The other day, I struck up a conversation with a stranger only to learn that she shared my interest in arts and crafts. I told her about a clay sculpture I was working on, and she shared with me a particular crochet project she planned to start soon.
I didn’t meet this person at the bar or the local supermarket. No, our conversation played out in speech bubbles above our respective characters in the lobby area of an MMORPG, or massively multiplayer online role-playing game. On top of that, the projects we discussed were also video game-oriented: I was working on a sculpture of my avatar, or in-game persona, and she (at least, I assume it was a “she”) planned to crochet a stuffed version of one of the creatures that inhabit the virtual world in which we met.
This snippet of cyber socialization is just one example of what I believe to be a marriage of two growing cultures. As gaming – and nerd culture in general – finds its way to a larger audience, so too does DIY culture, which boasts a community of tinkerers and creators. The interaction that goes into the gaming experience, especially in those arenas where players are encouraged to invent their own narratives, is not unlike the level of creativity do-it-yourselfers might exhibit with their own projects. Quite often, the two interests intersect.
It’s a generational thing, too – more and more adults grew up playing video games, investing time and emotion into fantasy worlds. Likewise, new technologies allow us to develop talents that were once the monopoly of industry specialists. Never before has it been so easy to find the resources needed to take on complex projects. For my own part, while researching for my clay sculpture, I found information on what brands of clay and paint work best for certain projects, as well as a guide explaining how to use small magnets and screws to create posable, detachable limbs like those found on plastic figurines.
And so it is when these dual interests of gaming and creating are married that true wonders are born – like Katamari-inspired hats, a kid’s-room mural of the first stage in Super Mario Bros., or even rock music based on the Mega Man franchise. Other gamers – many of them now adults and even parents – pick up on the memories of a shared experience. At times, the products of our nostalgia take on a life of their own, becoming more than just fan-created devotions to a particular game or character.
Maybe it’s just a case of silly adults who refuse to grow up, clinging to their childhood memories by taking something imaginary and giving it life in reality. Or, perhaps, we are taking hold of something we perceive as meaningful and, through our own efforts, giving voice to that meaning in a feat of self-expression. Who knows.
Anyway, I’ve got some sculpting to do.