Posted at 4:01 PM on March 31, 2008
by Sanden Totten
Last night I watched The King of Kong. It's a documentary about competitive arcade game players. Most of the serious competitors in the movie were in their 30's, 40's and 50's. In fact, there was one lady gunning for the Q-Bert high score who was in her 80's.
This made me think about how by now, folks who grew up on early video games (think Atari and Nintendo) must be turning into parents. It's only a matter of time until video games are an accepted and mainstream form of entertainment, right?
Maybe not. I found this article written by a video game designer. She says that at parties with folks her own age, almost universally people trash her profession:
"Videogames are addictive, violent and blood-soaked. People just shouldn't let their kids play games."
So she sent an e-mail to 40 of her friends asking one simple question: "How do you feel about video games?" Her inbox filled up with smack talk. 38 out of the 40 said something negative about games.
I guess I was expecting her to get a more nuanced response. But it seems people love to hate on video games. Why? Are people thinking of a study or a specific event that makes them dislike games, or are video games just tagged with negative imagery in the collective mind?
So let me throw this same question at you. What are your feelings about video games? I'm curious to know what images and ideas first pop into your head when you think about them. Try it sort of like a word association game. Post your responses below.
I had to give up video games in college. My biggest addiction was "Civilization" (I, II, III -- didn't matter), which I would literally spend 20 hours a week playing. It sounds kinda funny, and vaguely impressive, but it really sucked. And the time would just fly by -- I had no idea I was burning so much time on it.
I realized that I could get a lot more done with my life if I spent those 20 hours doing something productive. Ironically, that realization came from playing pencil-and-dice role playing games: I realized that I always gave my characters these kick-ass hobbies which bumped their stats up and gave them practical skills. And then I thought of myself as a character, and how lame my Civilization hobby would be on my character sheet, and I started to take a slightly different approach.
So, first things first, the games had to go.
That's hysterical Robert. I guess there are some quality life lessons one can learn from Role Playing Games.
There is a negative stigma attached to video games today and this is largely due to media misrepresenting them. This results in what is called a cultivation effect. The more negative press a topic receives, the more that topic is likely to be viewed as negative. For example, Minneapolis is a reasonably safe city. However, what we see and hear from news media in regard to Minneapolis is largely focused on crime, scandals, disasters, etc. This could bring one to the conclusion that Minneapolis is a dangerous place to live. This is what is happening with video games.
Most average, non-gaming citizens have heard of the Grand Theft Auto (GTA) series of games. This game has received a lot of negative press due to its violent content and this brings people to make generalizations about the game industry as a whole as being overly violent. For every GTA, though, there are dozens of family friendly or non-mature rated titles that aren't getting recognition. Think of the Mario or Sonic franchises or the large number of "casual" games out there that are flying off of store shelves since Nintendo launched its Wii console.
I think what we are going to see in the next few years is a cultural re-branding of the video game industry. The growth of this medium over the past ten years is staggering. Today, supply has a hard time keeping up with demand in terms of new video game consoles. This says to me that more and more of the historical non-gamers are wanting to get their feet wet with this industry. Hopefully, what will follow is a re-cultivation effect bringing games into a more respectable sphere of society.
I strongly recommend the book, "Everything Bad is Good For You" by Steven Johnson. In it, he details how video games (and their older sibling board games, and cousins TV, film and the internet) are actually making us smarter. It's an easy fun read. Anyone who has ever played video games or anyone who knows anyone who plays video games should check it out (and yes, that's everyone).