"The Demise Of Guys" Has Absolutely Nothing To Do With Gaming
Ah, yes. Another mainstream news story that manages to provide readers with a vast array of implications and insinuations, which veteran gamers have been reading for years. In fact, decades.
Unfortunately, given the state of the world, anti-game activists have no shortage of ammunition. Furthermore, given the rising popularity of interactive entertainment - in that it's just about as common as movie-watching for the 18-35 demographic - it's easy to tie just about any tragedy to video games. The guy who killed his whole family or raped a nun probably watched a movie at some point in his life, and probably played a video game. He probably ate a carrot, too. But we won't be blaming carrots, here. That'd be illogical and downright silly.
For the record, I am a firm believer in the headline itself: "The Demise of Guys." I have addressed this before, citing The Atlantic's "The End of Men" piece, and it's plain as day that these days, women are kicking butt in this society and men...well, they seem content to lag behind. Obviously, significant contributing elements must exist for such a drastic shift to occur. And although I'm not a doctor, I do hold a Psychology degree and I do have eyes; therefore, I know you can't blame online porn and video games for the fact that boys refuse to grow up.
In addition, I think it's important to recognize something interesting about video games, something most all researchers and doctors miss because they're not gamers themselves. There's an empowering element in gaming that is not about "instant gratification." Also, there is an underlying conservative theme in a country dominated by the liberal side, which actually runs counter to the "it's okay if you don't want to be a stereotypical male" theory that's running rampant. In fact, would it not be safe to assume that stereotypical men are actually looked down upon in this country now, potentially as type-A neanderthals or some such nonsense?
While there are many great characters in games, and that includes fantastic female roles during this generation, the "damsel in distress" theme hasn't entirely disappeared, nor has the belief that men are supposed to be strong, confident, powerful, and respectful - even deferential - towards women. The idea that all strong, confident men are just ignorant womanizers is a rash assumption and one that is contributing to the decline of men. Men are softer - both mentally and physically - and women are harder, if only to prove that we're all more similar than we may believe. ...and that, of course, is also crap.
The point is, after playing games for 28 years, I have found them to be relaxing; a stress reliever of sorts. I have also found that some of the "old-fashioned" values, which have all but disappeared in society, continue to survive in gaming (at least to some extent). Then there's the empowering aspect, which is actually not that much different than the feeling I get after lifting weights or rowing. It doesn't make me aggressive; it makes me feel energetic. It doesn't make me want to dominate females; it makes me want to smack a guy who abuses females in any way. I have not learned that women are supposed to look like the chicks in Dead or Alive; I have learned that women should be both respected and adored.
The article in question, concerning Dr. Phillip Zimbardo's book, is misleading. I don't know if the book is misleading, too; I suspect it isn't. I suspect CNN was fishing for a headline and when it comes to video games, we always know in which direction that headline will turn. They can say what they want. Until someone starts to recognize the two points illustrated here - the empowering element and the conservative, old-fashioned values/themes - that are still available in gaming, I will not be inclined to lend an ear to the mainstream press' tunnel vision.
5/24/2012 10:28:40 AM Ben Dutka