Discussing Video Games (The Positive and the Negative)
Video games still harbour a negative image for some people; they’re addictive and encourage violence. While I can understand the concerns, I dislike how a divide is often created between people who seem to absolutely hate games and those who defend them vigorously. Opposing viewpoints can both feel correct from the perspective of each person and I often wish we were more willing to listen with an open mind. I can actually understand why to some people it can seem a bit rude to walk into a room and be ignored by the person fully engaged in a game, but on the other side of the argument it can also seem rude to have people interrupt you and talk over your cut scenes (like insistently talking to someone who is trying to read a book – a pet peeve of mine). I do try to drop what I’m doing to acknowledge the people who enter my room, but if I’m in the middle of a game that I can’t pause or I’m socialising through an MMO I do expect some consideration. Looking back over my life I suppose there are some things that I do regret about the investment I’ve put into games, but I wouldn’t change my hobby either.
Whenever I’ve gone through a difficult period in my life video games have usually been held accountable even when it doesn’t make sense; they are to blame for all the things that have gone wrong! This seems to be a case of, ‘what came first, the chicken or the egg?‘ Do games cause people to become violent or depressed, or are depressed/violent people attracted to games? Personally I believe the latter and I thank my games for helping me to get through those difficult periods. Games are great at offering stress relief or some temporary escapism from our problems. They can also be used to help people who are sick; the charity Child’s Play helps to improve the lives of children in hospital.
Last year my cat that I’d had for 16 years passed away and I spent a lot of time grieving for her. I just couldn’t seem to concentrate or move on (it was also hard for me because it’s one of the first times I’ve had to fully comprehend the idea of death.) Eventually I decided to grant myself a bit of guilt free gaming and I couldn’t believe how quickly my mood perked up. After just a couple of days I was almost back to my usual self. While I still miss my feline companion, games helped me to forget about how sad I was and put a smile back on my face.
As may be evident from my blog, I’ve developed a lot of interests over the years. This is mostly due to the fact that I have a lot of creative energy to spend, but a part of me always hoped that it would help shed my game addict image too. I realize that I can sometimes get hooked on a new game, but I also spend a lot of time doing other things too. I go to the gym, enjoy reading, art and photography. Unfortunately in some cases simply claiming ‘I like games’ seems to be a prerequisite to being treated like an addict. There are obviously some people out there who do have a problem and need to be weaned from their games, but I feel like the word ‘addict’ is thrown around too lightly and in general the whole issue just isn’t very well understood (see Extra Credits – Game Addiction). After all I see many people who are just as invested in things like football or social networking, but are they addicts and if so what’s the underlying cause? I also enjoy game development, and just like other skills such as art or writing it requires a lot of dedicated practice to improve.
A lot of the negativity surrounding games could be blamed on the media. I often feel frustrated when people tell me about how potentially dangerous games are based on something they heard on the news and they don’t seem to want to give me the chance to ease their fears. While some gamers may have turned violent I dislike having this projected onto myself, especially when I’ve only ever been a caring and considerate person (I’m so sensitive I sometimes go faint at the sight of real injury, do I seriously sound like I could hurt another person?) The media has also previously admitted to making stories up and do not always provide evidence of the research behind the article. Often games (and sometimes metal music or other various interests… etc…) are used as a way of adding an extra spin to a story when all the other avenues have already been explored. As of current, there is still no real evidence to show that games are related to violence (see Penn and Teller: Bullshit!) There is also a lot of evidence to the contrary like the fact that cases of violence have supposedly decreased since games were created and that the number of violent acts attributed to games are very low compared to the sheer number of people that actually play them. The book ‘Theory of Fun for Game Design‘ explains that the violent imagery on a screen is usually just related to the aesthetics of the game, and that to the person playing they are simply seeing a bunch of entities, obstacles and objectives.
When I started playing games it was still a fairly new medium and just like cinema previously, they understandably attracted some misgivings about what they were capable of. Since then I think games have offered many good examples for how they can improve lives (that’s not to say that all games are good.) I believe that developers do have a responsibility to understand the effects of their creations, but that is precisely why it is important to hold discussions and perform research. If we only ever fear what we do not understand though, we could also be loosing out on any of the potential benefits they have to offer too (like education and gamification.) This is of course my point of view as a lifelong gamer, but it’s important to realize that perspective can effect opinions and are not always black and white. For example, If you’re worried that somebody in your life is being negatively effected by a game, try to show some interest first instead of launching into an all out attack which understandably will often result in a defensive reaction. On the other hand if you’re an avid gamer like me, try to be patient with those that do not understand our pastime and realize that no matter how much we try to refute it not everything about gaming is perfect.