The Video Games Debate

As it is the Holiday season, many of us gamers get to attend unending family lunches/dinners with their librarian aunty or their fresh out of business school cousin who now shows his disdain to you as he thinks he knows everything and is on the way to a very successful future since he pocketed his degree.

And here he comes with his new punch line “So tell me, you’re still hardcore gamer? Don’t you think you’re getting a bit old for this? I’m not even talking about the example you’re setting for your son…”

In the past, gamers like me could have ignored this remark as it would usually end at the “getting old” comment. But now that some of us seasoned gamers are trying to bring up little nooblets of their own, they think it’s smart to include them in their remarks and try to make the whole family picture you as an irresponsible father. After all, I had so much fun watching “Wreck-it Ralph” with my son only because he knew the video games that were referred to in the movie (Street Fighter, Sonic, Super Mario)… Who would think of it as something bad? So the time has now come to dismantle every single one of their arguments and make them understand that if they’re not going to praise you for sharing something with your kid, they’d better keep quiet.

So why not do it in front of your librarian aunty who feels so disappointed in your lack of interest for the bourgeois’ culture and thinks your fascination for the digital universe is overdone? It is time to set an example and execute one of your hostile family members in public…

As a matter of fact, most people who do not understand anything about video games always use the same arguments, which this article will help any gamer destroy one by one. I’ll give you the main ones later… But the first thing to do in a public debate is to get said public to join your side by discrediting the opposing party.

First of all, emphasize the fact that your cousin is not a gamer, and therefore knows squat about video games or the gaming culture. He may try to convince an even less informed audience of the opposite, giving some examples such as he’s played every FIFA games since the 1998 World Cup, he’s played every Call of Duty games that came out since last September and he’s got an incredible kitchen garden in FarmVille and is, therefore, a gamer and expert at gaming… NOT!

What he has just described he’s not being a gamer… A gamer goes over his PS3 achievements every Sunday and sets a target for the coming week. A gamer deletes anyone from all of his social networks as soon as they start talking about Call of Duty. You’re a gamer when you’re in the middle of a conversation on Skype with a hot babe and pretend you’re listening to her every word when you’re in fact beta testing Diablo3, and after a while, you cut her off as Diablo3 is more important.

Then go on explaining that video games are so incredibly diverse, thus very enriching and rewarding. For example, spending the entire night exploring the world of Skyrim is a unique gaming experience. Organizing a gaming party to play Street Fighter 4 with your friends is another gaming experience. Insert a 5 dollars coin in your favorite Neo Geo arcade to play Metal Slug is yet another gaming experience. Logging into your CityVille account everyday is also a gaming experience in itself (although we could debate about that… ^^). Spending the night sweating your ass off at the arcade parlour on the Dance Dance Revolution machine is, again, another totally different gaming experience. Creating a WoW account is also another kind of gaming experience, just like playing Angry Birds in the bus or fire up the old Super Famicom with your son…

Every single one of these experiences provide, in some way, fun to the person who’s living them but they are all different from one another. It is up to the gamers themselves to scout and experiment those games and get the best out of them. There are as many experiences available as there are possibilities for a gamer to pick-up a specific game which means an infinity of possibilities.

Therefore, pretending of being able to summarize an infinity of possibilities with a single word (or even a simple description) and qualify video games as being a hobby only good enough for backward teenagers is utterly stupid in itself.

At this point of the conversation, your cousin has probably soiled his pants… Down but not dead, he will probably try to throw some of the following points at you (the main arguments I was talking about earlier):

1.Video games are violent
“There are more and more blood thirsty killers in this world and shootings such as Columbine, Oregon Mall or Sandy Hook elementary school demonstrate very well that banning violent video games would help improve the situation”

First of all, the “violence in video games” debate exists since 1976 after a game called Death Race (by Exidy) came out, and until today (36 years later) no scientific study was able to demonstrate there was any link at all between the violence in video games and real-life aggressiveness of gamers who play them. It’s even the opposite as more and more studies published in the Review of General Psychology by the American Psychological Association tend to explain that any video game, even violent, has no impact whatsoever on the majority of gamers (including kids)… And it would seem that even some really particular case of some gamers who had some screws loose to begin with is not enough to change the minds of experts on the matter. So tell your cousin to stop sucking the media sack.

2.Profits
“Video game industry is a multi-million dollar industry that is only profit oriented and would sell anything to your kids”

Yeah… Maybe… But this is also true for the movie industry. And just like the movie industry, even if video game companies propose “Blockbuster” games that can sell millions of copies, there are also independent developers who develop indie games to propose new gaming experiences focusing on puzzle solving skills for example.

3.Degrading hobby
“When I see how much time some people can spend playing video games, of course they will get stupid in the long term.”

It is a very obtuse perception of video games. Video game is a media like any other, even probably more efficient when it comes to knowledge transfer. This is why a lot of research is done using the “serious game” concept and also one of the reasons why “L’Education Nationale” in France has developed its own video game called “Donjons et Radons” as a support to teach sciences. It is also interesting to note that, nowadays, a lot of politicians (who are “busy” people) waste time playing some video games such as Sim City or Anno 1404 in order to improve their management skills.

If video games have enabled my generation to break the stupefying passivity that existed between a television screen and its spectator, they also have encouraged me/us to learn about computer sciences as, most of the time, sound computer skills were required in order to install, configure and run a video game properly on a PC. A type knowledge that is today crucial as digital media is triumphing.

I think all of these would do the trick in demonstrating that all your cousin is doing is trying to perpetuate some myths about video games and those who play them. From there, you should be in the clear and get less disgracing looks when you get Lego Batman 2 for your son’s 5th birthday.

Side Note:
I am sure we all agree that today is the era of “generalized” computerization and that the century we live in is the “century of information”. Our world is more and more often summarized using different calculation methods, numbers, curves, measurable/quantifiable performances and flows, and in this kind of world, only the video game can pretend to represent the “human face” of this deep transformation of the modern society.

Of course, non-gamers like to count us, monitor us, control us, measure us… Of course they want to maximize performances… And, of course, to this effect, computers make some “more than ever powerful” tools available to them.

But for us who have the vibrant wish of dreaming in our heart, for us who want to think and create, video games exist and represent a unique and wonderful place of peace, emancipation and sharing. Video games are the last un-localizable place where utopia can take place. It is now more possible than it has ever been in the history of civilization and technology.

But for gamers to keep that haven, we all have to roll up our sleeves and get working. We have to create a dialog, explain, play games and make others play our games. Video games do not alienate gamers nor make them stupid. Gamers are not “retards” and cannot be considered the last wagon of the cultural train anymore, as tomorrow we could be its locomotive.

So it is up to us to make gaming sensible to people around us, we have to play intelligently and demonstrate to those who look down on us that we are neither animals nor fools.

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