“You are wasting our time in front of those computers, throwing away our life as we are not getting anything back.”
As I reach for the power button of my laptop, I always remember this statement from my parents. This belief, “Time is precious, it need not to be spent on something that is so wasteful like video games,” always seems to have place that is very special place in my parents’ eyes and the image of me turning on a laptop represents as the threat to them. Soon, I start to raise questions about the reasons behind these negative attitudes towards gaming. What I found, is rather nerve wracking. Because of their long complicated history associated with traditional class barriers and problems arising in our society, video games have become a stereotype in a way that is unconsciously accepted by people in every culture, including my parents. To this day, gamers are still placed at the bottom of the ladder being the worthless ones, receiving labels that falsely describe who they are. However, as our society moves forward, video games haven proven to be outweighed any criticisms out there. With new play styles being adopted over the years, video games have taught individual players the benefits of dealing with frustration and anxiety in adaptive ways, equipped them with sharper minds and creativity, motivated them to work for a better goal, while at the same time, led an industry that significantly impacted our economy in a positive way.
Games were originally created with a purpose for a world in which any players could be free to become what he/she wants through individual effort. They were unlike any real world situations as in here, success was measured purely on mental talent. As expected, this new type of entertainment rapidly gained popularity all over the world. The poor class, the underrepresented people, succeeding at video game received admiration which was not easily obtainable outside of the gaming world (Meadows). For those who felt like they are left out from the community, stuck where they were because of social barriers, video games allowed them to unite under one domain as they strived to be more than their reality allowed.
Utilizing this unique characteristic of video games, arcades were created to embrace this cracking of social status, making gaming more accessible for anyone. A local arcade could attract a diverse range of people, in age and race. As an 18-years-old gamer girl was quoted in an interview with Newsweek at a local arcade: “Look at all these people together—blacks, whites, Puerto Ricans, Chinese, this is probably the one place in Boston where there are not hassles about race.” However, this emerging diversity soon faced the suspicious eyes of the public as arcades got more and more popular in the media. (Langway) As many outsiders saw, arcades or video games in general were mediums attracting a complex mix of people, threating the traditional barriers. It was followed then by a series of years when the public tried to blame a specific group of people. Soon, these framing youth caused by these conservative thoughts would grow into a widely accepted stereotype that discriminated against gamers.
Gary M. Grobman, a vice president from the Special Projects, White Hat Communications defines “a “stereotype” as a generalization about a group of people within a larger community. We resort to stereotype when we cannot see the whole picture of problems in our society (Grobman). We then allow ourselves to blame gamers all that are wrong. What is involved in the stereotype of gamer? What gender do you think gamers would be? What place will they usually stay? And lastly, how do they look? If you instantly think of an overweight teen male who spends most of his life in one room, soullessly looking at the computer or TV screen, then you are falling into the classic video game stereotype because this imaginary “logo” doesn’t apply to all of the gamers out there.
My parents always yell at me for how “stupid” I am sitting in front of the computer and blame video games for the cause of my low scores at school. They even compare me to my brother who doesn’t have the hobby of playing games like I do. On an imaginary scale of “addiction” in their eyes, I am at the extreme side of horrific addiction while my brother is on the other end, heavenly purity. The true reason for my dropping scores at school, however, was different. When we moved to the US, the fears being in a foreign land as well as my English pronunciation hindered most of my motivation of schooling. And long with the home sick I was experiencing, ending up in front of the computer screen was the only refuge available as it was my only way of exiting the reality. In fact, video games were not the tools that lowered my score; rather, they were the only buddy that followed and stayed with me through my journey half way around the Earth.
Unfortunately, this is not the only case of the stereotype. At school, if you go around and tell your friends that you are interested in video games, the answer you receive for sharing a hobby is: “Oh that is cool.” However, when being compared to athletic kids who are on the soccer team, the reactions are at a whole different level, ranging from “Wow, what team are you rooting for at this upcoming competition? to “You must be very good right?” Somehow, we have placed the athletic kids and the smart kids as the good and active ones while putting “gamer” kids at the lowest of the bar of not “cool.”
Recently, Michael Atkison, former South Australian Attorney-General made a statement in a public campaign favoring the bill of a R18+ classification for video games that: “my family is more at risk by more at risk from gamers than we are from the outlaw motorcycle gangs who also hate me” (Ramadge). The statement above can be dissected into two parts where the first part pointed out that gamers are threats for a politician’s family, while the second part stated that these threats posed by gamers are even more dangerous than motorcycle gangs. From a bias viewpoint, this statement was spoken by a politician who desperately tried to persuade people to go for his bill. More than that, from a another viewpoint, this 5 second segment of the speech made by that South Australian attorney was in many ways disproportional to the time that will in fact, be taken by scientists to confirm the certainty of the matter. According to PBS, scientist states no one has proven definite relationship between violence and video games. Despite all, what certain here is an answer which can confuse scientists “20-30 years” was stated within five seconds by a South Australian attorney. (Keim)
In February 2010, Caroline Overington, an opinion writer of “The Australian”, an international and nation news company, wrote an article in which she proposed that “anyone over the age of 30 who spends any time deep in some sagging sofa, console in one hand, the other down the front of their pants, imagining themselves to be a combatant in some pretend city, is lame, they don’t participate in life in any meaningful way”, she also described gamers as ‘sadsacks’ and will “never get through an interview.” (Overington, 2010) This statement alone has revealed her inability to distinguish between gamers and lazy people who “don’t live life in a meaningful way.” She is an opinion writer who speaks her mind but doesn’t realize that such actions are not creditable without backed up documented sources. One of the well-known professional player in a game called “Leagues of Legend” named Voyboy recently released his biography involving a 2300 SAT score and the completion of International Baccalaureate program, an international high school degree . To this extent, the part of “never get through an interview” or “not living life in a meaningful way” would not be valid for applying to this case since Voyboy was accepted by competitive universities, but he refused in order to pursuit of his dream as a League of Legend professional player.(Voyboy)
The fact is that gamers are not corrupted by video games. Not all of them are dangerous like motorcycle gangs or seem to be more violent than others. They play games because they are human beings with hobbies like everyone else. And as humans, they also share the same life experiences like many others. Bjergsen, a player from a League of Legend professional team called TSM shared his life story on Facebook which has many characteristic similar to what is happening in our society. He grew up with a past of being bullied; he struggled through schools and ended up dropping out. League of Legend was the refuge he usually hid in when coming home and surprisingly, it was also the path that took him out of bullying (Bjergsen). Sound familiar? With the recently title of Superbowl champion, Seattle must be familiar with the name Derrick Coleman. Growing up deaf at the age of three, he must have suffered many difficulties adapting to the schooling environment (Derrick Coleman). Much like Bjergsen, both of them surpassed their limitations and groomed to be famous names in different fields of entertainment. With these examples being shown, it has been proven that the labels originally discriminated gamers are invalid since these players are not called “jobless ‘sadsacks’” anymore; instead they are earning an employee status with a consistence stipend for as long as they are living up to the audiences’ expectation.
Gaming is like any other hobby; it always provides people unique ways of improving their potentials. Acknowledging this stereotype is a first step, the second one is learning to recognize these benefits of gaming. League of Legend is recently recognized as the most played online game in the world; it is hard to imagine that within five years the game has accumulated 32.5 million players (League of Legends). So what it make the game so popular?
The game itself was based on team synergy in which there are five roles in a team (healer, magical damage carrier, tanker, and physical damage carrier) (League of Legends), each with their own unique skill sets, advantages and drawbacks. All aim for one goal: victory. Because the matching system was random, players could not always get the role they were strong at, forcing them to switch among the roles to fit the team’s need. This unique characteristic not only refreshes the game setting, attracting players, but it also promotes the idea of flexibility and efficiency, teaching players the benefits of dealing with frustration and anxiety in adaptive ways, as researchers at Radboud University Nijmegen said (Granic, Adam, Rutger)
Along with the practice of control your anxiety and temper, video games can also possess the potential of enhancing players’ creativity. At grade 7, my close friend and I started playing a game called “Crossfire” for five hours on the weekends, whenever we had the chance to go out. Every week, we would challenge a couple of kids from our school to play against us with the prize being the fun we all received. These little challenges soon became an all-out, formal invitation only, series of matches that involved around sixteen participants per week. My friends and I were twelve years old back then, but we had already worked on the job of managing the tournaments, setting up the times, and planning out places where we could meet. Together we were able to maintain the tournament’s schedule of one match per week and track all the score in every match to ensure the fairness that we had promised in our invitation.
Compared to what an ordinary 5th-7th grader would do, was I being unproductive with my time or anti-social as many would say? With the undeniable success of our tournament, this word could hardly be used to describe any of us who had put much of our passion to this tournament. And certainly, we are not wasting our time either, as people say. In fact, our tournament was the evidence that gaming is not only not wasteful, it also enhances gamers’ creativity. I read in the news a week ago that in 2008 players of a game called Foldit helped researchers to identify the crystal structure for a monkey virus related to AIDS (Cooper 2010). This problem had taken researchers over ten years, yet, with the creative minds used by these players, the solutions were found three weeks after the launch date of Foldit. In summary, not all video games promote the sense of creativity, however, the stereotype seems to generalize this field, making all games harmful to people. From this perspective, the claim: “Gamers are wasting their life” has proven to be inaccurate.
Much like the competitive aspect of our little tournament, League of Legend has their own system which attracts players to work toward better divisions; however, the competitive atmosphere of this game is more intense compared to ours, as winning here means the difference in the level of admiration. According to Dweck and her colleagues, people who were raised within the environment where their traits meant more than their effort develop a belief that they are superior to others because of the characteristics passed on by their parents. On the other hand, people experiencing the environment based solely on effort establish a notion that success is something to be worked for, not given (Dweck). Believe it or not, these beliefs between both thoughts can lead to different outcomes when having to face the same problem. Given this information, League of Legend is placed in the “worked-for” environment.
As described above, the game is set within the team based environment in which each team member is expected to perform well in order for everyone to get victory. This can be very stressful sometimes. In the virtual world, it doesn’t matter whether you are the president of the US or a drop-out high school student; if you can prove your abilities on the field, then you are better than the rest of the pack. However, if you cannot do so accordingly, then others in the team will citizen you for the loss. The problems are that players can’t constantly perform well in every match they participate. But, if they are exposed to the “worked- for” success environment, then players are more than likely to remain open to those criticism (Dweck). Unfortunately, there are not any proven relations between persistence in video games and real-world situations; however, the idea can spark the further examination into those effects that video games are bringing.
As Charlie Brooker, an editor of The Sydney Morning Herald once said: “If you don’t play games, you’re not just missing out; you’re ignoring the most rapidly evolving creative medium in history.” (Brooker) Unlike their ancestor games like Mario and Pac Man of 10 to 20 years ago, modern video games have expanded through many regions on our planet, giving players more connections than ever before. Contrary to the stereotype which describes gamers as these isolated creatures who spend most of the time by themselves, a lot of players actually play with their friends and family members. In games like Farmville, a Facebook game, neighbors are crucial to your success at the farm as they are the key of improvement. In this game that Zynga created, the object is to expand the scale of your farm, from a paddle field to an animal based farm, however, because this game is created on a social network medium, the developer placed a big emphasis on the connections people have. As the result, in order to strive for better items to improve their farms, players need to make the decisions to trust good neighbors, the active ones, as well as reject the inactive ones. Given these diverse social interactions, players are able to acquire and practice these social skills in a little to no risk involved environment, making Farmville a candidate for social benefits that video games provide.
Moving away from the personal benefits that players get from playing video games, what can society get from getting rid of this stereotype, encouraging the growth of video games? Nowadays, about half of the US populations spend their time playing either computer or video games, or both, according to the Entertainment Software Association. In fact in the past 10 years, US video games sales have grown tripled to $7 billion (Glazer). Many people think that this growing industry would not affect them at all in anyway, however, based on the principle of economic: One person’s spending is another person’s income (Krugman), this growing industry can translate into many other field, proving people with many job. And as their income rises, people can have a more flexible plan for their budget which leads to an increase in consumer spending. These chain reactions can soon boost the whole economy as more and more money is being circled around. As for our country’s benefit, we are getting a huge amount of tax revenue generated from this growing industry. And with this money, our government can have a more flexible space to work with when implementing new bills or policies.
A sport is an activity in which people compete with each other while abiding the rules. Football requires the corporation between men in a team. Similarly, League of Legend or DotA ask for a team of five people in order to win a battle. All team has their unsung heroes, the one who guide them to victory, a coach. And the most important thing, both fields are soaked with the tear of victory along with disappointment of the defeats. With all these shared characters and the mentioned advantages, can someday video games be recognized as a sport if played professionally?
In conclusion, time is indeed very precious as many people know, however, we cannot disregard that the fact that time spent by gamer is also valuable. For those who aim for cultural benefits, eventually, with all these presented benefits to the participants, we might recognize video games as a sport, just as we once did with chess. On the other hand, those who would like to look more into the individual benefits, video games have proven their potentials to develop players’ mind, equipping them with a sharper reaction and better creativity.