Gaming My Way

21 Feb

Video Games vs. “Traditional Entertainment”

There has been a lot of talk in the media about video games, obviously. Some of the worst of this talk says certain games should be banned as they don’t uphold the values a particular group thinks they should. Other versions say that games cause people to become murderers. I’m sure all gamers here are familiar with this talk. I’m not going to address this any further, as I think there’s little hope for convincing these people otherwise through my site, and there are groups working on getting this issue dealt with already.

What I want to focus on are another group of people. These people recognize our right to play whatever games we want, assuming we are of an appropriate age. They also recognize the rights of minors to play games their parents deem acceptable, even if said games are generally not approved for minors. Finally, they recognize the right of game developers  to create games of all kinds, and that it’s a parent’s job to raise their children, not society’s. So far, so good. This is great progress from where we used to be.

However, there is still an issue that needs to be addressed among some, though not all, of these people. That is the bias they still hold towards more “traditional” forms of entertainment. Specifically, non-gaming entertainment, such as television, sports, reading, writing, and similar pursuits. Many people who support the rights of gamers still put gaming a peg or two below other forms of entertainment in terms of how they view it.

That is to say, they say it’s our right to play games, but really, we should be sure we’re out playing sports for exercise or doing something constructive. Then go play games in our off time. What makes playing sports any better than playing video games (or roleplaying games, for that matter) in terms of doing something constructive? Yes, I know they provide exercise. They also get us out into social situations. Some are even quite a bit of fun to play.

So let’s look at gaming. Video games can also be a social activity. In fact, Nintendo has basically won the market by making the Wii a social gaming platform. But even the other consoles and PC gaming have plenty of social gaming opportunities, with multiplayer options both online and in person. Roleplaying games are social by their very nature, as you must have multiple people involved for the game to work. With one person, you’re just writing a story. Of course, neither of these activities provide exercise, unless you count a very small number of video games, such as Dance Dance Revolution and Wii Fit.

However, these activities provide other benefits. Many video games test us mentally, forcing us to either solve puzzles, or find strategies for defeating difficult enemies. Sometimes it’s necessary to be able to do this with very little time to think, teaching us how to make sound decisions quickly. Many games are also tests of our reflexes, helping to keep us alert. A well written crpg or tabletop rpg can help us see the world in a new way, in much the same way a well written book can. In short, gaming does for us mentally what sports do for us physically.

When it comes to television, I can’t comment much since I don’t watch much of it. It’s just not my thing. When it comes to reading, I love reading as much as I love gaming, and find that it does much the same thing for me as gaming does. The biggest difference for me is that I become more immersed in a book than a game, but in gaming, I get to actively participate.

In the end, I think there are two issues that need to be addressed, and I think we’re already well on the way to doing so as a society. The first is that there are still a lot of people who look at the way things were, and want to see them stay that way. They’re afraid of what’s new, or simply don’t know how to react to it. This will become a non-issue as time goes on, and gaming becomes more and more a part of our culture. Still, we could try to use this as a learning experience, so the next time something new comes along, we learn about it and why people like it, as well as what value there may be in it. This would be far better than making the next big thing the new scapegoat for society’s ills.

The other issue is that we are a culture that places huge value on physical health and well being, without that same emphasis on mental health and well being. As such, sports are seen as inherently better because, in general, they improve our physical health. Gaming, on the other hand, makes us think, and works more to improve our mental ability and intelligence. Like reading, gaming is much more exercise for the mind.  This is something that needs to be addressed, because mental ability is just as important as physical ability, and as a culture, we need to learn to recognize this. Perhaps if we understood this better, and understood that games provide benefits in this area, society wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss them as a novelty not worth the time.

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