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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Gamers are real people!

A story here which says that fans of computer games are not all weird. I have never quite understood this whole media fixation with games just because they are on a screen rather than face-to-face. A lot of games draw on all kinds of creative energies and are arguably far better for cognitive development than just passively watching TV. As for the arguments about various social pathologies, well, this book is an excellent corrective to the social scolds, pointing out that games involving superheroes and vanquishing monsters is actually a very healthy thing.

Coming next, research shows that people who like to play poker with their mates on a Friday night, play tennis on a Sunday afternoon, do the Times crossword, are also normal. (Sarcasm alert).

Of course, by some yardsticks of social behaviour, gamers, or other hobbyists, are “weird”, but then what counts as normal, exactly?

Personally, I think the world could use a bit more eccentricity, not less.

18 comments to Gamers are real people!

  • Many in the media and politics thinks its normal to go out with a bunch of mates to get blotto and watch football. Its not “normal” to them to get together with a bunch of mates, a few pizzas, some beer to blow the living dung out of each other (or others) in video games.

    It doesn’t take a genius to realise which one is more likely to result in violence.

    A good site on the subject is called Gamepolitics; one of my daily reads.

  • MarkE

    I worked with someone “normal” once. Not sure I could live like that.

  • Matt2

    Seconded MarkE. My previous job was at a large corp where everyone was “normal”, drove me mad. I’ve gone to a small company where I get to work with geeks and eccentrics who are *far* more interesting company.

  • Eamon Brennan

    One bit of media bollocks that gets trotted out repeatedly is, such-and-such killed 6 people, such and-and-such played Medal of Honour/Half-life/Gears of War, Unreal tournament/etc…. Therefore…

    Ignoring the fact that millions upon millions of people played FPS games without going on killing sprees.

  • These people are arseholes. They’re probably saying it because their 8 yr old nephew once annihilated them at Tekken or something.

    They are invariably sticking their oar into waters they have no knowledge of. If I had a quid for everytime I’ve heard phrases like, “mindless violence”, “it’s all just reflexes” and “it means the kids don’t socialize” I’d be flying over the Yalu in a custom-built F-86 cockpit in the shed rather than just in front of a screen. Sheesh… They should try Civ 4.

    Oh do I need to add. They just hate anything they don’t understand.

  • “I think it’s an evolution of social and cultural stereotypes that suggest only nerds and geeks play computer games,” [the study's author] added. “The reality is that nowadays everyone is playing video games.”

    I think there’s some truth there. I am a geek and was a nerd (I’ve since learned *some* social skills). People used to think I was wierd for playing computer games.

    Now everyone plays computer games, thanks to Guitar Hero and Singstar; the Wii and the DS.

    Now people think I’m wierd for playing Flight Simulator or Magic: The Gathering. It’s a matter of degree.

    Computer games are so pervasive now that if you want to make generalisations about gamers you have to say what *type* of game you’re talking about.

  • The reality is that nowadays everyone is playing video games.

    So that makes it OK then? I mean as long as everyone is doing it.

  • Nick, I agree with you in general, but it does prevent kids from socializing, at leas as far as traditional type of socialization is concerned. It has been replaced with a new type of socialization, and it has its pros and cons (just as the old type had both), not all of which are yet obvious enough.

  • Sam Duncan

    I’m not sure that’s necessarily true, Alisa. When I was a kid virtually all my socialising involved videogames somewhere (still does, to some extent). And this was long before online play, MMRPGs and whatnot (which I still don’t like very much – the social aspect isn’t as immediate). About a dozen of us would cram into each other’s bedrooms to play on the C64s and Spectrums, just as previous generations did with model railways, Meccano and stamp collections. Where my parents’ generation had been brought together perhaps by an interest in music or films, we had games. I didn’t see the difference then, and I don’t see it now.

    The kid doing nothing but sit in his room playing games alone is largely a myth. And for those few who do, I don’t see it as any different to him locking himself away listening to records or watching TV all day. The kid has a problem, not his choice of pastime.

  • Sam, you obviously are very young: when I was a kid, there were no videogames:-) Anyway, you do have a point. Some kids (and adults) need more social interaction than others, some need very little or none at all. The problem is with those in the middle. These kids can spend a lot of time by themselves, playing games (electronic or not), or reading books (I was, and still am one of those). But when they heard neighbors’ kids playing outside, that was a very strong incentive to go out and join. These days there is almost no such thing as kids playing outside. So whatever social needs the kid has are fulfilled by online interaction.

    I didn’t see the difference then, and I don’t see it now.

    The difference may be not in the amount* of interaction, but in its quality: it is a decidedly different kind, for better and worse.

    *In many cases there may even be more interaction now than in the “old days”. For example, if it were not for the internet, instead of “talking” to you right now, I probably would have been reading a book.

  • Sam Duncan

    Sam, you obviously are very young

    Don’t know about “very”. I think I can still just about get away with “mid”-30s, pretending 40 isn’t looming on the horizon. :-)

    These days there is almost no such thing as kids playing outside. So whatever social needs the kid has are fulfilled by online interaction.

    Ah, now that I accept (up to a point; here in Glasgow we have thousands of tenement blocks whose shared, enclosed, back courts are full of kids). However that’s surely as much – if not more – the fault of overprotective parents than videogames. At worst, a combination of the two. Kids aren’t being allowed to play outdoors, so they turn to games.

    And I should emphasize that I also accept the difference in quality of interaction online. My point was that games don’t necessarily involve that kind of interaction: my childhood friends socialized around games in exactly the way we would have with any pastime. It’s certainly possible that this is no longer the case for today’s kids, and they’re all shutting themselves away, only ever meeting online. But it doesn’t have to be like that, and since I recall exactly the same concerns being voiced in “my day” (now I feel old), I suspect the problem is being greatly exaggerated.

  • Kids aren’t being allowed to play outdoors, so they turn to games.

    True.

    It doesn’t have to be this way, but it is bound to happen, mainly because of that quality of interaction. It simply is much easier and less emotionally demanding. So kids who are more sensitive find it much safer emotionally. These are often the same kids who are intellectually superior, and who find the company of most other kids their age boring. So what you get is a much wider divide between the jocks and the nerds. If I think about myself as an example, I wasn’t a homecoming queen when I was a kid, but I wasn’t a nerd either. These days I’d most certainly be a nerd:-)

  • As one who was brought up both playing and running D&D (Dungeons & Dragons not drunk and disorderly!) and owned a home computer in the 1980s, I guess I’m one of those who is considered odd. I still play computer games.

    But an insight into Social Workers in London who occasionally visited an elderly relative who lived with us. You are considered really odd if you have bookcases full of books!

  • I had much the same experience as Sam. We socialized around the games the same way my parents generation would around weird black vinyl disks. Apparently by some bizarre analogue process they enabled the off-key caterwauling of mop-topped Scouser’s to be distributed.

    I think Alisa has a point only as far as online gaming and the like are concerned. Back in the days of sneaker-net you needed real flesh and blood friends if you were gonna try and nix each-others high-scores. Seeing as you could only play the likes of Manic Miner for so long… You’d then do something else.

    I blame the media. Firstly they whip-up hysteria over peadophiles which makes parents over-protective and then they witter on about kid’s not playing outside. They still do when they have the chance. Not long ago I had to evict a den from the grounds I’m warden of. Well, not evict exactly. I told ‘em to get it shifted and tidied -up by the end of the week. It did look like a Sao-Paolo fervela, though I don’t suppose many of them have Barbie bed-sheets for a roof, mind.

    I also blame the government. The National Curriculum now starts at birth! So much of childhood is now “directed time” there isn’t the time for kids just to play and develop their own interests and skills. Of course if they were allowed to do we run the risk that they might turn out as individuals.

  • Nick, I live in Israel, and here this whole pedophile hysteria was close to non-existent. It doesn’t mean that we are not overprotective over other, (more real?) threats, but not nearly as much as Americans (I cannot comment on England). Granted, we also have the problem of too much planned pre-school age, and after-school time activities. Still, like I said earlier, the main problem I see with electronic interaction is that it is much safer emotionally. For example, even though you and I have never met, I consider you a friend. However, if one day you seriously piss me off, it would be much less of an emotional crisis for me, than if we actually lived in the same neighborhood, and met face to face every day:-) This is both good and bad. Good, because the emotional risks involved are much lower (and remember, kids are much more emotionally vulnerable than people our age). Bad, because neither you nor I get to enjoy each other’s company to the fullest possible extent. Like everything else in life, its a tradeoff.

  • I had much the same experience as Sam. We socialized around the games the same way my parents generation would around weird black vinyl disks. Apparently by some bizarre analogue process they enabled the off-key caterwauling of mop-topped Scouser’s to be distributed.

    LOL!

    Off-topic, but the rights holders need to release It’s Trad, Dad! to DVD. The town fathers in the movie hated the pre-Beatles “trad” music the kids were listening to, so I suppose this is a phenomenon that’s nothing new at all.

  • Sunfish

    I blame the media. Firstly they whip-up hysteria over peadophiles which makes parents over-protective and then they witter on about kid’s not playing outside.

    Of course the TV people are going to talk about how dangerous it is to go to the park. Apparently, when I was a kid I got molested every day on account of playing outside. Of course, I can’t remember any of it (probably because it never happened) but if the kids are kept inside they’ll be safe. And they’ll watch television, which according to the TV networks is the safest thing they can do.

    I suppose gaming is healthier than TV, although I’m one of the weirdos who thinks that first-person shooters (my favorite way to kill time when I’m stuck inside my own house) may not be great for kids.

    I’m trying to remember the last time we had a child sexually abused by an adult after being approached in a public place, and nothing comes to mind.

    I also blame the government. The National Curriculum now starts at birth! So much of childhood is now “directed time” there isn’t the time for kids just to play and develop their own interests and skills.

    What does the Right Honorable HM Secretary of State for Ruining Childhood want the toddlers to be doing? Is there a Home Office-approved technique in Advanced Crayon?

  • Gregory

    Leave Games Alone!!! Bawl! Sob!

    Bah. Listen up, man. Touch my Half Life 2 and say bye bye to your genitals as I apply fire to them. Who wants to talk about socialising now, lady?

    /manic game freak

    But seriously, gaming in and of itself is not a problem. As always, it’s the psychology of the people involved (and that includes parents, like it or not) that cause the problems.

    Proud FF series RPGer, Forgotten Realms/AD&D, HL/Valve releases, looking forwards to BioShock and Crysis.