Editor’s note: Derek may be preaching to the choir here, but I love his plan to legitimize gaming to non-gamers (you’ll find it after the ‘Read more’). This is another post from last week that slipped through the cracks…. -Demian
Being a 27-year-old male I am still surprised how consistently I have to defend the honor of videogames. I dream of the day when games aren’t looked at as the lowest rung on the entertainment ladder. The hierarchy of entertainment goes: physical activity > books > radio > movies > TV > games > torturing small animals and/or children. We gamers are only kidding ourselves that we are legitimate.
The gaming industry grosses just as much money as movies or books, yet both of those are seen as intellectually superior. Why is that? Politicians, non-gaming media, and most of the nation see videogames as…games. Hillary Clinton is never going to say that she thinks books are demoralizing today’s youth. Fox News isn’t going to run a story about how reading is making people fat. The only real national attention games garner are 15-second blurbs portraying them as the next soon-forgotten Tickle Me toy, or the seedy underbelly of today’s youth.
Being late to the party has left videogames as the accepted scapegoat for cultural backlash. The thing is, like a lot of gamers, I love playing sports, reading books, watching movies, listening to music, and watching TV. All of these forms of entertainment have their strengths. I can remember the feeling I had the first time I hit a homerun, and the first time I made a winning basket.
Just as clearly, I remember the first time I knocked out Mike Tyson, and the first time I dominated in a 16-person Halo LAN party. These are all great feelings, but truthfully none of them really accomplished anything. I didn’t solve world hunger; I didn’t save anyone’s life. Just because they weren’t actual accomplishments doesn’t take from the enjoyment I experienced while partaking in these events. These were legitimate pleasurable moments in my life, and looking back neither making the winning basket or beating Punch-Out!! is better or worse. They are just different.
So why is the image of videogames so low and how do we change it? I’ve learned that pointing out the inconsistencies in people’s beliefs does no good. For instance, whether you are reading a book or watching TV, you’re doing the same amount of activity. Yet, I’ve been told countless times by people attempting to impress me, “I don’t watch TV, I’d rather read a good book.”
On one particular occasion I asked my friend which book he was reading — he was reading the Twilight series because his wife likes it. Somehow, in his head, me playing games or watching TV is a waste of time, but a 32-year-old man reading a series of books meant for 13-year-old girls is completely acceptable. I’m not saying that him reading those books isn’t acceptable, I’m just saying videogames are just as, if not more, acceptable.
And there’s also the generation gap. My Grandma Anna would say, “You’re always playing those videos. They are going to rot your mind. Why don’t you come play a game of Scrabble?” While Scrabble is definitely a good tool for expanding my vocabulary, knowing the definition of ‘AA’ has been just as beneficial in life as knowing where the first whistle is in Mario 3. The point is that both Mario and Scrabble are fun games that challenge the brain in different ways, yet one is for Cheeto-loving, basement-dwelling losers and the other is for active, with-it retirees who have partial if not full mastery of their bladders.
I’ve come to this unexpected conclusion: We, as gamers, can’t actively change the public’s opinion of our hobby. We can write as many angry blogs, forum posts, or tweets as we want, it just won’t help. What we can do is relish the role. Seize the stereotype and make it our own. The only way to make people accept something new is to make them feel that they are stupid for not understanding it.
The next time someone wants you to explain to them why gaming is a legitimate source of entertainment, brush them off. Tell them that they won’t understand. Make them feel stupid and inadequate. Say things like, “How can I put BioShock in layman’s terms?” and then sigh and stare bravely at the horizon. Or, “Let’s see if I can dumb down for you why Final Fantasy is awesome.” Maybe leave out the part about how Tifa was the first woman you really loved.
Speak to them slowly and loudly, like I do for some reason when I’m talking to someone who doesn’t speak English. Make them ashamed for not knowing the Contra cheat code. Speak as if YOU are the intellectual. Tell them that some people will play Call of Duty and some people will forever be playing Tinkertoys. Act as if you are from the future and they are still cavemen drawing animals on the wall. If we can’t show them how great games are then we will have to make them wish they could understand it. Our story is like The Emperor’s New Clothes. They are the emperor and we will be the clothing salesman.
Let me know what you think.