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Like to Play or Live to Play: My Cheats on Learning Game Geekery

imagesIn the great world of expanding definitions, I often find that I am much more of dork then say… a geek or a nerd. I tend to dabble in a vast amount of nerdery, but do not always go the full nerd-depths.  And although I have geeky habits, sometimes I find that I’m not all that advanced to be called a “geek” full-time (I promise, there is a point to this madness).

I play games. I love games. Heck, I work in the gaming industry (at times).  When I was a kid, my sister and I saved PENNIES until we could buy our first Nintendo from the used section of Blockbuster (my parents weren’t game-enthusiasts at the time).  In the early 2000’s, I had not one but TWO Nintendo Game Cubes – an American one followed by a British version for when I lived in the UK.  Outside of work (I’m a kids virtual world and family MMO expert), I enjoyed my beloved Pirates of the Caribbean Online account (it was a general audience game – it counts!), I owned the Fifa games, and I had (and still have) an unhealthy obsession with Mario Kart. 

supermariorevolution-main_FullThe most non-work, grown-up exposure I had was watching boyfriends and friend-boys battle in Halo, Madden, or (again) Mario Kart over a beer at the Frat or after work. It’s silly to think back to college when my best friend, Dawn, and I would sit around for hours making Link “dance” in Legends of Zelda: Ocinara of Time, all the while giggling about how “hardcore” we were in comparison to our sorority sisters (silly side note: we also held full-on ridiculous Star Wars parties in the “date room,” which no one in the house would attend unless we bribed, coerced, or blackmailed into attending).

Truth: I was on the first wave of kid VW/MMO gaming – I can tell you EXACTLY what the early Neopets site looked like, how to destroy a Cog in ToonTown, and exactly when Club Penguin opened up its doors to free-to-play and Mac users.  But hardcore MMO’s?  Serious console games?  If you couldn’t play with others, and it didn’t look like a cartoon, it was beyond my reach.  So, clearly I was a dork with some nerd & geek tendencies.

It wasn’t until I moved to the Bay Area that I started to recognize the depth of gamer geekery.  I worked for a lovely company that built both kid and adult MMO’s/Virtual Worlds, and since I had leveled up to “industry expert” for kids games, it was time to learn fast for adult gaming.  Luckily – in the Bay Area, everyone is hardcore about gaming in one way or another.  Over the last few years, my co-ed “social” softball team has been a conglomerate of devs from various game companies in the Bay who love nothing better than to wax poetic on their industry (seriously, no one loves gaming better than a dev).  Thanks to an ex-boyfriend, I became obsessed with World of Warcraft, followed by LOTRO, Eve, and Diablo.  But even then, I spent most of my time studying game mechanics and community behaviors, and never quite reached the depths of hardcore gamer.  So the world of gaming was built into two groups for me: those who lived to play games, and those who like to play games.  I really like to play, and I make a living in games, but do I live to play?  No, I live to eat cookies, study community behaviors, make brands successful, keep people safe & having fun online (particularly kids), and maybe one day own Nickelodeon.

imgresAbout two years ago I was working for a kids game out of the United Kingdom that allowed users to share youtube videos.  I can’t even begin to tell you what a moderation nightmare such an idea is — especially with a very, VERY small staff.  Hours per day would be spent watching, reviewing, rejecting, and approving these videos.  During my tenure in the kid safety world, Youtube was something that made my eyelids twitch.  Why? Because there’s no real moderation there, and kids (as young as 4) have accounts (typically without their parent’s knowledge), posting videos that break certain privacy laws, or expose them online.  Also, Youtube quickly puts children in the firing line of trolls, bullies, and other such ne’er-do-wells who have nothing better to do than maliciously break someone down.  When Youtube is good, it’s very good, when it’s bad, it’s very bad.  I love that kids create “How To” videos and mash-ups and cute homages to their favorite Virtual Worlds & friends.  But I hate the behavior and content that they’re exposed to without parental guidance, and yet, that’s a convo for another time – because, honestly, Youtube is a behemoth and provides a lot of great content and opport– ok, ok, I am getting far off track.  I digress.

imgres-1It’s from this youtube link-sharing group of kids, tweens, and 20-somethings that I was introduced to the world of TobyGamesPewdiePie (NSFW LANGUAGE!), and other such Youtube celebrities who make videos of themselves playing new release of games with goofy commentary.  Something about these nutballs bridges a gamer gap for me – they’re playing hardcore console and MMO games, but they do so in a manner that shows gamer prowess AND clueless shenanigans easily digestible by the mass public.  It’s entertaining and accessible.  Add on top of that, they provide “how to” videos, walk-thrus, and easter eggs/treasures.  Cheat unlocked, Izzy Levels Up.

imagesGame companies, via Marketing and Community teams, have been creating videocasts for years, featuring group gameplay and sharing it — but nowadays even Youtube videos are trumped by the live-action of Twitch.tv.  What’s Twitch.tv? It’s a free live streaming site that was launched in 2011 (by the guys who did Justin.tv – which I admit to watching Bears games on when I couldn’t find them on TV).  Needless to say, the service REALLY picked up over the last year or so.  Youtube celebs are going to be joined by the likes of Twitch celebs – gamers who use social media to invite any & everyone to their channel, as they sit and play games and engage with a like-minded community.  Community managers are creating weekly Twitch events, inviting devs, answering questions live, and giving an insider’s take on the industry, gameplay, and cheats.

So these days, I watch Youtube videos and Twitch.tv — or listen to them like podcasts throughout my day.  I’ve defeated Assassin’s Creed 3 and have done pretty well in God of War: Ascension.  Do I feel like I’m a gamer geek?  Maybe a bit more, sure.  Sometimes I’m sorely tempted to buy a webcam and capture my own shenanigans through various games — and then I remember “No, Izzy, no.” Lol.  That’s what the the pros are for…. 😉

Izzy Neis
Director of Digital Strategy and Engagement

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