Am I a man-child? This piece is about attending the marketing-promo screening of the Overwatch animated shorts, so let’s call this a rhetorical question. For my pride mostly, but also because video game stigma induced insecurities.

The event, sponsored by Coke, was advertised as:

For one night only, on May 22, select theaters in the United States will be showing a collection of Overwatch cinematics, animated shorts, and hero trailers. Attendees will also get a chance to see a new developer panel that offers a behind-the-scenes look at the heroes and lore of the Overwatch universe. And to top it off, there’ll be special Overwatch swag for attendees—while supplies last.

Don’t miss out on this one-of-a-kind opportunity to see Overwatch in full, big-screen glory.

What it actually was:

  • A stretched out hour and 30 mins of commercials for a game the audience already bought
  • A collection of beautifully rendered, sometimes cheesy cinematics (all viewable on YouTube)
  • One of the most boring and uninspiring dev interviews I’ve ever witnessed
  • A plastic Coke “esports” cup branded with an Overwatch character (Coke not included)
  • Bam Bams™: inflatable noisemakers you see at sporting events (This went as well as you’d imagine giving a room full of man-children an apparatus just short of vuvuzela annoyance levels)
My main.
My main.

 

A marketer by trade (gotta pay those student loans off somehow), the disparity between the advertising copy and the event in itself was not much of a surprise. Was it a rip-off? More or less.

The screening could have been used to garner goodwill and reward a ruthlessly loyal community, who will continue to line the pockets of Activision regardless of their general disappointment with this event. Instead the usual franchising cash grab and exploitation occurred.

Neckbeards, Steph Curry, and the Kardashians 

The surprise came more in the attendees themselves. The checkin line was peppered with many a neckbeards, thick framed lenses, WoW shirts, and other signifiers from a stereotyped vision of Blizzard/game fans.

Okay, that’s not really a surprise. Stick with me. This was a community of outcasts, geeks, and man-children (myself included) to be sure. Yes, this is a shallow assessment of people I do not actually know.

What grabbed me was the smiles and excitement permeating from community’s faces. Swap out the WoW shirt with a Warriors’ tee and you’d think you’re at Oracle Arena.

Idolatry
Idolatry 1

 

But why celebrate this amalgam of art, corporate product, and merchandising platform?

For some it may be community: shared laughter of child-men smacking their bam bams™ together or cracking the insular jokes unique to video games. Or maybe it’s a cure to boredom.

Or maybe because when the few certainties of living are that rent will be due next month, Monday’s will always suck, that loved ones will eventually pass away—the Overwatch release or the next Warrior’s game is the certainty of something to look forward to. That the world won’t take away, but give. Maybe.

The “nerd’s” enthusiasm for a video game mirrors the energy sports and entertainment fans produce for Warriors games and Kardashians. All equally trivial interests. All values worth questioning.

Idolatry 2
Idolatry 2

 

BAM BAMs™ and Escapism

The significance we all place on the inconsquential would constitute most of the modern world as man-children. Everyone one of us cares about things that don’t matter.

The gamer standing in line the midnight release and the Kim K and Steph Curry idolizers may be more alike than we’d care to admit. You could say we’re all looking for the same thing.

Maybe we’re not looking in the right place, but there’s hope in this sad affinity.

It’s no revelation that entertainment is a sublimated escapism. A coping response to desire, loneliness, aggression, ego, etc. But to judge or to stigmatize someone’s choice of escape is to deny someone’s joy. It seems a mean spirited “constructive” criticism that only serves to move us away from understanding one another.

Thinking back at the theater full of man-children smacking their bam bams™ together, the clank of stale snares, faces mostly teeth—my cringe softens.

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