Special to Game Losers by Greg L. Mercer
CHAPTER I: IN WHICH THE INTERNET WAS A WEIRD KID GROWING UP
Much like video games, the Internet was a weird kid growing up.
A lot of people spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to help it gain legitimacy. The Internet was a goofy place, with entire databases of surreal animated videos, basement-dweller rants, and fan sites for obscure bands, movies or shows. Not to mention, the barrier for entry was a high monthly fee, on top of the $500-$1500 for a computer with a modem. Lots of houses had one to help with your homework and the household accounts, but not nearly every home, and not nearly to the point of usefulness we have today.
Then, in 2005 (we can argue on the exact year but that’s what it feels like to me), the Internet went from being Something About Half Your Friends Have into Something It Would Be Really Weird Not To Have. Mind you, this is only two years before the first iPhone release (which, itself, caused a similar shift re: smartphones around 2012-ish).
What happened? I like to think it was YouTube. Specifically, the Lonely Island “Lazy Sunday” Digital Short. I don’t mean to say all of the sudden people bought millions of computers to watch this video, but I think it cemented YouTube as “the place to watch videos, and no matter how many millions of people watch it, the site doesn’t go down.”
That was a massive turning point. The Internet was finally able to sustain mainstream attention, and it hasn’t stopped since. Ubiquity. It’s something people think of as a public utility, like phone lines and electricity and water. The Internet used to be Weird, and now it just Is.
How did the Internet get legitimacy? How did we get to a point where Internet access is something everyone is just assumed to have? What the fuck does any of this have to do with video games? I’m getting to that. Stay with me, I promise we’ll get there.