Saturday, October 22, 2011

Stop Hatin' on Gamin'

For years the video game industry has been seen by politicians and other public figures as being a scapegoat for violent behavior and acts. I believe that games are not the problem and they are only an easy scapegoat because gamers are believed to be a minority.
Politicians that attack the video game industry often times do not understand the industry and place undeserved blame on those that are a part of it. CNN's William Bennett has blamed video games for men being unemployed and unmarried (link to article here). He urges men, in particular, to stop playing video games. Bennett, who was the U.S. Secretary of Education under Reagan, says that the increased percentage of women in the job market is a direct result of men “wasting” their time playing games. This is in complete disregard to that fact that gender inequality has come a long way. He uses statistics that date back to the early 1970’s, before the first game console was even invented. He also does not seem to be a credible and reliable source, as he has been outed for making racist remarks on his radio show (link to article here).

If you were to ask someone what social class they belong to, they will probably say that they are a member of the middle class. People making $30,000 and $300,000 a year often claim to be a part of the same class because the middle class is also a state of mind; gamers are the same way. 
Most people that play games do not consider themselves to be “gamers” because society places a negative connotation with the word “gamer.” To me, if you consistently play a video game of any kind, then you are a gamer. You don’t have to own a game console or even a computer to be a gamer. Everyday, 30 million people play Angry Birds, but many would probably deny being a gamer (link to article here). If all of these people admitted to being a gamer, then we would no longer be considered a minority. If we were no longer a minority, then we would no longer be a scapegoat.
Gamers aren’t going to go away, in fact, we are growing. 91 percent of kids in the US game, which is a nine percent increase over last year (link to article here). This brings to mind the phrase, “if you can’t beat them, join them.” 
Video games inspire and motivate people, allowing them to do great things. Planet Hunters, an online collection of public-release NASA Kepler data, used gamers to discover two new planet candidates (link to article here). 
Similarly, players of the online protein folding simulator, Foldit, found the structure of a specific enzyme believed to have an important role in the spread of the AIDS virus, bringing scientists closer to curing the disease (link to article here).

Next, Patrick Campbell suffered a stroke when he was 14 that stole his two biggest passions from him: video games and drawing. He is now 21 and over the years he has gained back some of his strengths and abilities. Before his stroke, he had naturally been right-handed, but he has never regained the use of his right hand. This has pushed him to write and draw with his left hand. Traditionally, gaming has required two hands, but Campbell didn’t let that stop him. He has perfected ways to play video games using his left hand, as well as other body parts, and he plays well enough to beat many of his friends (link to article here). There are many more examples of gamers that accomplish great things.
It is true that people are influenced by games, sometimes in a negative way. Some people do allow themselves to get lost in a virtual world that they believe to be better than the real one. In 2000, China banned video game consoles, hoping its citizens would spend less time gaming (link to article here). While preventing people from playing console games, the Chinese have turned to PC games. Further, this December, China’s first gaming console is going on sale (link to article here). 
Also, although games could push people to do bad things, games aren’t necessarily the reason why people do bad things. It's been rumored that if you have naturally violent tendencies, then violent video games may magnify your existing behaviors. I have played video games since I was 2-years-old and played my first shooter when I was in elementary school and it hasn’t negatively affected my behavior in anyway. If you are naturally a creative person, video games can help push your creativity. It all depends on the individual playing the game.
Games are not the only medium that can influence people’s behaviors; movies, television shows, music, and books all play a role as well. It has been highly publicized that Mark David Chapman, the killer of John Lennon, said that the book The Catcher in the Rye pushed him to murder (link to article). The media isn’t an innocent bystander either. Everyday, the news relies on violent acts (riots, wars, homicides) to make headline news. So when it comes to scapegoats, society should stop pointing fingers at gamers.

1 comment:

  1. When the Beatles were popular ministers, especially Billy Graham, politicians and talk show hosts blamed all the world's problems on them, their music and the clearly negative effect it was having on youth.

    Those with the power to get their opinions in front of the public are always looking to blame someone for whatever ails the world.

    Sounds like 1935.