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The Selective Subculture Of 'Fantasy' Gamers

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The Selective Subculture Of 'Fantasy' Gamers

The Selective Subculture Of 'Fantasy' Gamers

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/133371941/133384198" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

We've been exploring what we're calling the fractured culture. With so many TV channels and the breadth of the Internet, what is popular with one group can go unnoticed by another. Today, video games. Gamers are not a unified group. Some are "Spider Solitaire" addicts. Others love "Resident Evil."

Heather Chaplin reports on one of the biggest and most intense video game subcultures.

HEATHER CHAPLIN: The "Final Fantasy" series has sold 97 million copies around the world, but if you don't play it, you probably haven't heard of it.

On a recent Tuesday, members of the NYU game club were hanging out, playing the latest installment in the 23-year-old franchise.

Mr. RICHARD RODRIGUEZ: Now, we're facing some sort of robot thing that is blocking our path in order to get to - where are we going to? Who are we meeting right now?

CHAPLIN: That's Richard Rodriguez. He graduated from NYU last year, but he still gets together to play video games with his friends from the club, like Zeke Abuhoff.

Mr. ZEKE ABUHOFF: One thing that's consistent across the series is an epic scale and operatic style to it.

CHAPLIN: As Rodriguez explains it, "Final Fantasy" is a role-playing game or RPG, with origins in pen and paper games like "Dungeons and Dragons."

(Soundbite of video game)

Unidentified Woman: This will be fun.

CHAPLIN: RPGs are all about heroic quests through richly drawn fantasy lands.

(Soundbite of video game)

CHAPLIN: Aesthetically, however, "Final Fantasy XIII" is a long way off from "Dungeons and Dragons."

Rodriguez describes it as lots of metal and robots in a Victorian city.

The main character in "Final Fantasy XIII" is Lightning, a pink-haired sword-wielding young woman out to save her sister who's in danger of losing her soul forever. Beyond that, the plot is too intricate to even begin to explain.

Mr. FRANK LANTZ (Director, NYU Game Center): There's an element of world building there.

CHAPLIN: Frank Lantz is director of the NYU game center.

Mr. LANTZ: In the same way that you can disappear into "Star Wars" or disappear into Tolkien's universe, and it really rewards that kind of archaeological excavation, where I'm just going to, like, go deeper and deeper into this piece of culture.

CHAPLIN: Frank Lantz says the complexity of the game can discourage all but the most persistent.

Mr. LANTZ: So cool and seductive, the idea that there is this cryptic, mysterious, confusing thing that you have no idea. You're looking at it, and you know that there's something going on there, and you don't know what it is. And if you make the effort, you get to unlock that secret.

CHAPLIN: But then, Richard Rodriguez is worried that the secret is being given away. New technologies like the Nintendo Wii motion control make it easier for anyone to play. You don't have to master a complicated set of buttons and joysticks.

Mr. RODRIGUEZ: I personally liked that my mom didn't understand what buttons to press and how she couldn't play the games that I was doing. It was something that was unique to my personality, and it was something that I enjoy doing that other people couldn't.

CHAPLIN: Then again, 67 million American households already play some kind of video game or another, so the days of games as a closed club may very well be over.

For NPR News, I'm Heather Chaplin.

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