Stop me if you’ve heard this one before:
“[He/She] spends their weekends gaming, what a loser.”
“Stop being so antisocial and put down that video game.”
“You want another video game? Don’t you have enough?”
“Oh so you weren’t sick, you just wanted to play video games all day.”
“You were gaming? What a waste of time.”
So, what the heck is wrong with video games? And why does it seem like the world has it out for them?
The world seemingly has a different view of this interactive media than I or any other gamer has. Here’s the thing, video games are nothing more than an immersive and challenging task. It’s one of the most profitable industries in the world right now. It’s creative from music to visual to even pushing the boundaries of technology.
But for some reason gamers and video games get the bad wrap and I’m genuinely curious as to why this might be.
The Age Of Video Games
The first video game, Computer Space, became commercially available in 1971. In 1972, Pong was introduced to the world by Atari. The first Nintendo console came out in in 1983 and the very first PlayStation console was introduced to the world in 1995. You might notice something interesting about these dates; they’re not that long ago.
Compared to other media, video games are the very very little brother or sister of the media family and often get treated in this way. The first films were watched in the 1890’s while television became available in 1948. And books? From cave paintings to stone tablets, all the way to the Twilight saga, written communication has been around for hundreds of thousand of years. The point being, video games are still in their infancy as a medium expression and will undoubtedly get the brunt of criticism as each platform has before it.
As, you recall, television used to “rot your brain, movies and plays used to be shunned by the church while book burnings seem to go in and out of trend every 50 years or so. Each new medium has been met with harsh criticisms over the years and videogames are no different with them “causing violent shootings” and “making kids anti-social.”
Now, the film industry is one of the most celebrated industries in the world while binge-watching television has become a celebrated weekend activity. Radio is a dying breed while podcasts are all the rage. Books, well, they’re evolving too with the Kobo, tablets and smartphones. It’s safe to say that I think one day, video games won’t have such a negative asterix beside it but for now, they’re paying their dues, like a little sibling does.
Let’s just hope they’re eating their veggies so they can grow big and strong!
Gaming In The Media
Every so often, someone in the world acts out violently and that person might happen to play video games. It seems that the general media, like your local news channel or day time talk shows, just love to discuss violence in video game when such an event takes place.
The only time video games become relevant to anyone outside the gaming circle is when they could possibly do them harm. With such a constant negative portrayal in the media it is creating a negative association with the mass population.
Think of two cavemen hunting in woods. A twig snaps and suddenly one is mauled to death by a Panther. The other runs to the village to tell of the story. Suddenly, every villager becomes terrified at the sound of every broken stick and twig under the sun. This hasn’t changed; it’s just been amplified by other media.
Gaming in the general media is often portrayed as a violent and antisocial past time and it’s no wonder that a negative stigma would generate in such a mass populous.
Gamergate & Bubbling Toxicity
It doesn’t matter why it happened (it DOES matter but not the point I’m trying to make), the fact is, Gamergate exposed the toxic underbelly of gaming fandom. Now I’ll preface this by saying every community has a toxic underbelly, gamers are no different (you can check out sports twitter or movie twitter just to see for yourself). But the fact of the matter is that toxicity exists and Gamergate is just one event that brought that toxicity to the surface and into mainstream media (and we KNOW how the media likes to portray gamers).
But it doesn’t just affect how the outside world views gamers, but rather the gaming community itself.
This isn’t an article as to why that toxicity exists, that could be a whole piece on its own, but rather a look as to why people raise their noses towards video games. That toxicity seeping out into the public is simply just another reason why people have a negative association with gaming and quite frankly, gamers.
So, What’s A Gamer To Do?
Firstly I’d like to say, never fucking apologize for what you’re into. I don’t care if it’s sports, comic books, woodworking or video games, you have a right to enjoy the things that you enjoy. We as geeks and gamers wear what we love on our sleeves, proudly, for the world to see. That makes us vulnerable, that makes us an easy target because those who aren’t brave enough to expose that part of them tend to direct their attention to those that do. But that fact is, you don’t have to apologize or answer to anyone.
Secondly, gaming as a medium is growing. Gamers as a community is growing. In fact, gaming has seeped into the sports world and celebrity world (I use athletes and celebrities here because they’re generally looked at as the main influencers of the masses) which is affectively normalizing the medium. I think that gaming is headed into a really good place. It’s just going to take time for the world to get used to video games.
Thirdly I’d like to say, as you’re most likely a fellow gamer, just treat everyone as you’d like to be treated. Welcome other gamers. Don’t ask them “do you actually play?” Like what the fuck kind of question is that. At the end of the day, video games are toys. Toys are supposed to be fun. Why foster or feed into a community about destroying fun for other people? I’ll just keep it very simple by saying this, treat other as you’d like to be treated.
Every gamer has a heart.
So, what’s a gamer to do? Be patient, be kind, and above all else, enjoy the things that you enjoy and never apologize for it.