Editorial: Sweet and Sour

13 July 2016 Amy Hetherington

Editorial: Sweet and Sour

Pokemon's Pikachu

For a few months last year, I embarked on an “adventure” with Tiffi and Mr Toffee, transported to the Enid Blyton-esque land of Candy Crush Saga. The mobile-phone app is a jollification of carnival music, sugar bombs and candy-striped explosions. I was seduced into the fantasy faraway world of bright lights and “delicious” praise – and winning.

The game was my boredom crutch. Dull downtimes became sweeter with Candy Crush – bus rides, TV shows and cooking all provided precious minutes to collect candies and reach a new level. I was obsessed to the point of seeing the multi-coloured lollies burst across my eyelids as I tried to drop off to sleep, only to roll over and play again in the dark. 

But the wasted hours quickly added up, and I was done. Honestly, I thought my video gaming career had died with the Great Christmas Asteroids Championship of 1986 at my nanna’s house. I was about to take out top score among my cousins when the Atari power cord was “accidentally” kicked out by a fellow competitor. Sabotage!

Yet at no point in my Candy Crush fog did I consider myself a “gamer”. It wasn’t part of my identity, it was just something I did – and, frankly, was a bit embarrassed about. 

And I ask myself why I had this stigma about gaming, especially when most of us do it. A 2016 study found that 68 per cent of us play video games. Perhaps surprisingly, almost half are women and the average age is 33. The geeky teen boy stereotype just doesn’t add up; gaming is mainstream.

Pokémon GO is case in point. The mobile app has exploded into an instant phenomenon, as Anthony Morris reports (p10), making it impossible not to trip over players as they wander around pursuing Pokémon characters. The number of players is set to outpace Tinder users, with people clearly more passionate about Pokémon than dating. It’s bringing gamers together and getting them outdoors; our own Katherine Smyrk came in to the office buzzing about her dog’s encounter with Krabby while on a walk.

Toby meets Krabby.

In this issue, we also investigate the world of gaming through World of Warcraft, a game that at its peak had more than 12 million subscribers globally, and has recently been reimagined on the big screen by director Duncan Jones. Warcraft: New Beginnings has become the biggest video game film ever made, taking in more than half a billion dollars world-wide.

Working on this edition has opened my eyes to my own attitudes to gaming. The negatives generate the most media coverage: news reports of gamers collapsing and dying after marathon, days-long binges caution against compulsive gaming; violent video games are often blamed for anti-social behaviours; and authors and players Leena van Deventer and Dan Golding (‘Gaming and Misogyny’, p20) ask why female gamers routinely face sexual harassment and exclusion.

But for many, including writers Clem Bastow (‘A World Away’, p14) and Liam Harding (‘Game Over’, p18), WoW offers – or offered – a safe haven. I’ve realised gaming is about community, about finding a place to fit in and call home.

You may have noticed I’m new here. For me, this issue is somewhat of a homecoming. I’ve moved back to Melbourne to edit The Big Issue after almost 20 years living in Sydney. It’s a heartening feeling to be instantly quizzed about my football team: I barrack for St Kilda. And the Manly Sea Eagles.

It’s an honour to be part of this wonderful community of staff, contributors and the men and women who sell our magazine and package it for subscribers.

I look forward to getting to know you all.

Amy Hetherington, Editor