The Wow Climax: Tracing the Emotional Impact of Popular Culture

By Henry Jenkins | Go to book overview

8

“Complete Freedom
of Movement”
Video Games as Gendered Play Spaces

A Tale of Two Childhoods

Sometimes I feel nostalgic for my boyhood spaces in suburban Atlanta in the 1960s. My big grassy front yard sloped sharply downward into a ditch where we could float boats on rainy days. Beyond, there was a pine forest where my brother and I could toss pine cones like grenades or smack sticks together like swords. In the backyard, there was a patch of grass where we could wrestle or play kickball, and also a treehouse that sometimes bore a pirate flag and, at other times, the Stars and Bars of the Confederacy. Beyond our yard, there was a bamboo forest where we could play Tarzan, and vacant lots, construction sites, sloping streets, and a neighboring farm (the last vestige of a rural area turned suburban).

Between my house and the school, there was another forest, which, for the duration of my youth, remained undeveloped. A friend and I would survey this land, claiming it for our imaginary kingdoms of Jungleloca and Freedonia. We felt a proprietorship over that space, even though others used it for schoolyard fisticuffs, smoking cigarettes, or playing kissing games. When we were there, we rarely encountered adults, though when we did, it usually spelt trouble. We would come home from these secret places, covered with Georgia red mud.

Of course, we spent many afternoons at home, watching old horror movies or action-adventure series reruns, and our mothers would fuss at us to go outside. Often, something we had seen on television would inspire our play, as we stalked through the woods like Lon Chaney Jr.'s Wolfman or “sock”-ed “pow”-ed each other under the influence of Batman. Today, each time I visit my parents, I am shocked to see that most of those “sa

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