Thursday, January 7, 2016

Gamer credibility and the nerdy basement aesthetic

The Angry Video Game Nerd
There's a long and standing tradition in popular culture that's held its own for decades: nerds are not social beings, they feel better in solitude inside their video game basements, a shrine reserved for themselves and a few extremely close friends. Video game YouTube stars have capitalised on this trope.

Even though recent studies have found that gamers are in fact very social persons and not sexually starved animals, as the online gaming community knows quite well, YouTube stardom seems associated with a general “expectation” of what a hardcore gamer should aspire to be. Video games, posters, collectible toys and paraphernalia that appear on-camera function as a tool for credibility inside the gaming universe. Generally, the bigger the video game collection, the more credibility the gamer acquires.


Most video game YouTube stars are also proficient in the cinema-TV-broadcasting or editing fields, as well as graphic and animation tools, such as After Effects. The items mentioned above—video game boxes and cartridges-- serve a stage prop to immerse the viewer in that channel, just as the techniques from the fields mentioned above. Any male console gamer that wants to be taken seriously needs this setup. It is obligatory. Hoarding and NIBoxing are commonplace and encouraged. There is also a girl gamer type of basement, but I have not researched that subject yet (warning: academic journal article linked). 

The “media room” where gamers dwell is essentially different from other rooms of the average household. The center of the room, obviously, is the screen. Again, the bigger the display the more gravitas the gamer holds among his acquaintances. YouTube videos have enlarged this social circle, but the tenants remain the same: alongside the display and the game collection there is some kind of sound system that enhances the gamers experience, as well as diverse accoutrements that dress the room like a gigantic popular culture envelope. The setup can be very expensive. One gamer got medieval and spent 50,000 dollars on his game room.

Metal Jesus Rocks
Of course, that expenditure is reserved for the older gamers, which appear to be in their mid-to-late 30s. Most YouTube gamers seem to be in their early-to-mid-20s. There is basically no depth-of-field in their shots; the gamer is a few inches in front of his collection. Here, the collections showed on-camera are smaller. Most of the last group live in smaller apartments, where space is tighter. Their recroom space is limited or non-existent.

No all this this all seems very American for my taste. Hobbies are part of their culture. Historically, the US holds a special place of the house for “manly entertainment”, a room where the men of the house can hang out without disturbing their female family members. This space can have billiards, a bar, darts, a TV, video games or all of them combined. There is a huge industry around this particular room of American homes. If you prefer building your own mancave, you can do that too. Here are some excellent and cheap ideas you can use right now for your own “media room”. Outside the US, however, space and funding are more limited. 

That One Video Gamer-The Completionist

Being a life-long gamer myself, I know this post can come off as pedantic. That's not the case. As most of you, I spend an obscene amount of time watching videos of my favorite online gamers. After some time, it struck me that all of the--bar none--use the formula I described above to show they are experts in their respective video game fields. There are very few studies of this phenomenon, which I find captivating. The closest I could get was a related wiki-post on the basement of the most beloved gamer on the planet, but little else. But the environment where a gamer feels at home should be a serious research subject. Just a few decades ago, arcades were very much studied in social fields such as Antropology. Given the social and financial importance of video games today, the same should be done in the physical space gamers enjoy themselves. Can a gamer basement expert, a la expert decorators of the past, be far behind?

Other famous gamer basements and/or media rooms

The Dali Popka
The Gaming Historian
Pat The Nes Punk 
Super Derek RPG
Mike and Bootsy inside the former's game room.

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