190 million households will use a next-generation video game console in 2012.
Sixty-five percent of American households play computer or video games.
The average game player is 35 years old.
The average age of the most frequent game purchaser is 40 years old.
To most of us, these facts are hardly news. Look around, poll your friends, eye your Facebook and see how many people are buzzing over Mass Effect 3 or the sudden drop of the Assassin’s Creed 3 trailer. Recall recent giddy exchanges over Skyrim and inside jokes about dreams of adventuring before pesky arrows shattered it all. Think of drunken moments with Smash Bros. or embarrassing Mario Kart collisions with a group of comrades, all fighting the urge not to chuck a Wii controller across the room.
Think about how it all happened today. Or yesterday. Last week. Think about these exchanges, these experiences with grown adults, people with wives and husbands, kids or ones brewing, people with ten hour a day jobs and mortgages. I’ve spoken with charge nurses about Portal, doctors about Call of Duty, financial advisors about Super Street Fighter, factory supervisors about WoW. Walk into a room and mention Halo and you can count on one finger how many people look at you blankly.
With all this in mind, how does the stereotype of the useless, losery video game player still exist, even flourish in distinct rings of social circumstances? Why is this something to be embarrassed over? Why, in certain circles, do people look at you as useless human being occupying nothing but your parents’ basement, unable to engage in romantic endeavors or lasting employment?
Video games have gone mainstream, complete with multiple publications, its own television network, conventions holding 46,800 (E3, 2011) and 69,500 (PAX, 2011) attendees. Mainstream movie franchises have been born on the backs of the games’ name (Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Tomb Raider). Popular stores (Target, Kohl’s, Walmart, Hot Topic, Sears, ect.) carry shirts proudly depicting Mario, Sonic, and Pac-Man in their aisles. Movie legend such as Michael Bay (Need for Speed: The Run) and Stephen Spielberg (Medal of Honor) have both contributed in various ways to this industry. Somehow, I don’t think that they live in their mother’s basement, or that they need to hang their heads in some appropriate amount of shame if they dare to mention that they enjoy a media that is considered by most to be an art form (L.A. Noire, Heavy Rain, Flower, Limbo, Portal, ect.)
In this day and age, there is no reason for the negative stereotypes or reactions to exist. The platforms have become tools for entertainment, education, and friendly competition. We’ve replaced board games with video, a medium that allows me to engage in a game with one of my best friends who lives three thousand miles away, across the country, a form of bonding and fun that I wouldn’t be allowed to in any other fashion or time before this. We don’t need to be in a room together physically to have be amused anymore; we can enjoy things together rather than individually. Would we laugh and mock a game night with the nuclear husband/wife/kid household if they were playing Monopoly? Why does the game type matter any longer? Families can go bowling in their living room, much more affordably than four sets of shoes, gas, food, and lane cost would let them. Senior citizens can socialize and move while playing virtual tennis. I can parkour off a Venetian building and take out my bestie when she’s not looking, all while being states away at three in the morning, an awkward time for most but when I’m getting off my evening job at a local hospital. There are few activities that can be done at that time in the morning.
As with all things, moderation is key. The world is large, big, beckoning; enjoying it is as important as enjoying a video game. Still, I think that we need to acknowledge that the video game stereotype, that pity, disgust, and shame that others direct at us needs to stop. There is nothing wrong with a hobby that brings us enjoyment, that brings us accomplishment, that allows us fun and a complexity, a frustratingly wonderful series of problems to solve. Play through Portal, then watch something like Real Housewives of EveryCountyEver and find out which one brings you a sense of pride, an idea that you’ve done something constructive, yet only one is more socially acceptable, allowed to be spoken with over mixed company.
At least with one, we’re actually using out brain.