Aren’t You A Little Old to be Playing Video Games? (and 4 other questions)

July 19, 2009 § Leave a comment

We’ve all been there, lulled into a false sense of security with a group of people you’d almost call friends, before the inevitable question comes up, “Aren’t you a little old to be playing those children’s games?” As much as we know this is as valid a form of entertainment as any other, there’s still this fog surrounding games and those that play them. Hardly anyone knows about them, but more importantly no one WANTS to know anything more than they already do. How could thousands of games exist without their knowledge? How could an entire sub-culture be completely unknown to them?

It’s not their fault of course. Companies outside of Nintendo do little to advertise their games to anyone other than their core demographic, and the Indie scene, where the truly interesting titles exist, is buried so deep down this rabbit hole that even if a non-gamer were open to these new experiences it would be nigh-on impossible for them to find them.

So people are a little ignorant, but thankfully you can educate them, eradicate their prejudices, and maybe even get them having a little game time of their own. Here are some ideas I had of how to answer the most common criticisms.

But aren’t videogames just made for kids?

Yes, I will concede that a lot of young kids (boys specifically) play video games, they’re one of the most lucrative markets for game makers, and so many games are released with them as a target audience. Game classification should, at any rate, be an indication of who exactly is playing games, with the amount of 18 and 15 ratings issued to titles. These games unfortunately do often find their ways into the hands of youngsters, but this was not the intention of the game maker, they are in every sense of the word ‘adult entertainment.’ After all, there are some young boys who get their hands on pornographic movies, but that doesn’t mean the films are made for kids now does it?

However, there are some very good games that at a glance appear to have been made solely for the enjoyment of children. Games such as Super Mario Brothers and Little Big Planet, appear to be aimed at young children, but are so well made that people of all ages can enjoy them. ‘The Incredible’ did the same thing for film, and there are a few Beatles songs (Octopus’s Garden, Maxwell Silver Hammer) that have a childlike sound to them, but still have the musical depth to be enjoyed by adults.

Why would you spend your time playing such violent pieces of media though?

Again I’ll admit that a majority of games are violent in nature (though this proportion seems to be decreasing over time), but this is again because of which games sell better, and thus receive the most attention. Video games are an example of something I like to call the ‘Iceberg Effect’, as most titles exist out of sight of the general public, much like how only a small percentage of an iceberg is visible above water.

If you dig a little deeper you’ll find there are hundreds of games that are completely non-violent. Racing games are an obvious example of this, as are sports games. Adventure games can contain violence, but many don’t, and platforming games are a genre mainly concerned with having the player traverse complex environments, violence in these releases is common, but not a necessity.

It’s just all such a waste of time though isn’t it?

If anything I’d say that the amount of television the average person watches is a waste of time rather than games. A typical american will watch around 4 hours of tv a day (http://www.csun.edu/science/health/docs/tv&health.html), which is quite a bit more than the amount of time I personally spend playing video games. The reason games seem to have this time stigma surrounding them is twofold. Firstly, many games have a run-time of 6 – 15 hours, which makes them seem like quite a large investment of time. On the other hand, how long is a series of your favourite television show? Given the option how much of that television show would you watch in one sitting? Secondly, games are often associated with pre-adolescent teenagers who tend to have a lot of time on their hands anyway, and thus if they have games as one of their hobbies, they can sink a large amount of their time into them.

Whilst the same could be said for any other form of media, which games you choose to play will dramatically affect your perception of whether you believe yourself to be wasting your time. Many games exist – admittedly outside of the public spotlight – which carry a large amount of artistic weight behind them. ‘Ico’ is a critically acclaimed game about the innocence and fragility of youth, and the Metal Gear Solid series of games takes on many issues, such as the financial benefit to arms dealers of war, and the conflict between loyalty to your own ideals and those of your country.

Unlike sculpture or painting games are first and foremost an entertainment medium like music. If you think music is a waste of time, then I’m not going to be able to convince you otherwise about games.

Finally, studies have shown that games can help to improve the players spatial awareness and problem solving abilities. Needless to say these skills are far more useful than anything you’d gain watching your average sitcom or drama.

But look at the terrible incidents that have been linked to games, how can they be a good thing if these are the events they are associated with?

Note: This is a touchy subject, so know that I mean to offend no one with my answer. I don’t think anything I’m about to say will, but I thought it wise to include this note nevertheless.

Yes some individuals who have been the cause of these atrocities have later been identified as gamers, but for each of them there are a million other people who play games who have never harmed anyone in their life. These people have always (to my knowledge) had psychological issues which are far more likely to have been the cause of their violence. It is also probable that it was their violent psyche that lead them to play games, not the other way round.

Video games are desensitising our children to violence.

Your children shouldn’t be playing anything that would desensitise them to violence, it is the parent’s responsibility that their child plays what is suitable for them. Studies have shown that it is far easier for a child to buy a restricted movie than a video game, so perhaps your fears are misguided.

As I said before there are many video games that don’t contain any violence, it’s just a matter of finding the right ones to play.

Yes, as a whole it is my personal opinion that too many video games are violent, but then I also believe the same about movies. It’s hardly a problem specific to the gaming medium.

Are there any other questions I’ve missed?

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