Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.
– Matthew 15:11 (KJV)
Paul Hall is not an imposing man; he smiles easily, his glasses are thick as a byproduct of his age, and he is quick to offer a joke. He’s a motorcycle enthusiast, a fisherman, a fan of classic rock music, an acoustic guitarist, a father, a grandfather, a preacher and Biblical scholar, and in his spare time he unwinds by teleporting to mars and shooting demons in the face with a double-barreled shotgun.
Paul is a living embodiment of the challenge of marketing videogames. In his lifetime, he’s worked as a professional chef, he’s served in the Australian Military, he’s worked in IT sales and support, full-time work in the church ministry, and even today he works as IT support for the Department of Education, alongside his part-time duty as a chaplain at a school for troubled children. When videogame demographics are discussed, there’s no box for a person like Paul.
Overwhelmingly, videogame marketing seeks to appeal to a demographic of 25-30 year old white men, who primarily consume videogames. According to longterm industry developre Warren Specter, these consumers have ‘read one book, and seen one movie.’
What then do you make of a man like Paul?
Paul is no Wii-Sports pickup, a newcomer to the gaming scene. Paul’s first personal computer arrived in his home in 1984, and he was gaming before that, on a friend’s Tandy computer. The name of the game then was Volcano Hunter, and Paul still remembers the game fondly today.
An avid motorcycle and car afficionado, Paul found driving videogames shortly after getting his own computer. Formula 1 by Geoff Crammond (and its sequels) featured core in this experience, with him and his brother pushing the envelope in how the game could be played – bringing two home computers together to do a simulation of a real, six-hour-plus Formula One race against one another.
When not driving around the streets of Phoenix and Monaco, Paul’s gaming took to first-person shooters, beginning with Wolfenstein 3D. From Wolfenstein, Paul moved on to Doom and its sequel, Doom II, and he’s been playing that family of games ever since. Most days, Paul plays a videogame, sometimes for an hour or two, and he routinely seeks ways to re-experience the games he loves, through modding and expanded fan-made levels.
If there’s such a thing as a hardcore gamer, Paul clearly has to be one. Few people can claim to have played the same game for twenty years!
Yet, Paul isn’t what people think of when they mean a hardcore gamer. Paul is a longstanding church member, he preaches regularly at his own church, and at another church he’s been fostering for about 20 years. Paul is a member of multiple communities, both online and off – and he plays games. When asked about the stereotype of the ‘hardcore gamer,’ those who are socially rejected and retreat into the game world, Paul is definitive on his view:
“I don’t think that gamer exists. I think he exists in urban mythology because he fulfills a role which people can then build a social paradigm on… I think he exists, but I don’t think he exists in the numbers suggested, and I think he exists because people want him to exist.”
Further, Paul says “the people I know who are involved in computer games are people like me. They have games on their computer and play them when they’re not doing other things they need to do.”
When the subject comes to more modern gaming, from portable devices, Paul recalls an old joke: “There are two types of people: those who play games and those who lie about it,” then says that this view is more true than it ever has been.
As for videogames instigating violence in consumers, Paul’s time as a chaplain illuminates further: “I think that the idea that games influence behaviour is a very convenient construct for people to demonise gamers and game writers. Society has always needed something to demonise, and the reason why a child may be violent needs to be far more rigorously examined than flippantly dismissed.”
“… There are other factors that are far more significant to who they are and who they are becoming. They … don’t play Doom. They probably don’t know Doom exists.”