Do We Need a Face of Gaming?
In recent years there have been several gaming related stories that have become big enough to gain the attention of the mainstream media. Sadly, when corporate news encounters anything that falls outside of their immediate understanding or frame of reference, they need to package it into terms they and their audience can comprehend. This means simplifying the subject in to binary terms and convenient sound bites. They also like to have a “public face” that can be the go to expert. Someone who can be clearly identified with the issue and then championed or reviled by the public, according to which side they choose to support. That beggars the question do we need a " face for gaming"? If we do then who should it be? It's quite a thought provoking conundrum and raises a lot of issues about the nature of representation. Especially in light of the fact that contemporary media likes to have specific subjects neatly packaged with easy to grasp, core ideas and a photo-friendly public face.
Although I’ve raised the question as a thought experiment, rather than a genuine request for potential candidates, there may well be some people out there that would like to see such a thing. For me the concept of a "face of gaming" is just another name for "community leader", which is a term I dislike due to is inherent vagueness and utter lack of accountability. So, no, I don't want anyone to be the "face of gaming". I doubt if you can even get a consensus on what the actual term means and what the specific parameters of such a role are. However, for the sake of argument, let us assume that the position existed. As far as I'm concerned if you wish to represent any body of people in some capacity, you need to have been democratically elected, with a popular majority mandate of at least 75%. That way you can at least claim some sort of legitimacy for your role.
Even if such a framework existed for choosing such an individual, the process would instantly fall foul of all the usual political pitfalls that blight any democratic undertaking. There would be endless debate and disagreement over issues such as nationality, gender and race. Gamers are a very nebulous group and they frequently disagree over many aspects of the own culture. Adding a wider socio-political dimension to the debate would only compound the problem. Plus, the driving principle behind this proposed role is to provide a conduit for the mainstream press. An institution that regularly trivialises matters and panders to the lowest common denominator. If there was a "face of gaming" it wouldn't be long before the press focused on who they were dating and what they were wearing, rather than the topics in hand.
Some have suggested that a community leader may be found from the within the gaming industry itself or from that esoteric group known as experts. I have no problem with the concept of experts and it saddens me that their status in society has been diminished in recent years. The cult of "my opinion is of equal value" has slowly eroded the weight of their position. I don't mind the use of independent experts to provide an informed overview for the wider public but if one became a designated spokesperson, they may well lose that impartial status. As for finding a developer or CEO of note who is universally respected, I think that would prove a difficult task. Gamers can be very partisan with regard to specific gaming companies. They also bear grudges.
The gaming community is not like other traditional social bodies. It is extremely diverse and multi-faceted. It has no structure or hierarchy, nor does it have any universally agreed agenda. What it does have is a lot of high profile personalities within that community, each with their own following. Think Total Biscuit AKA John Bain or Jim Sterling. Then there are Community Manager for game specific forums, a high-profile writer or a popular content provide and critic such as YouTube personalities. Some of these individuals have integrity, others do not. However, the trouble with such individuals is that they often end up being inaccessible by the regular. Does that make them truly representative of the average gamers needs? In the past, I have been involved with the organisation of several online events. I tried to contact several high-profile internet personalities to ask for help with the events promotion. I was universally ignored or failed to get beyond their respective gatekeepers.
Personally, I think that a so called "face of gaming" would do more harm than good if it did exist. It would ultimately end up being about them, rather than games and gamers. There are community figures that I know and respect but I don't see them as "leaders" nor have any of them ever claimed to be so. I guess the nearest we'll ever get to equitable representation is via player councils, as long as they are populated with elected representatives. What is required from a role such as the "face of gaming" is impossible to provide, simply because there is no infrastructure to support it. I think most gamers ultimately look to themselves to represent their own needs. If history teaches us anything, it's that we should always be mindful of the centralisation of power. It has seldom proven beneficial for the majority.