One of the things that continues to fascinate me about videogames is that they are thoroughly mainstream. . .and yet they aren’t. They are mainstream in the sense of being massively popular and the preferred leisure activity of a large and increasingly diverse segment of the population. But they are not mainstream in the sense that our culture still doesn’t really “get” games. This is not, I hasten to add, a woes-me complaint that mommy and daddy culture don’t really understand us (sniff). Hell, most gamers I’ve met don’t really “get” games. They do all the things that the non-gaming sections of our culture do, either through inclination or force of habit: they approach games in a pure consumerist frenzy, they see them as simple outgrowths of other media and activities or, alternately, as something supposedly so radically different that they can’t be compared to anything else and hence none of the rules apply.
A major reason why games are mainstream but not is because on the cultural stage the conversations are controlled by people who by and large are not videogame players: Concerned Parents, professional rabble-rousers, politicians, moral crusaders and, sadly, not a few opportunistic scholars (although the number of game studies “scholars” who have a limited experience with games has certainly diminished compared with when I entered the field). Again, however, it is important not to let game players and the game industry off the hook. All too many players and developers have taken themselves out of the conversation through their belief that games themselves are capable of saying little more than “play me and leave me.”