Video gamers proud of their culture
They were once confined to the basement or bedroom but serious video gamers are stepping into the light. With next-generation consoles and PCs, more in-depth storylines and advances in graphics, it’s little surprise the video game industry is booming. Jul
Esther Ng has been a video game fanatic since she was in primary school.
As a young teenager it was easy for her to spend 10 hours a day planted in front of the screen with a controller in her hand during the holidays.
One of her favourites was Counterstrike.
‘‘My parents hated it,’’ the St Heliers resident says.
‘‘My Dad would say: ‘Aren’t girls not supposed to play games like that?’’’
Initially her brother wouldn’t let her near his console so she played in secret most of the time.
‘‘I always had primarily female friends but didn’t tell them I played video games,’’ the 18-year-old says.
‘‘It wasn’t my main hobby . . . but when I talked to guys about it, my girlfriends would be like: ‘ How do you know about this?’’’
The commerce and science student has become more comfortable with being a gamer.
She joined the University of Auckland Video Game Club and has since become the club’s marketing manager.
Ng has a busy schedule but tries to fit in a couple of hours of gaming every day, mostly while on campus.
‘‘When I’m a parent, I’ll probably force [my children] to play games so I can beat them,’’ she says.
Ng is one of the few female gamers in the 400-strong club, something co-president Jack Meng thinks will change in time.
Meng’s role is to help organise meetings and eSports gatherings [tournaments for gamers].
League of Legends is the game of choice at the moment.
Although members prefer to play in the comfort of their own homes, the club tries to meet twice a month at a venue for live events.
Meng was handed the torch by Theo Martin who is now part of Aspect of Gaming, a group with one goal in mind – to ‘‘unite’’ gamers in New Zealand.
Martin says there are more female gamers out there than people realise.
‘‘I think that females don’t talk about [gaming] as much.’’
He says it’s still difficult to shake the stigma that comes with video games and people who play them on a regular basis.
‘‘In New Zealand it’s a real challenge specifically. It stems from parents believing New Zealanders are interested in physical sport and things like that . . . it’s somehow socially unacceptable to be immersed in gaming.’’
Because of the way gaming has evolved since the early days, it has changed the way it is viewed, he says.
Storytelling and graphics have developed immensely to the point where gamers really connect with the characters.
‘‘If you look back to Final Fantasy VII when the character dies in that game, people really felt it.’’
But Aspect of Gaming is not all about mouse-clicking or button tapping, Martin says. It’s about embracing the culture.
‘‘Watching eSports for us is like others going down to the pub to watch the rugby with some mates.’’
He acknowledges that some gamers are natural introverts so it’s a way to take the pressure off meeting in a social situation.
‘‘Gaming is the thing that breaks down the walls, gets them together and talking. It connects socially anxious people. The attention is on the game, you’re not talking about or focusing on something that some in the group understand and others don’t,’’ Martin says.
Avid gamer: Esther Ng used to hide her video game hobby from her friends.
Press play: University of Auckland Video Game Club co-president Jack Meng, left, and Theo Martin from Aspect of Gaming.