This episode we go over some of the warning signs video game rehab facilities say to watch for and quickly realize, according to them, we all need rehab. Randy also has a new rant about Star Wars Battlefront 2 micro-transactions.
On one hand you have the person who puts guild leader in World of Warcraft on a job application and another where a gamer turned an idea into a million dollar company. My take is it does not have to be the best or the worst outcome, there is a lot of middle which can allow you to game and take care of the important stuff.~J.A. Laraque
Gaming in the Spotlight
Remember when even mentioning that you played computer games was met with weird looks? Maybe not, but if you are a gamer in your 40’s to 50’s you might remember when people just could not understand how you could sit looking at a screen all day, as if there wasn’t this thing called television.
As games became more popular in the 90’s more and more people got used to seeing, mostly kids, playing on a home console system. The thought was that it was a child’s toy like any other, all the while gamers from a past generation were helping to push computer gaming into the forefront.
With the holy trinity of arcade games, home console systems and computer games all being popular at once gaming stepped into the spotlight. You began to hear of the senior citizen who could beat Pac-Man with one quarter or the CEO who played Doom before meetings. There still was a push back to gaming however, and many people still saw it as an immature activity or something only geeks and nerds did.
When MMO’s arrived many new gamers were created. While games like Everquest still attracted more experienced gamers it was easier to play games such as City of Heroes and World of Warcraft that brought in a new group of gamers, ones who had never gamed before. Now in one family you could find every member playing a video game, from Mario Cart to Guitar Hero, but this new exposer also brought along its owns issues and stereotypes.
As more people played video games more news reports talked about people neglecting their responsibilities be it at home, work or school. People cared about gaming and the media was fascinated if not late to the party and with coverage of people becoming sick or even dying because of a video game we had a new rallying cry against video games that had not been seen since the fight over video game violence of the 90’s.
The idea of the nerdy gamer came roaring back as a picture was painted of the loser World of Warcraft player living in his or hers parents basement. We saw documentaries of people needing help for gaming addition because of how video games ruined their lives. The attacks did not just come from the outside, but from other gamers who saw certain MMO players as not real gamers or people who made gamers look bad.
Then came social games like Farmville and mobile games like Bejeweled and later, Angry Birds. Now, almost everyone was playing something and whether or not they considered themselves a gamer did not matter, a game was being played and the industry was as strong as ever.
The lazy, immature or loser label however has not disappeared. Just recently a state Senate candidate was attacked by her opponent for playing World of Warcraft. Fliers were sent out showing her character, an Orc Rogue, and various postings of hers on forums that discussed the online game.
“I don’t understand why I’m being targeted for playing online games when all I’ve done is campaign on the issues.” She said and went on to say; “There are a lot of these misconceptions about people who play online games. I’ve played with people who are retired, college professors and lawyers. I’ve only ever played with adults.”
She also stated that she hardly ever logs into the MMO anymore and her game of choice is now Angry Birds. However, her defense is pretty normal for many gamers. Often when confronted for playing games the response is that they do not play that much anymore or that the specific game in question is no longer fun for them so they now play another game, normally one that is more socially acceptable, as crazy as that sounds.
Anyone who follows gaming culture has most likely seen both sides. On one hand you have the person who puts guild leader in World of Warcraft on a job application and another where a gamer turned an idea into a million dollar company. My take is it does not have to be the best or the worst outcome, there is a lot of middle which can allow you to game and take care of the important stuff.
While it may be beating a dead horse to state this, anything can become too much be it sports, food, even working out and yes, gaming. Not everyone is going to turn their StarCraft playing into a E-Sports career just as the World of Warcraft player does not have to have pale skin and poop in a sock.
Just as people have a television show they love to watch and must see the same is with our games and we should be proud of what we love. You can balance recreation and responsibilities and you should never deny what you enjoy as long as it is not hurting others and you are not hurting yourself.
Video games are in the spotlight as are those who play them. We need to show the truths of gaming from all sides, the good and the bad and still proclaim that this is who we are and we are not changing based on negative stereotypes and attacks.
It’s no secret that the mainstream media circles like sharks around any news regarding the video gaming industry. Ignoring easily found industry stats that show the average age of a video gamer is 37 years old, most video gaming stories seem to focus on children, the smallest demographic of the industry today. Ignoring the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) ratings system and it’s proven track record, most video gaming stories seem to insist that the latest hit Rated M video game is being purchased by droves of children, all of whom will grow up to be criminals and violent souls.
This was evident shortly after the Supreme Court shot down California’s law which would have criminalized sales of Rated M games to children. Many headlines and stories were worded to make it sound as if 8 year olds could now rush out and purchase Mortal Kombat without anything to stop them. It’s been evident at other times this year as well, with some stories claiming that games like Bulletstorm and Duke Nukem Forever could bring down the moral standard of society or something.
The newest mainstream media event regarding video gaming is the story of 20-year-old British gamer Chris Staniforth. A fan of the XBox 360 console, Staniforth died from deep vein thrombosis, a condition that can be caused by sitting or laying down in a cramped position for long periods of time.
Right away, news stories from a variety of sources came to be, with headlines reading “XBox Gamer Dies of Blood Clot After Marathon Session” (Fox News), “XBox Addict Killed By Blood Clot” (Yahoo!), and “Playing Video Games Without A Break Could Kill You” (MSNBC).
Sure enough, the mainstream press is latching onto this one, focusing not on the fact that Staniforth didn’t take breaks or stretch periodically, but instead focusing on the fact that he was a video gamer who played long sessions at a time.
Video gaming didn’t kill young Staniforth, folks. His own lack of activity did. He could have been an employee in a computer cubical for 40 hours a week that ate lunch at his desk. He could have been a person that travelled a lot, sitting for those long hours in planes and cars. He could have been sitting around watching a Harry Potter movie marathon, collecting stamps or watching paint dry.
DVT hits hundreds of thousands of people a year from all walks of life and all ages. Yes, there are fatal cases there as well. I really have to wonder if this young man was a movie critic or a bus driver if there would be near as many headlines.
Yes, Staniforth’s death is tragic. It’s serious and sad news. But how about a little journalistic integrity every once in a while, something that puts the focus on his lack of activity instead of his entertainment choices? This is not a video game story, mainstream media, it’s an exercise, activity and health story. Reporting it as anything other than that is irresponsible and ignorant.
Extra special thanks to Fox News, who put the words “gamer” and “gaming” in quotation marks in their version of the story, as if those were some kind of oddball terms. As a result, this writer and “gamer” for 30 years will refer to them as Fox “News” going forward each and every time I note something written by one of their “journalists” or “reporters”.
Some good might come of the story if it makes others aware of how important activity of any kind is during their work or entertainment time. Sadly, thus far, most reports (excuse me, “reports”) wish to focus on the whole “video games could kill you” angle instead.
Remember to get up and take some breaks, “gamers”… and computer techs… and taxi drivers… and airline passengers… and everyone else. The activity is important during ANY and ALL tasks.
This comes from the WTF desk. In China a couple was arrested for trying to sell their children. Why did the couple try to do this? Well, the couple originally met at an internet café and in a very quick time moved in together. The couple got married and had three children. Their first child was left at home so the parents could go to an internet café to play video games.
After the couple was arrested, they claimed they did not know what they were doing was illegal stating:
“We didn’t want to raise them. We just want to sell them for some money.”
Apparently, the plan was to use the money from selling all three children to buy more games or gaming time at the café.
Sadly, I am sure the story here will be that video games are bad, not that people should use protection and birth control if you rather play video games than raise kids.
A new study was recently conducted that talked about the link between mental health issues and video game addiction. I for one would first start by saying that if it has already been established that you are addicted to video games then you already have a mental issue. The study looked at three thousand 4th through 8th grade children and found that nine percent of them had “pathological gaming” problems.
The study showed that mental health issues including depression, anxiety and poor grades led these children to access video game playing. The study stated that children who are socially awkward with a high tendency toward impulsive behavior and who had played a great amount of video games are at higher risk to become addicted to them.
Many people with some stating that they used “flawed methodology” have attacked the research study. There definitely are some issues I have found with the study, but first let us look at the CNN report.
The first issue I have with the study is the age range. Perhaps once you reach the junior high age video game addiction can become more of a concern due to the different social structures you will find yourself in. However, parenting is still paramount and if your 4th grader is becoming addicted to video games then it is solely the fault of the parent.
While issues before a child is born can cause different mental issues in children it is how you are raised that will determine when and how those issues will come about. Even if your child becomes a video game addict once he or she beings college it can be prevent by parenting or general supervision long before then.
If a parent cannot, does not or will not take the real time it takes to raise a child then that child will cling onto the first stimuli that it finds be it games, television or even positive activities such as reading. An active parent who is in control can allow the child to experience games, books, and television in the proper moderation without becoming overbearing causing the child to rebel just because.
When it comes to social awkwardness, the lines can become blurry mainly because the idea of what is socially acceptable changes from week to week. At one time, anyone who used a computer or played video games was looked down upon yet today it is much more accepted and mainstream. Again we return to the issue of age because as you develop and grow you are discovering what kind of person you will become socially. Just because a child may choose to remain quiet and listen to a conversation as opposed to talking the lead and running it does not necessarily mean your child has an issue or will develop one.
When we talk about social awkwardness the problem comes about when we compare how the person acts in different to other children, mainstream concepts of social acceptance or even the parents own social history. Often if we do not understand the ever-changing social structure, we will find fault where there is none. On the other hand, many parents are in denial and will misdiagnose why a child is not fitting in.
It is far too easy to point to a gamer that spends a lot of time playing video games and state that his lack of “face time” with other human beings is a result of that gaming time. For many gamers the act of gaming is their social time especially in games where you play in team or guilds or with thousands of other players. In addition, many gamers have tried to find common ground with other children in the outlets they have access to such as school, the neighborhood and other activities and found they relate to other gamers.
This is where many studies fail in my opinion because they refuse to adequately study the social dynamic of gamers. While it can be a generally true statement that a gamer is less socially mainstream than a non-gamer it is not true that being socially mainstream is the best course for every child. If a gamer has a strong core of good friends, who can provide positive reinforcement then it should not matter as much where that common ground was found, as long as the act of gaming does not hurt the child physically or mentally then choosing to ally his or herself with other gamers can be socially healthy.
In the end, it again comes down to parenting and control. If a parent takes an active role and is willing to learn instead of just reacting then it is much easier to distinguish if your child is finding friends within the gaming community or is turning to gaming because of an inability to make friends in the real world. If you monitor your child’s game play just as you would their television time or even food intake it will become easier to discover the truth.
There is a balance that all parents must maintain between keeping a watchful eye and smothering and it varies from child to child. I personally was the type of child that needed an over-viewer, someone who watched from a distance to make sure I was okay, but not directly involved in my minute-to-minute activities. However, children are different and each parent must find out on their own what type of monitoring style works best.
Variety is still the spice of life and as a child, it is important to expose your children to different stimuli while they are young. Even someone who becomes an avid gamer to the point that it becomes a career path can benefit from having experienced many different things as a child. I have personally been exposed to many different social and cultural events, sometimes kicking and screaming and through in the end my love was for computers and video games I know I am a better person for having had those experiences.
Being a gamer does not mean that is all you do. Today’s gamers can go to a sports event, watch a movie, listen to concert and then go home and play hours of World of Warcraft. In order to get to the point where one outlet does not control your entire free time one must be exposed to new things and the things they enjoy the most must be in moderation.
The main problem with a study on video games and its effect on someone socially is that the study often does not research the full home life of subject(s) in question. Take for instance weight as an issue. If a child was overweight and then tuned to gaming did the study take that into account? How about the parent, was enough research done into the parenting style? Many parents would be on guard when their child is under study, how does one find out what effect their parenting had on them before they even had a social life to examine?
This was not an endeavor to discount the effects of excessive gaming; it was more to show that linking social or even mental issues to one cause is flawed science in itself. Even if a study was to take into account that many other factors could have led to social or mental problems if video game addiction is in the forefront then many readers of the study will stop there and not dig further.
Real gaming addiction should be studied and the people who are trapped need to be saved and this will not happen with the way we currently look at it. It will take real steps and a lot of background and extensive research to discover why anyone turns to any one thing to be their everything.