of a misconception about what a video game needs to be in order to qualify.

There’s a traditional core audience, but we have so many different platforms now – we have Facebook, we have iPhone, mobile consoles, home consoles. Games are everywhere that we are. And some of us are probably players in a way without considering ourselves as such and I think that this is a really positive sign that the era of games just being something that the typical conventional marketing group teenage boy audience what he does in his basement or something is completely fallacious now.

Has it always been this way?

Leah: Now that there are more platforms and now that we have the Nintendo Wii for your mom, grandma and kid, games are more for everyone than ever. But it wasn’t like that when we were growing up. There were things that most people didn’t understand.

If you met someone else who liked to play computer games it was like, “Oh dude yes let’s do this!” because it would be a very lonely pursuit. Because we didn’t have the Internet, they were these isolated experiences. I played alone in my basement. It was isolating, it was insular, it could feel very lonely and one could feel misunderstood when people are saying like “Oh, those things teach you how to kill people,” which of course they don’t but there was a lot of controversy around being a gamer for me as a young person. I think a lot of my peers experience that as well.

Technology’s really blowing the doors off of it, making it a less private medium and making it a multi-player experience. Now everyone is doing it.

Gosh how many people play World of Warcraft?

Ramona: Like millions.

Leigh: I think it’s up to 12 million or something absurd. This is while most of the portion of developing world does not even have computers yet. It’s going to get bigger. These games are going to get bigger.

Ramona: Now there’s the gamers as a community and there’s this bigger topic of community at large that we want to connect and to be loved and to find a place in the community. So in that context with video games, what are the benefits and what are the dangers?

Leigh: For me right now that biggest takeaway is the ways that games and connecting us to one another. More and more developers are making games that are cross-platform, like you can play it on Facebook when you’re on the go you pick it up on your phone and you continue and you can also play with your friends from there. They’re giving us a new way to play together, and to socialize and to connect. They have now devices in the home that are designed to be low-barrier to entry because they don’t involve a traditional game controller that intimidates many people, there are camera controlled input devices so you could be like a perfectly respectable, professional adult and you have a party in your home and everyone’s dancing on the camera controlled game controller.

They’re integrating with the way that we live our lives as a society and together. They’re becoming less solitary escapism type experiences and more community experiences.

How are games fostering community?

Leigh: Games are becoming less stand alone individual products like something you can start and then finish and things that are more persistent, things that are larger environments, things that people are hopefully going to return to forever and contribute to. In that regard, they’re almost sort of becoming these mirror worlds of our society, like there places where we can become someone else but they reflect who we are too. If you are going to be drawn to a game its because you see a little bit of yourself in it, you see a little bit of something aspirational or something you want to experience or enjoy.

It has been very impactful for me to form that community around games. I think it’s analogous to the way any community forms on the web – you’re not alone and you bond together and you try and keep growing together.

Summary:

  • Playing videogames used to be a singular, isolating experience
  • Today games are able to connect people and form a community
  • Games have evolved to be a continuous experience rather than having a beginning and end
  • New products (like Wii) have made games available and attractive to a broader audience than the traditional teenage boy niche market
  • The gaming community brings like-minded people together because players often share similar aspirations or interests that brought them into the game to begin with

Read more from Leigh Alexander on her blog and follow her on Twitter @leighalexander.

 

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