I’m going to start this article with one simple fact…I love video games. I’ve been playing them practically my whole life, since as early as I can remember. Gaming is my biggest hobby and I’ll even go as far as to say it’s part of who I am. Now before you think this is a love letter to all that is gaming, there’s a reason for this. I was having a conversation with my girlfriend and my “fondness” of gaming was mentioned. I won’t go into details, but I ended up having to explain why I enjoy games so much and why it’s just as viable as any other hobby. Afterward I thought about the conversation and wondered…why did I have to defend the fact that I play games?
I’m sure many gamers have had similar experiences when someone may question why we play games, or why we don’t find another past-time. At times these people can even be condescending, as if by playing games we’re automatically deemed lower than others. But why do people think this way, and why do gamers have to justify their enjoyment of games?
I think a large stem of the problem is the overall view of games in the media. Either games are viewed as something for kids and young adolescents to enjoy, or games are a bad influence that can cause developmental issues and violent tendencies. In a sense, these views coincide. People are so worried about kids being exposed to mature or violent themes that they forget that games aren’t only made for kids. This is why we have the ESRB ratings. If a game is rated M, then that means parents should be careful about letting their children play such games. I understand that it’s still easy for anyone to pick up an M rated game, but rather than taking a more active approach on monitoring what their child plays, many people seem to feel that just having these mature games out there is a crime.
Let’s take the recent game Bulletstorm as an example. Here’s an article about Bulletstorm possibly being the worst game in the world. The game has guns, profanity, body dismemberment, sexual innuendos, and more. But I doubt the creators had nine year old children as their target demographic, despite what the people in the above article seem to think. This game was made for people who love over-the-top action and dirty humor. In a way, it reminds me of a movie that was released last year called The Expendables. The action-packed, testosterone-filled, explosion-fest of a movie had a similar audience in mind, and the movie accomplished what it set out to do. It was entertaining fun for action buffs, and Bulletstorm is trying to do something similar for gamers. However, it’s Bulletstorm that gets all the controversy. While some of the sexual terms are a little extreme, this game isn’t for kids, and much worse has been said and shown outside of video games. There are plenty of movies that feature graphic violence, sex, and controversial themes. Heck, I could say the same about books as well, but when those things appear in a video game you have to hide your children! The fact is, children and adolescents can’t be shielded from everything, so rather than have people get angry over the material in some games (which can much more easily be found in all sorts of media), isn’t it better to inform children about some of these issues instead blaming games? Really, video games get more negative press than they deserve.
But I guess this goes even deeper than game controversies. Maybe the biggest reason why gamers have to defend their hobby is the fact that video games just aren’t taken seriously. Perhaps this is due to misinformed people who only view games as the media presents them, which again isn’t in the brightest light. However, if more people were willing to accept that games can be as just stimulating as any book, movie, or hobby, maybe we wouldn’t have to defend the medium. The journey experienced in a role playing game, the competitive spirit evoked by a good fighter, the sense of teamwork achieved in a cooperative shooter…these are the things more people need to hear about, but there are plenty who can’t see outside of their little box. So much work and effort goes into making a good game, and it’s a shame that the industry doesn’t always get the respect nor the recognition it deserves.
I do hope that eventually games become as widely accepted and embraced as other entertainment mediums. I don’t know if that day will come, but frankly…I don’t care either. The fact that I can have fun playing games and converse with my fellow gamers about them is something important to me.
I know why I love games, and that’s enough for me.