on blogs and gaming and my future

…or, “how blogs led me to finally settle on a life-defining course of action.”

 

My entry into the wide world of blogging is very recent. Let me begin at the beginning: I recently moved in with my roommate from college after 3 years of a whole country between us. In college, she was the president of a group that disseminated sex-ed to high schools, but beyond that, she enjoyed artwork by Sark, salads with great northern beans, and Group X. (Yes, yes, back in the days when flash animation was revolutionary.)

 

After about a week of re-co-habitation, I started to realize that my friend’s affinity for social justice had expanded exponentially in my absence. She was always on the computer to keep up-to-date on the latest news, and while I was curious about what she was reading I was even more curious about where she was getting her information.

 

Enter blogging. I listened to her talk about the blogs she checks daily, the variety of topics, and the types of conversations that happen in the comments sections. I was fascinated. I set up my Google reader and, in addition to feminism and social justice, added the feeds to a few more blogs from cake to lifehacks to lolcats.

 

The most interesting and revealing part of this story is when I was hovering on the border between someone-who-is-ignorant-of-the-blogosphere and blog-aholic. Listening to my roommate talk about comment wars, I started thinking about e-conversations and person-to-person conversations, and the relationship between an intellectual life led online in blogs and the translation of that life into everyday actions. To me, there seemed to be a disconnect, and my interest in puzzling through that disconnect is what led me to my current resolution: to become a sociologist in new media.

 

After leaving school, I volunteered for AmeriCorps (sadly undervalued program, by the way) and then ended up working at a non-profit organization. In these past three years, I have truly realized what a colossal canyon there is between academia and the “real” world. Myself, a person I consider to have a healthy interest in things intellectual (although coupled with an intermittent lack of self-motivation when it comes to staying abreast of current events), felt completely disconnected from any mind-expanding ideas or modes of thought that functioned outside of hegemonic western culture. If *I* couldn’t find this type of information, what chance did Joe (or Jane) Schmoe have of accessing cultural alternatives?

 

I knew two things. One: I liked thinking. Two: I wanted my thinking to produce something practical and accessible. The vision of academics turning their wheels round and round inside their safe, hallowed brick buildings irritates me to no end. Once the knowledge produced in these institutions filters down to the masses, most of the time it’s in questionable shape. This situation is not helped by the fact that many people perceive higher education to be the loony bin for “crazy liberal weirdos” who eat caviar in lieu of hamburgers and hate America.

 

Okay, I knew one more thing. Three: I like video games. This last bit wasn’t even relevant until this blog-centered realization, when I connected the two with Halo LAN parties. Though my time spent in Halo communal ass-kicking is (sadly) lessened as of late, I thought, “This is also a way in which people communicate,” not only through actual spoken conversations but in the mechanics of the game. That thought led, inevitably, to MMORPGs (massively multi-player online role playing games) like World of Warcraft, which led me to think of Federation, a text-based MMORPG that I played back in the day on AOL. All of these different online activities are different ways of communicating, but they rarely get any lip-service because of the prevailing attitude toward video games.   As described by Derek Amundson, video games are “the lowest rung on the entertainment ladder. The hierarchy of entertainment goes: physical activity > books > radio > movies > TV > (video)* games > torturing small animals and/or children.”

 

So, while mass media in the form of television and advertising gets plenty of analysis from academia, video games (and other gaming in general) gets the shaft because it’s only a pastime for teenage boys and/or socially dysfunctional grown men, who use them as an escapist tool to hide from the fact that they can’t get laid.

 

Obviously, this view departs from reality in more ways than one.  What surprises me is that this myth persists, especially in the more socially progressive circles I’ve dabbled in.  I’m still met with surprise, derision, or both, when I mention to new acquaintances that I like video games, and I almost always find myself on the defense.

 

Would you look at that: room for growth coupled with my interest and (future) practical ability to do something about it, via academia. M-o-o-n, that spells “career.”

 

*wordpress doesn’t like the word “video” in brackets, so I used parentheses instead.

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