Many gamers may have been happy to see Halo 3 grace the cover of last Friday's TIME magazine. However, if any of these hypothetical gamers decided to read the article on Halo 3, they would've probably been unimpressed at how one of America's favorite pastimes was derided by the article's author, Lev Grossman.
“There is an invisible subculture in America. Those who belong to it love it with a lonely, alienated, unironic passion,” the article states. While Mr. Grossman's use of a word not known to frequent dictionaries ('unironic') is forgivable – his reliance on tired clichés of gamers to substantiate his article is not. For a journalist from such a major publication such as TIME magazine, he appears somewhat misinformed as the true dimensions of the "invisible" gaming "ghetto."
Mr. Grossman writing “it's doubtful that many people reading this could say exactly, or even approximately, what the Halo games are about” seems misguided – while there are only 3.4 million subscribers to TIME magazine, there are an estimated 8 million people regularly playing Halo 2. The sales of Halo 3 could double many of the summer's biggest Hollywood blockbusters – Mr. Grosmman either shows ignorance, or bias, to the size and impact of gaming's wake through modern day society. “There’s an opportunity beyond video games, too, for Halo to break out of the ghetto and become a mainstream, mass-market, multimedia entertainment property,” he continues.
Gaming is not in the ghetto. Gamers are not all pimple-faced, lonely male teenagers. It is surprising that an article in TIMES magazine would perpetuate these views – the article goes on to state: “Not that the Bungies care. They don’t need to legitimize Halo by associating it with other, more respectable media. They sell enough units and make enough money. They’re happy in their invisible geek ghetto. But that’s the logic of the marketplace: it can’t leave subcultures alone; it has to turn them into cultures. It may be time for the Master Chief to come in from the cold and join the party, with the popular kids.” Mr. Grossman's unfamiliarity with even the periphery of gaming culture is particularly reinforced here by “the Bungies”, and the mislabeling of the “invisible geek ghetto.”
Perhaps Mr. Grossman has some personal antipathy towards the science fiction elements of Halo. His first novel, Warp: a novel, featured a protagonist “who has trouble distinguishing between reality and Star Trek” [quote taken from Mr. Grossman's website.] I have not personally read the book, but amidst the overwhelmingly negative appraisals of his book on Amazon, a reviewer from the Library Journal states that “he [often] interjects sf vignettes and snippets of dialog that could have been lifted from a medieval romance.” Perhaps Mr. Grossman has a skewed view of Star Trek fans as well – though it does seem presumptuous of him to assume that his TIME readership shares his biases.
Here is another choice excerpt from the TIME article: “The Bungies bring a grinding, jeweler’s meticulousness to what most people consider an unhealthy amusement for children.” And another: “There’s an opportunity beyond video games, too, for Halo to break out of the ghetto and become a mainstream, mass-market, multimedia entertainment property.” According to the ESA, the average gamer is 33 years old.
A product that could potentially generate more than a billion dollars of revenue can hardly – within any measure of reasonableness – be authoritatively suggested to be a part of a “ghetto.” It is suprising that this view of gaming as a "ghetto" culture is being espoused by one of the magazines "lead technology writers" (quote take from Mr. Grossman's website.)