Friday, May 02, 2008

Why Americans Hate Video Games

The Escapist recently published an article about the "media myth", which is really an article that says "So many people hate video games, and it's fascinating," followed by "we can't blame the media for it, it's really due to culture", followed by "this is what some video game industry people think."

The salient quotes express what's surely been said before: everyone fears what they don't understand, older generations always frown upon that confounded immoral rock'n'roll racket, etc.

We've not really hit upon the point though. It's still highly frowned upon by many who are younger than 30, by left and right, and by many men, for example. The hate is not a young vs. old, left vs. right, or even a women vs. men thing.

The cultural belief is broader than this, and we can see it illustrated clearly in a Guitar Hero or Rock Band contest. Imagine (or remember, more likely), if you will, a "Rock Band" playing in the mall or Best Buy. What do we commonly see? Most likely a kinda-long-haired, t-shirt-sporting young man and his cohorts, with liveliness distracting the other shoppers. An incompetent drummer, perhaps. People acting like they're playing music when they're not. The most common criticism of people who spend any amount of time on Rock Band or Guitar Hero is (chant it with me now) "learn to play a real instrument" or, if someone already knows "I can play a real instrument." Anyone who plays is supposed to take it as wisdom and counsel about how to live the true American way and always be producers of content or producers of something in the economic world and other another fun American maxim that gives us our awesome maximum of 2 weeks vacation a year: in the land of freedom, you're free to have fun, but really you should only have fun if you earned your right to first.

Americans don't like it when people play, pretend, relax, or goof off or have fun. It's not allowed. And video games are the exact opposite of those principles. It's why the haters can't articulate a good reason for it. When a good reason is lacking, personal feelings are involved, and in this case, the feelings are the subscription to those American values. Some people have realized that this sacred American ethic is not unchallengable, and is not without flaws. So, they continue to play video games. And amazingly, many of them still produce content and work hard. And marry, and make babies, pay taxes, vote, and other amazing, American-endorsed concepts that aren't supposed to work with video game playing.

It's the American ideals of work and play that lead to a heavy lack of vindication of the medium. Moral issues aren't meant to be explored--the world was already explored, and when they did, they found America--so we're here now, entertain us, but don't do it with video games, because they, more than any other medium or activity, lead to passive, anti-American terrorist non-producers.

Got it? Video games = laziness = non-American. And here you thought America had run out of things to agree about.


Blogger ambrosia ananas said...

Hahahaha. Love it. This is my objection, basically, to Bawb's playing that online game where you build stuff with sand and water and fire. There's no *point*. I mean, at least when you play other video games, you're being intellectually stimulated and you're getting better fine motor skills, etc. And sometimes, you even play games where you interact with people. But this game (in my mind) does not transfer to any sort of useful skill. It probably does, actually, but it doesn't *feel* like it, and pure relaxation doesn't feel like a worthy goal. (If one is relaxing, one ought to be relaxing toward a goal. Or else relaxing enrichingly.)

So I guess I'm another average American, really. I like video games, but only so far as they feel useful.

12:23 PM  
Blogger Etelmik said...

If it helps, you can think of many game types as yellow, and *gasp* we don't want to thwart that, do we?

It's so strong that it gets to me, too, though. I sometimes buy or play games for their "usefulness" factor in helping me be better played or enlightened or whatever. Taking the Rock Band example: I played the drums a lot until it got to be so hard that I thought "at this point, the effort put in could actually work with real drums", and "I'm bored with the songs and am not burning so many calories while doing this."

Oh man...I hope games Europeanizes us. Hahaha. I want my 4-12 weeks!

12:46 PM  

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