With this showing up in the mail earlier today, I suppose it’s as good a time to talk about it as any.
I’ve spared no shortage of copy writing about my Gaming in American Culture class. From not knowing what to write for my semester-long project to what I wrote about for my semester-long project, from my re-absorption of Ender’s Game for our discussion on militarization of video games to my new absorption of a Barbie game from the early 1900s.
Given my general adoration for all things video games, it makes sense that I’ve been enamored with so many things which have been assigned in this class.
It was a good decision to follow my friend Mimi into a random American Studies class as my ‘fun’ activity for my last semester of undergraduate college education.
One of the most interesting aspects of the class has been the gradual shift of my understanding of U.S. history based on different elements of popular culture that, for the most part, I already knew about.
For instance, that aforementioned analytical reading of Ender’s Game. Or our in-class discussion today about the 1983 Matthew Broderick classic WarGames.
Part of our discussion hinged on the shift from a World War II mentality of game theory in that the best way to win is to make sure your opponents can never fight again to a Cold War mentality of anxious peace through the zero sum game of the nuclear arms race (“The only way to win is not to play”).
But then we also tied the movie into discussions of early hacker culture with the development of Spacewar! in 1962, really the first game that taught people computers could be used for something other than work.
As well as the game that got banned at Stanford for being too addicting and inhibiting work (which you can now play in all its antiquated glory here!).
However, another branch of our discussion was the change in concepts of masculinity that came from gaming culture and nerd-driven movies in the 80s.
A shift from the grizzled frontier-pushing heroes of John Wayne to the intellectual digital frontier exploring cowboys of Matthew Broderick’s David teaching a computer to play tic-tac-toe.
That’s where Carly Kocurek’s book, Coin-Operated Americans, is going to pick up the slack for next week.
According to the blurb on the back, it “explores the development and implications of the ‘video gamer’ as a cultural identity,” most notably in relation to the perception of games as a “boy’s world.” But also looking at the moral panic stemming from 1976’s Death Race and other culture examining video games like Tron and WarGames.
Hence us watching the latter movie before reading the book.
That’s essentially my big task for the next week, getting through this little tome while dealing with Comm Law homework and such.
Luckily, now that my big networking event and midterms are out-of-the-way, I have a little extra time to settle down and read.
So if I wind up coming back in the near future with an obscure book review, now you know why.