Cheats and Walkthroughs
Run the words 'Am I too old for video games?' in Google and you'll see a whole list of forlorn-sounding people pleading for answers on Yahoo! Answers, each hungrier for validation than the last. Six years ago, one chap said, "I want to buy myself a PSP or Nintendo DS but I'm afraid I'm too old to be playing video games because I'm twenty-five." Last month, a financially stable twenty-two year old confessed that he had told himself he would probably just stop liking them by twenty.
For many, video games are still a source of guilt, a masturbatory affliction that needs overcoming regardless of the fact that video games are now a multi-billion dollar industry that has been declared worthy of the rights accorded by the First Amendment. We've definitely come a long way but you still don't talk about video games if you want to get laid.
A Time to Level Up
CNN Contributor William J Bennett is a prime example of someone who sees video games as a part of the problem with our generation. The author of 'The Book of Man: Readings on the Path of Manhood', Bennett was the U.S Secretary of Education from 1985 to 1988 and the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy Under President George H.W Bush.
In an article entitled 'Why Men Are In Trouble?', Bennett observed that 'while women are graduating college and finding good jobs, too many men are not going to work, not getting married and not raising families.'.
“We may need to say to a number of our twenty-something men, "Get off the video games five hours a day, get yourself together, get a challenging job and get married." It's time for men to man up. “
But what about women that play games? Should they be held to the same standards? After all, a lot of us play games. I have proof. Better yet, I have statistics. Last year, The Entertainment Software Association reported that 42% of gamers out there are female, 29% of gamers are over the age of 50 and that there are more adult women playing games than there are adolescent male gamers. We're everywhere, Mr. Bennett and we're made of all sorts: precocious iPhone kids, middle-aged women obsessed with the latest Zynga clone, Wii fans, fetching young professional gamers. The list goes on. Sure, we're graduating from college and finding good jobs, but we're also playing a hell of a lot of video games as well.
And these days, women are also busy making them too. Amy Hennig headed the 150-person team responsible for the Uncharted franchise. Christine Love challenged the world with games like Digital: a Love Story and Analogue: A Hate Story. Kellee Santiago is the president of thatgamecompany and the producer of Journey. Kim Swift made Portal a reality. If women are truly becoming emancipated and are out there proving themselves better than their male counterparts and are growing progressively more immersed in the culture of video games, does this mean men are falling behind because they're not playing enough of them?
More importantly, does it mean that video games are not the problem?
My Gaming Generation
An anonymous source from the world of competitive Starcraft II laughed derisively when I asked if there was ever a time to put the video games away with the Legos. “I'm not ever going to stop playing games. I might stop playing them the way I do now, where they not only consume a very large part of my time but also a very large part of my thoughts. But I'm not going to stop.”
“My 40+ masseuse and I bonded over Star Wars: The Old Republic and she put it so well: "I can't quite keep up with all the young people playing, and I stick mostly to guild management and raiding, but the social contacts from gaming are incredible because not only will you meet so many different people but you have a hobby that is on-demand and fun to share with them."
She enthused, “Especially with E-sports being on the rise, I personally will try to stay involved in the scene -- if not as a gamer, as a veteran of games. Growing out of games could be likened to growing out of football - you might not always be able to keep up with the kids, but there is so much more to it than just playing hardcore.”
Not every advocate of gaming is someone in the industry. A research technician by day and a member of New York's subterranean dance culture by night, Chill teaches popping at the PMT dance studio on 14th Street Manhattan. “It's just like dance. People stay in it as long as their interest holds them in the face of other obligations and negative experiences. That argument of 'out-growing' it has more to do with the individual's experience and/or fatigue from the process.”
Flippantly, the Inhumanoids Crew member commented. “Personally, I've been playing games since Pong and that light gun game that came with it in the 80's. In the last decade, I've made it a rule to not spend more than $300 on a console. I don't make money off playing games, so I'm following a self-made policy on how much to invest in it. Fun, however, is a necessary aspect of life for any healthy mind.”
Jack Cayless, a London-based full-time comic artist and creator of Chimneyspeak concurred. “ Too much of anything can be detrimental to a person's health whether it's mental or physical. Seems like we can't go a month without another tragic death because of too much gaming. But I think that stuff can be easily handled with just a touch of personal responsibility, y'know?”
“So I think gaming's as valid a past time as any other, if not more so for the social and interactive aspects, but sittin' on your arse for 15 hours while tryin' to grind levels is gonna be as detrimental to your health as sittin' on your arse for 15 hours doing anything else.” He noted candidly.
“I wouldn't say that abandoning your method of leisure can be classified as 'growing up'. It's analogous to 'growing up' by stopping fishing, or playin' basketball. Same thing, really.”
A Time For Action and Understanding
The problem here is branding.
Mass media is rife with negative portrayals of video games. Often depicted as unfortunates incapable of maintaining social lives, the term 'gamer' has become synonymous with the word 'loser'. Gamers inhabit their parents' basements. Gamers have no jobs. Gamers are physically unattractive and oblivious to the concept of personal hygiene. Gamers are terrorists.
It's no wonder the concept of gamer is difficult to understand, considering that it is still evolving. There are no precedents. Two generations ago, video games were a little more than a twinkle in someone's eye; blocky pixels powered by computers the size of a room. Our society has only just begun to grow accustomed to the presence of video games. We're still learning. We're still familiarizing ourselves with the idea that video games are a legitimate form of entertainment, that it isn't a passing fad steeped in problems. It doesn't help that human beings are such visual beings. What you see is what you get. And what is to be expected when we are constantly accosted by images of people dying from extended gaming sessions? What are our grandparents to believe when political figures declare war against violent video games?
Is it time to grow up and stop playing?
But it is time that we look beyond the stuff we see in the news and see gaming for what it is. Across the world, schoolteachers and soccer moms nurture virtual crops and play competitive Bejeweled. Corporate executives dabble with iPhone titles to pass the time. Children and working adults alike collect Nintendo DS street passes. Teenagers make a career out of their passions. However, these people are still largely invisible. Not everyone watches eSports on TV. Not everyone has learned to associate the idea of video games with the concept of healthy, functional adults.
But the voices of those who do understand are getting louder.