My video game experience: some Pac-Man, watching Fortnite over my boyfriend’s shoulder (while I complain loudly about how stupid and what a waste of time that game is) and a good amount of Galaga (the one game where I can say I made it past level two). So, I guess you could say I am not full of experiences with this method of entertainment. And having grown up in a household where we moved often, driving long, long hours in a cramped car, I often found my entertainment in books and music rather than the small screen of my sister’s Nintendo. I hated that Nintendo, by the way. My sister often got crabby when she played it, either in frustration, because she could not pass a level, or because we had arrived at the destination and she had to turn it off. So I began to dread that tiny black box, knowing that with it would only come her constant requests for me to help her pass some level and then complaining to get it back right away. Ever since I can remember, I have always not only hated video games, but immediately disliked anyone who said they were a gamer. What is so wrong with video games to cause this unfair judgement of others?
According to my mother, people who play video games all the time are a drag on society. I envisioned them in my head as pale, overweight adolescents, staring at a screen while they mindlessly press buttons. My mom said often, “Never marry someone like that.” Now, I have a good number of friends who are gamers, and I know the ideas my mom put in my head are not true for the majority of people who play video games. And yet, still I cannot say I truly like video games, even though now I do not hold a prejudice against people who play them like how I used to.
Violence is something heavily featured in video games and also something that I personally do not think growing teenagers should be experiencing so heavily. When someone is playing within a virtual world where they can kill without consequence as an emotionless all-powerful controller, or even more, someone who feels excitement and accomplishment when they kill someone else, that has unconscious effects on how that person then feels toward these things in a non-virtual world.
Video games, like most outlets of entertainment, are focused around pleasure. Humans have natural desires for power, freedom and certain abilities and video games can give you all that. Creating an avatar that encompasses everything you may want for yourself, a thinner fitter body, great physical abilities, maybe even magical powers, is part of how the game designer gets you hooked. In a game like Fortnite you can play with your friends, creating a group that can take down other teams in order to win. This creates a sense of camaraderie, competition and acceptance of what happens in the game, as your teammates cheer you on to “Make the kill man come one he beat your ass five times already!” or give you crap for “losing that shot, holy crap dude that was so easy how could you miss that?!” Video games to me create this interesting dichotomy in which the person playing sees the version of themselves on the screen as their better version, and they see everything that avatar does as not only acceptable but something they wish they could do themselves. What does it mean when people start carrying what they learn in video games into the real world?
I cannot say I am going to become a video game fanatic anytime soon, but video games are not going away, despite movements like Moms Against Gaming. I think keeping in mind, as video games continue to advance into new worlds of virtual reality, the ties between what young people are learning as they play these games and how they interact with others outside of the screen is important. But video games are fun and here to stay, so if you see me playing Temple Run in the back of class this next week, know that it is not because I am super bored with that class, but because I am trying to learn more about people who play video games and do my best to try to understand and maybe even enjoy video games.