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How a party for an indie fighting game showed me the bright future of gaming culture

How a party for an indie fighting game showed me the bright future of gaming culture

Two weekends ago I was invited to a small shindig to check out some indie games including the awesome-looking indie fighting game, Divekick, which Ben had made me positively salivant for earlier this year, and I was excited for the chance to play it for myself.

The event was being hosted by Max Temkin, creator of the runaway hit Cards Against Humanity, a comedy card game which every PAX-goer is very likely familiar with at this point.

It was being held in a somewhat shabby, rundown building with scuffs and scrapes as the only decoration on the walls, no furnishings, and one giant plasma screen TV around which a couple dozen people would crowd to cheer on Divekick competitors while discussing the game's unique two-button controller, art style, writing and strategy.

Hip people with scarves and hats mingled freely with others in comparatively shabby yet-still-somehow-cool clothing.

And the beards. Good heavens, the beards. I have a beard, but in the face of such beards, what I have could not rightly be called a beard. I am a pretender.

“Cool” people surrounded me on all sides, sipping locally brewed Revolution beer from red cups and discussing game design.

When I saw the beer, that's when it hit me. I've been here before. Not in this same building, but I've been to this show, although it wasn't a video game in front of the crowd. It was an up-and-coming local band. Or a small art gallery. Or a poetry reading.

This was that same scene except I was discussing the learning curves of Divekick vs Street Fighter instead of pretending to be interested in a punk band.

This whole experience forced me to start wondering: am I suddenly cool? Did the wave of time change my social standing?

After all, there I was mingling with the mightiest beards in the city of Chicago, attending a dingy art show just like a cool person might. And I didn't even have to feign interest, this was a scene I was invested in. I fit in.

Software development by starving artists

More and more I hear stories about things that I'd normally assume were the province of traditional artists. I hear reports of game developers living together in artist houses, or struggling with artistic inadequacy, and it reminds me that gamers' best days are ahead. We're struggling with the happy problems of the indie scene truly growing up.

I'm the brand of nerd that almost compulsively thinks about the future. I love to imagine what things might be like 30+ years down the road. Not in a fantastical, colonizing-the-galaxy sort of way, but in a functional and realistic way. When I can see the future developing in front of my eyes at events like that underground game demo it's an inspiring moment that makes me wonder.

One day the Baby Boomer generation will be gone, and we will inherit culture itself. We're already taking pieces of it as gamers and game designers continue to age. What will that world look like when its most respected elders grew up on Mario Kart?

There's precendent for that too. Just look at what happened with comic book culture once the children of the Bronze Age, roughly 1970 to 1985, of comics reached a certain age. Americans have now elected a presidential administration that has referenced Star Wars not once, but twice.

I look forward to a day when not only has gaming's generation aged to fill the indie artist scene, but when we're rich snobs lusting after rare pieces (imagine what Chain World will be worth if it surfaces in 30 years,) and politicians referencing games in an effort to connect with the common voter.

This party gave me a vision of what the future will be like for video gamers: pretty much the same as the past except with far more video games. I look around today and I see older people sit around the coffee table to play Ups and Downs or Charades. These games seem boring to us, but they play them because they're a common language that everyone can relax and understand easily.

I can't wait for the day when the games that we can all relax and understand in our retirement are Settlers of Catan, Street Fighter, and Super Mario Kart. When I think about it that way, aging into retirement doesn't seem so bad. It sounds kind of amazing, actually.