I have a variety of nerdy interests. I have seasons of Full Metal Panic and Babylon 5 tucked under my bookshelf, folders full of unfinished fantasy stories, and a beautiful, proudly decked-out iMac squarely taking up the majority of my desk. Needless to say, I’m a pretty big geek. Most people know that I’m nerdy, but before I started writing for Aspyr, few knew that I was into video games. Why? “The look.”
I encounter “the look” frequently. I’m a senior in college and yes, I’m still into video games. “The look” is an expression of the American stigma against video games. It typically involves a cocked eyebrow, an awkward silence, and a slightly upturned lower lip. They believe that games are for kids and immature teens, that games are violent and have a negative influence on society, and that games are socially isolating.
Unfortunately, these people likely haven’t played a game since Oregon Trail was a bestseller. The video game industry is a growing art, and has shifted its focus to adults. That trend is here to stay.
Myth: Video Games are for Children.
While its true that most American children play video games, the video game industry is refocusing on older people as the first generation of gamers continues to play into adulthood. In fact, 66% of the PC game market is meant for gamers 18+! Think Call of Duty 4 or Doom 3. Were those games meant for kids? Absolutely not.
Some may argue that though video games include more sex and graphic violence, the industry is pandering to immature adults, or teens who are going through a gore phase. But this is another misinterpretation of the industry. Have you ever played Civilization V? It’s a great example of a game that is too strategically mature for most children, but also doesn’t feature any questionable material. There are video games for kids, but video games as an art is developing for the older player.
Myth: Video Games are Violent. That’s Bad.
I enjoy a good headshot just like anyone else. They are a reflection of my developed skill, precise striking, and quick reflexes. In spite of this, I would never have the desire or skill to do so in real life. Games haven’t changed my nature. In fact, violent video games may be used for good.
Believing that gory video games make people violent is a giant leap of faith. In order for this to be true, the gamer must:
- Ignore pre-existing morals against violence
- Have a reason to apply violence
- Have no resistance to what they are learning in the game
- Have the ability to translate tactics learned in games to a real-world environment
Violence is a part of some video games, yes. Violence is also frequently featured in movies, books, and tv shows. The only reason why people react negatively is because of my earlier point: they believe games are for kids. ESRB ratings, just like MPAA, are meant to help educate parents and guardians before making a purchase. Would you let your six-year-old see Predators? Probably not. They probably shouldn’t be playing Quake 4 either.
Myth: Games are Socially Isolating.
Just the opposite is true:
- Almost 60% of frequent gamers play with friends
- 33% of gamers play with siblings
- 25% play with spouses or parents
*All stats taken from this PBS article
Even single player games can be played socially, with one player watching or giving advice while the other holds the mouse. Video games can create and strengthen camaraderie. Indeed, it is a social activity for the 21st century, and is perhaps even more socially engaging than Facebook.
If all these myths are false, why am I still confronted with “the look?” The look-givers are misinformed. They likely view me as immature, childish, and maybe a little nutty, solely because I haven’t “grown out of” my video game hobby. That time will likely never come as the industry continues to develop for my needs.
That said, I’m off to conquer the world.
Have you ever experienced “the look?” Do video games have a stigma? Are there other myths about the gaming industry that just aren’t true? Let us know in the comments below!