RTX 2012: Enter the Noob

Sole non-gamer in Austin attends RTX 2012, is bemused

Q: "Is this a game, or is it real?"
A: "What's the difference?"
– Man vs. machine in John Badham's Wargames

I'm not a gamer. I don't own any gaming platforms – not even Magic: The Gathering, which, as a card game, is presumably the ur-platform for all that has come since. So, obvs, I had to hit RTX 2012.

Official tallies are yet to, uh, be tallied, but the generally accepted ballpark figure at this point is 4,500 attendees at Austin's premiere internet/gaming/Halogasm. As Rooster Teeth/Red vs. Blue's Gus Sorola noted, last year's RTX drew 600 peeps to "an empty lot in South Austin. Based on that growth, according to my projections next year we will have sixty thousand attendees and be hosting RTX 2013 on the moon."

Not as improbable as you might think, given the sheer storm of game-playing, drinking, and that weird, sticky kind of camaraderie that spontaneously erupts whenever two or more gamers meet flesh-to-flesh for the first time (as opposed to their avatars meeting, fighting, or frolicking on whichever MMORPG they currently inhabit).

Since the last video game I paid any attention to was Halo: Combat Evolved way back in 2001, I soaked up as much pure, uncut game-brain as possible. It was the unveiling – and massive, audience-wide playing – of 343 Industries' Halo 4 that drew my eyes and sucked me in. Just watching a five-hundred-plus crowd with their eyes glued to the gameplay splashed across a dozen HD monitors arrayed below a ten-by-twenty-foot master screen was mesmerizing in and of itself.

Sure, you could draw some sort of dickish analogy between the gleefully glazed gamers and the vastly Orwellian synergy of television, gaming, and CGI, but why bother? I saw more people having more fun playing more ridiculously cool games than I ever had before.

While most games require a sort of cerebral-active, physical passivity on the part of the player (you sit, your character moves), the gamers at RTX 2012 were a vital, vibrant, intense and unruly, in a good way, bunch. And yes, there were plenty of female gamers there, too. I fear I may soon break down and purchase my first Xbox, but for now, I'll just paraphrase a far more eloquent noob, F. Scott Fitzgerald:

"Let me tell you about the gamers. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, beta-release versions, and it does something to them, makes them pale where we are somewhat less-pale, and cynical – 'Dude, that's so 2008' – where we are, like, totally clueless – 'Dude, this fucking rocks! Doesn't it? Are you sure? It looks pretty cool to me. Ok. Fine. Yes, I've heard of Myst. Jesus. No need to flog a dead noob, dude …' – in a way that, unless you were born after the Commodore VIC-20, it is very hard to understand …. They are different …. They think deep in the heart of the game. Indeed, they are the heart of the game."

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