I’m not easily offended anymore, though I used to be as a kid. I am about half Hispanic/Caribbean in a predominantly white (like, 95% white) community, and I don’t take offense to jokes about my skin color. I’m a Christian, and I go to church every Sunday, youth group Sunday evenings, and Bible Study on Wednesdays, but I don’t take offense when people call me out on my faith. I’m a homeschooled nerd who plays video games, writes, and reads for fun, yet I don’t find it offensive when people refer to me as a nerd or a geek; I encourage and embrace it.
But being stereotyped as lazy and worthless because I’m a gamer? Oh, I definitely take offense to that.
I just read an article on Yahoo! News with this headline: “Video Game Leads to Life-Threatening Condition for Gamer.” Sounds morbid, right? I read on to find out that like any other classy news outlet, Yahoo! twisted the title, the story, and was completely ignorant to the content of the post. If you don’t want to read the article, it basically reads like this, “After 2 days of gaming 8 hours straight per day, a guy noticed pain in his legs, but went on with his gaming. After two more days of 8 hour gaming binges, he finally got help and found out he had big blood clots in his legs because he played too many video games without being active. Games require you to be focused for long periods of time, therefore, we conclude that video games are harmful to your health because they can encourage a sedentary lifestyle, thus bringing on blood clots.”
First off, the problem isn’t in the game; it’s in the person. As noted in the Yahoo! comment section, for blood clots to form that fast, the player probably had some pre-existing condition. Furthermore, if you’re so focused/lazy/insert-adjective-here that you can’t even get up to take a stretch break, grab some food, use the bathroom, or something to get blood pumping every hour or so, then it’s not the game’s fault that you’re not attending to the needs of your own body.
The article paints all gamers as lazy, sedentary beings because of the terrible decisions made by one game player who I can’t even bring myself to call a gamer. I’m a gamer, and yes, I play for hours at a time on occasion… but I’m not lazy, and I know that being sedentary for too long can cause problems. But sitting in front of my TV playing a video game for hours on end is just the same as anything else we do for fun. How is it that a person can be content with themselves as they’re watching television for 2 to 3 hours straight before bed, yet they condemn people like me for playing video games for 2 to 3 hours straight before bed? Is it not basically the same thing? Why don’t we have people crying foul everywhere because cable TV is causing blood clots? Movie marathons over holiday weekends should be banned because they encourage watching TV all day, right?
As another example, how is it that it’s acceptable to binge read a book, but not to binge play a game? Both require you to devote your time and attention to something for a few hours straight, yet it’s frowned upon to do this in regard to games, but not to books. Is an accountant or clerk who sits at his or her desk for the majority of an 8 hour shift considered lazy for not being active? On the flipside, is a game enthusiast considered lazy for not being active this same amount of time?
Sitting still is sitting still, no matter what you’re doing at the same time or why you’re doing it; whether it be reading a book, watching a movie, or playing a video game.
But there’s something I’m forgetting. Video games have a negative connotation. That’s the root of the problem; rather than thinking for themselves, ignorant non-gamers look at the gaming community through a lens that says “wow, those are lazy bums,” because it’s what has been taught to them, and they don’t take the effort to think for themselves. Just like Karate, fast food, and ballroom dancing, video games and those who enjoy them are stereotyped ( many times negatively) by outsiders. Video games, despite their growing popularity, have not yet reached the point where they’re considered “normal” or a part of everyday life. Reading a book has a positive connotation to most people; you’re strengthening reading comprehension, learning, developing better reading/writing/language arts skills, and overall, books are considered scholarly and for smart people. Therefore, it’s alright to read for long periods of time, since it’s productive; you definitely aren’t being lazy if you’re reading. Working at a desk job is productive, as you’re making money while you do it; therefore, sitting at a desk for a few hours straight is justified. Television has been around for so long, there are hundreds of channels, nearly everyone has one, so therefore, it has become a normal part of everyday life to watch multiple hours of TV daily.
Why isn’t gaming viewed the same way?
Non-gamers look at people like me and see violence. They see killers in the making, but there’s more to it then violence. They see laziness because they don’t understand what we find enjoyable. They don’t see educational value, nor does gaming make money (usually), nor is it commonplace or accepted enough to be considered normal; gamers are still a minority in the eyes of most gamers and non-gamers alike, if not by numbers. Non-gamers look at others like me through the same filter they have since the 70’s and 80’s. We’re basement dwellers that live with our parents; we waste our lives away vegging out as we stare at the TV screen and mindlessly shoot our enemies, and sometimes our friends. We eat Doritos and drink Mountain Dew all day, we’re all fat, therefore lazy, we don’t like exercise, and it’s all because we would rather play video games. If we’re not playing video games, we’re playing Dungeons and Dragons, and we’re too busy doing that to get a girlfriend or get married, right? After some D&D, we lock ourselves in our room and study so that we can ace the ACT and SAT, go to college to become nerds, and we end up living devoid of a social life. Games morph us into anti-social introverts, and we will never be productive members in society.
This. Is. Ignorance.
Why do people still think that gaming is somehow inherently worse in some way than watching TV for the same amount of time? If you ask a person why they think this, chances are they won’t give you a decent answer. If they do, they’ll cite violence and binge gaming. Ignorance is the same issue that we’ve dealt with for centuries. Africans were sold into slavery because they were somehow inherently worse than the Europeans. The Jews were mercilessly annihilated because they were somehow inherently worse than the blonde haired members of the Reich. Women have historically been denied office worldwide because they’re somehow inherently worse than men of the same age and social class. I could go on and on, but I think you get the point.
Slavery is coming to an end, the Holocaust is long gone, and women are gaining equal rights and political offices worldwide. Ignorance has been curbed as people have been taught about these topics. People learned that dark skin is due to the sun; African people have dark skin because it protected them historically from the sun’s UV rays because of where they lived, for example. As people were educated in this matter, they began to see that dark skin was not an inferiority; it was simply a difference.
Furthermore, the “afflicted” decided to do something about it. The American Civil Rights movement pushed for reform and sought to educate those who were against equal rights for African-Americans. Women asserted that they too could hold a steady job and were essential to the U.S., so they should be able to vote. They staged protests and revolutions; worldwide, there are people still fighting for their rights, and that’s the key! They are fighting.
Gamers and game enthusiasts need to educate others as well; we need to push past the ignorance of others and teach them that gaming is not magically inferior to watching TV and reading books. We need unbiased studies to show what gamers already know; that gaming has benefits. We need to be proactive and make our voices heard! We need to do what it takes to educate ignorant individuals, whether it be through books, documentaries, viral videos, or anything else. Change will only come if we bring it about, just like every other movement in history. Unless gamers unite and take action, we’re compliant with the ignorance, which makes us no better than them.
(Make no mistake; I’m not necessarily using the words “ignorant,” and “ignorance” with a negative connotation. To me, there’s uneducated ignorance and aggressive ignorance. Uneducated ignorance, I think, is defined by somebody who hasn’t been educated in the topic, and might not think they need to be. They’re ignorant, but they’re not vocally condescending, most of the time. Aggressive ignorance pertains to those who actively point out how bad gaming is, how useless it’s making us, and how it needs to be stopped; this is where my negative connotation of the word comes in. Just to clarify.)
With absolutely no research needed, I could tell you how video games have helped in my life. For example, Just like my eyes always snap over to the radar when there’s a blip, or they can detect movement in the distant trees even when the player is camouflaged in Call of Duty, I always see deer on the road before my family does whether I’m driving or in the passenger seat; that’s a life or death situation both for me and the deer. My quick trigger finger and instant reaction to these cues are instrumental when it comes to save driving, from being able to swerve out of the way of an obstacle, to hitting the brake in a flash.
Speaking of driving, I’ve played enough racing games to know how to react on ice even though I’ve not yet driven on it. Just the other day, my mom drove us to church and the road was sheer ice; she told me what to do in a similar situation, how much gas to give, how sharply to turn, how much the sliding affects the way you should drive, etc. I found myself telling her “I know; I learned that from a video game,” because any advice she gave was pretty much the same advice I had derived from experience as the driver behind a virtual wheel. Is it exactly the same? No, but it’s a good background, and it’s much less dangerous than driving on real ice with a real car.
Puzzle games nurture problem solving skills and promote resourcefulness. Action and adventure games teach emergency preparedness and help a person make better split second decisions in the face of danger. One time, I was at summer camp when the biggest storm of the year for my area rolled in. There were tornado warnings, fallen trees everywhere, and gusts of wind so strong, it was unbelievable. I was the leader, and was therefore in charge of 16 boys because my Scoutmaster wasn’t there at the time; all were between about 11 and 16. Between what I’ve learned as a Boy Scout, and the various skills I’ve learned and perfected through video games, I was able to stay calm, quickly have the kids pack their bags, kept them calm for the most part, and safely led them to the designated area when it was time. I didn’t lose any kids, 95% of our many, many belongings were successfully packed in the extremely short time we had to do so, and I was able to be an unwavering leader to kids who had never been camping before, much less in a terrible storm like this one.
Am I bragging? No; I’m simply stating the facts.
All of this comes back to my original point: why are gamers considered lazy, and why is video gaming generally looked down upon and stereotyped as a lazy pastime, even when there are benefits to be had? The popular belief is that because I play video games, I’m lazy and stupid. Hopefully some of my personal experiences listed above help fight that belief. But that isn’t good enough, is it? Because I play video games, inherently, I cannot be productive; video games are too radical and time & thought consuming.
It’s as if somehow, gaming instantly changes a person from normal to unworthy, but I must refute this. Again, this isn’t to be viewed as gloating; I’m only stating the facts. As a homeschooled teen and a gamer, I am doubly stereotyped as lazy & unproductive, but also as socially awkward and introverted. Let’s set the record straight, starting with laziness.
First off, I run this blog, which is no small task for me. I’m also this close to having my Associate’s Degree by the time I graduate high school. I hold down a part time job, and I give devotions to kids at the local middle and high schools on occasion. This weekend, I became an Eagle Scout, which is the highest rank and honor in the Boy Scouts of America, and it signifies over 6 years of hard work, which is over a third of my lifetime. Plus, I’ve got household chores which multiply in the summertime. But I’m also a gamer. I work like a dog to be productive and to make something of my life. I’m by no means a lazy person, so if I want to spend my spare time playing a video game as opposed to watching TV like the rest of my family does, let me do it without belittling me.
As for being socially inadequate, (which also goes along with the “lock myself in a room and play D&D with my nerd friends” viewpoint) I must refute this as well. I attend my weekly Boy Scout meeting along with my younger brother. As I mentioned earlier, I’m at church with others my age a couple times a week. Unless I’m simply being humored and lied to, the guys at work get along with me, and I get along with them without coming off as much of a nerd. I’m able to get onstage and give sermons before hundreds of strangers (which I’ve done multiple times before) without stage fright or worry. I enjoy acting as well, and I’m by no means a socially awkward individual. But I’m also a gamer.
Look at my hobbies an accomplishments without throwing gaming into the mix. Does that look like a decent resume? I would hope so; it’s what I strive for. Now, throw gaming a couple hours a day into the mix. Does that instantly change me as a person? Does it diminish every other achievement in my life? Does it somehow make me different and inferior? The answer is no. I’m the same person whether you say I’m a gamer or not; all my other doings still stand. Why, then, are outsiders so blindly ignorant, and why do they believe gaming is so taboo?
Now, I’d be very one-sided if I didn’t look at the other side of this as well. Yes, murderers have cited games as their motivation or influence. Gamers occasionally do die because of extremely long gaming sessions. Yes, some gamers are as addicted to their systems as alcoholics are to beer. There are gamers who can’t function in society; yes, I understand this.
The difference between gaming and other hobbies or addictions is that the majority of gamers and game players are judged by the minority, whereas others are usually not. For the most part, alcohol is not viewed as a terrible thing because we know that it’s fine in moderation, like games. If a drunkard goes out and makes national news for something stupid he or she did, does that reflect badly on everyone who buys a bottle of wine or a case of beer at the store? I don’t think so.
If a new study on smoking comes out detailing all the risks, (again) and people know about it, will it radically change the public view of smoking? Will one or two, or even a thousand deaths caused by cancer from smoking change the way the majority of non-smokers look at smokers as a whole? Probably not.
Why then do we hear one story about a kid who shoots up his grandma because of GTA or one story about a psycho who attacks a school in New Englad, and all the news becomes about how terrible violent video games (and guns) are? Is that fair? If one guys dies from too much smoking, we don’t have every news outlet covering his death; we don’t have everyone in a panic because it’s a pandemic. Why does one gaming related incident from an already unstable individual throw the world for a loop as they cry foul and scream for violent games to be eliminated?
It’s ignorance, and it’s unfair criticism of a majority group because of the reckless actions of one individual.
I just can’t seem to wrap my mind around the incredibly unfair treatment that gamers and game enthusiasts are subject to. It doesn’t make sense that with all the other inherently good things turned bad in the world, gaming is inherently seen as bad with a small infraction, yet other items such as cigarettes and beer are simply seen as normal and acceptable even though they kill dozens, hundreds, or more daily.
Just like owning a gun won’t automatically make me a killer and eating Taco Bell won’t automatically make me a fatty, playing games won’t make me a lazy lump. That’s all there is to it.
I’d like to read what you have to say. Do you think gamers are subject to unfair criticism? If you could do something about it, what would you do? What would you make sure others heard? Please, share with me; I’m very intrigued by this topic.
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A Disgruntled Gamer