I originally wrote this article in 2009, as a kind of ode to one of my favourite public figures. I chose to republish it here because I think it’s interesting for two reasons.
One is that this decade has probably been the first real era of games hitting the mainstream – regular people talking about gaming not as a geeky hobby, but as recreation as normal and common as reading a book or watching a movie. A big part of that change has been that as the first generation of millennials – those raised by the House of Mario – have reached a high profile status in society, they have brought with them a familiarity, respect and understanding of the medium of gaming that previous generations simply did not have. Newspapers have gaming sections, the moral panic has been and gone and games have simply become normal. In 2018, many if not most emerging journalists, politicians, celebrities and sports stars consider themselves gamers of some kind, and it’s not even noteworthy to see an MP tweet about playing Red Dead Redemption 2 or to spot Drake livestreaming his Fortnite session with Ninja on Twitch.tv.
The second is that Charlie Brooker has gone on to achieve big things, and is now unmistakably a household name. As well as appearing regularly on primetime TV and hosting Channel 4’s election night coverage, Brooker’s breakout hit was the truly excellent Black Mirror. That show is now into its fourth season and although it’s just a personal preference, I happen to think it’s the best TV production in years.
Anyway, here’s the slightly fanboyish piece I wrote on this subject a decade ago, which was written in the context of a perception that videogames had to fundamentally change for the worse in order to appeal to a wider audience (ie. with the Nintendo Wii)
You may have never heard of Charlie Brooker, especially if you happen to dwell in the land mass to the west of the Atlantic, but Brooker is someone I have loved for years. Brooker currently writes editorials for the UK newspaper The Guardian and hosts a BBC4 review show, which has recently switched from general TV reviews to a critique of the news.
He used to write for PC Zone, a UK gaming magazine and regularly wrote laugh-out-loud features on the latest news and releases. This ultimately led to his sacking however, when Brooker made a comic strip entitled ‘The Cruelty Zoo’, which focused on Lara Croft’s apparent obsession with slaughtering animals. The comic highlighted Croft’s vendetta against the animal kingdom by depicting a zoo where children could visit and torment the animals, with semi-realistic images of kids stabbing badgers, hammering the skulls of monkeys an chainsawing an orang-utan.
This kind of irreverent humour often gets Brooker in trouble (in this case the magazine was pulled from shelves) and he has received dozens of death threats from patriotic Americans after his anti-Bush musings.
Perhaps the best thing about Brooker is that as he enters the mainstream public sphere in the UK, his views upon games become wider spread. His awesome and extremely successful TV shows Nathan Barley and Dead Set , which was based on a zombie outbreak during a season of Big Brother have made Brooker something of a popular icon, if not yet a household name. While Brooker’s main attention has been turned to TV, he never forgets his love of gaming. Indeed, almost every TV show he reviews gets chastised and he appears to actively hate the medium, instead suggesting that games are a more favourable for of entertainment. He often reverts to discussing gaming in his column and is one of the few individuals responsible for bringing gaming to a wider audience in the UK, and fortunately only recommends the good ones. Some of his recent coverage of games in his column can be found here, here and here. He’s not only a funny SOB, but he shows that it is okay to talk about Fallout without being labelled as some kind of social outcast or nerdy freak.
This widening of videogame audience demographics is obviously a far greater thing than Brooker, but I feel as though unlike Nintendo, Brooker is achieving some success in steering the industry’s growth in the right direction.