Are Video Games Stopping Our Children From Growing Up?
This is difficult to write, primarily because it's difficult to acknowledge as a distinct possibility.
Last year, The Atlantic published an intriguing and well-written feature (does The Atlantic produce anything else?) entitled, "The End of Men." It addressed a sociological shift in our society that involves women surpassing men in a variety of categories, from schooling to career success to general independence and even intelligence. Furthermore, one doesn't have to look far to find concerned editorials and even scientific studies that tackle a disturbing trend: Males in this country simply refusing to grow up.
Obviously, video games can hardly be pinned down as the sole culprit, but there's little doubt that games can be linked to our childhoods. And of course, indulging in a fictional fantasy world is also associated with child-like hobbies, such as comic books and cartoons. Furthermore, strictly from my own experience, I can indeed confirm that those who really get lost in fantasy universes as adults (cosplayers, D&D-ers, etc.) tend to exhibit more adolescent traits and haven't really advanced quite as far in terms of life achievements. They're just plain behind.
But I won't use anecdotal evidence to prove a point. I do, however, refer you to a recent Kotaku feature, where prominent game makers talk about the shockingly common receipt of death threats from disgruntled gamers. Of course, I am quick to blame the Internet more than the games - as we should all rightfully do - because the power of the anonymous voice is unparalleled. With little in the way of potential consequences, people can basically react however they wish without fear of any real reprisal. That's the nature of the Internet and reaches far beyond gaming.
But that's not what's concerning. What's concerning is the fact that the vast majority of such complaints are likely to come from males between the ages of 18 and 30, precisely the sex and age The Atlantic called out last year. Passion is one thing, but reacting to such extreme degrees and essentially getting away with such conduct is counterproductive. When immaturity meets immaturity online, the plague tends to spread; voices of reason and wisdom are quickly drowned out, and gamers are once again given a bad name. The most disturbing? This is entertainment. This level of insanity should be reserved for politics and life-and-death situations, yes?
What this tells me is that far too many people - and again, many of which are males of a certain age - simply aren't doing enough with their lives. The only way people get worked up enough to send death threats is if the subject in question dominates a fair portion of their day-to-day lives. The guy who works a normal work week and raises a family does not have time (or energy) to do anything like this, and would likely regard any such over-the-top reactions as, wait for it...childish. Thing is, when we regrettably grow up, our minds are occupied with things that actually matter. There simply isn't any room for mass hysteria over a video game.
Therefore, perhaps it's perfectly legitimate to suggest that interactive entertainment can have a negative impact on the development of children. One might argue that getting too "involved" in anything can result in such frightening passion that leaks out as immature hostility. But that really isn't true; kids who get lost in a book and learn to love reading probably won't be sending authors death threats in their teen and young adult years.
4/23/2012 8:46:53 PM Ben Dutka