Video Game Stereotypes, Myths Debunked

At first glance, it seems silly to run to the defense of video games when the pastime comes under fire from critics, concerned parents, or politicians. After all, video games are a thriving multi-billion dollar business; what need does it have for its comparatively gnat-sized champions?

In these instances, however, the popularity of gaming is irrelevant: if half-truths and misconceptions are lobbed at games, they should be debunked. If anything, the widespread availability of video games and its presence in pop culture is a good reason to defend them, as playing a game can be relaxing, enriching, and (of course) fun. That’s why it’s important for people to know that:

Playing video games do not make you more aggressive in the “real world” — By far, video games are criticized for supposedly making players (especially kids) aggressive and more prone than non-gamers to projecting that aggression into the real world once the game has been turned off.

Every human being in every age group has some aggressive tendencies, and those instincts are not automatically negative–they helped us survive when we were hunter-gatherers, and they still help us ward off threats in the modern world, even if going bare-fisted for ten rounds with a Porsche for ten rounds won’t work out in any human’s favor. We all keep varying degrees of aggression inside us, and that aggression has to be re-directed to proper outlets. A competitive sport is one outlet; video games are another.

Is an avid gamer capable of picking up a gun in real life and going on a shooting rampage? About as much as any human being who is afflicted by severe behavioral troubles that are typically at the core of such (thankfully rare) incidents. Millions of men, women, boys and girls have no trouble putting down a video game and resuming their daily lives, much the way that an athlete who is in good mental health usually doesn’t feel compelled to bodycheck random people at the grocery store once the uniform is off.

And then there’s the simple fact that games with violent content are a tiny sliver of what’s available at retail and on the digital marketplace.

Video games don’t promote isolation or chip away at social skills — Video games have an unfortunate association with shut-ins and awkward nerds who’d rather hunch down in front of their Xbox rather than go on dates, or out with friends. Truthfully, while some video games provide a rich and immersive single-player experience (the role-playing game Skyrim, for instance), the pastime is generally very social. In fact, game developers are on a massive kick to get people playing together, whether it be through online multiplayer matches, Facebook games, or titles with simultaneous four-player options, like Rayman Origins for the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3, New Super Mario Bros. Wii for the Wii, or Kirby: Return to Dream Land, also for the Wii.

Gaming is actually one of the most fun and affordable ways that families and couples can spend time together, to say nothing of a great way for parents to get involved in gaming.

As for the frightening documentaries about players who get too deep into online worlds like World of Warcraft and lose their jobs and families–indeed, it happens, but much like acts of real-world violence that are carried out by a gamer, a person who loses him or herself in a video game to such a dire degree typically has an underlying psychological issue that should be addressed by professionals.

Video games aren’t just for kids — Kids love games, but adults don’t readily outgrow them either, regardless of what society expects. According to a survey published in 2008 by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, more than half of America’s adults play video games, and one in every five of those adults play every day. The survey also stated that seniors don’t play video games as frequently as younger adults, but that’s to be expected: most of the grown-ups who play video games today grew up with Atari, Nintendo, and the PC, and once a love for electronic games is engraved in your heart, it’s hard to erase.

Girls play games, too–all kinds of games — The same Pew Internet & American Life Project survey published another interesting result: the gender gap between gamers is closing quickly. According to the published results, “Fifty percent of women and 55 percent of men play video games.”

Video games are not a creative dead end — Video games often take blame for stifling creativity, but the opposite is actually true. Games can encourage the player to read, write, make music, and research into the myths and legends that make up some games’ back stories. Consider, for instance, OverClocked Remix, a website that challenges musicians to remix popular game music. The best pieces are published on the site, and are available for anyone to download. On occasion, remix artists are called in by game companies to assist with the soundtracks for remakes of classic games.

There are also thousands of video game fans who publish webcomics based on their favorite game characters, draw fan art of iconic game scenes, and write stories centered around certain video game universes.

About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for 1UP.com, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is About.com’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.

Leave a Reply