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Video Games Aren’t Just For Children, A Rebuttal to The Today Show.

July 12, 2011

Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb are apparently the relationship experts on the Today Show. On today’s episode they somehow got on the topic of video games, and the people who play them. Needless to say, they painted a very stereotypical portrait of gamers; male, basement-dwelling, socially inept weirdos. They also stated that you simply shouldn’t be playing video games in your thirties or beyond.

Now before we go any further, we need to establish that this statement is not based in statistical fact. As any follower of the industry knows, the ESA’s essential facts for the year 2011 show us that 72% of American households play video games, and the average age of a player is 37. Presumably 72% of American households are not composed of basement-dwelling man-children, and luckily the 2010 census does help support that argument. Clearly though, Kathie Lee and Hoda, who gave this opinion amidst an interview/discussion portion of the show, did not have access to prior research that they might have in a scripted segment, but instead were just giving their opinion which is based in their own experiences, and preconceptions. In other words, this is just the opinion of two women who are well into middle age.

The first major reason that we should not put any stock into their opinion, is actually their age (57 and 47 respectively). I don’t like to believe that age is any more than a number, and as the ESA facts show us the average game purchaser is 41 and the average player is 37. Therefore, clearly age is not (and should not be) a major factor in these situations. Until you recall that a 37 year old was born when Hoda was 10 years old and Kathie Lee was 20, which are significant age gaps (generational gaps even) to be making judgments on the lifestyle of people on the older side of a person in ‘their 30s.’ Now I’m pointing this out because I frankly must question whether or not these women are actually able to give relationship advice in the modern age.

In the two to three decades since these women were hot to trot in their late 20s, society has changed greatly. We’ve seen the rise of the internet, cell phones, texting, a massive increase in the entertainment industry, a wider acceptance of homosexuals, the first black president, and the complete mapping of the human genome, just to name a few things that have changed. Remember, when these women entered the entertainment industry the idea of a 4th major network was still considered a risky venture. What can they really tell me about dating in the 21st century? The list of things they can’t give me advice on is starting to outweigh what they can.

I’m fairly certain that Kathie Lee having been married twice, and having two children, can actually give me plenty of relationship advice for longer term situations, as well as guidance on family life and the like. While Hoda is just nearing spinster age at this point. Not that I’m saying that marriage is the result of successful relations or is the end result we’re all seeking, but it would make me feel more comfortable if I knew this was someone who had a history of a successful long-term relationship, possibly ending in marriage.

No matter what though, neither of them have direct experience with dating phenomenons like sexting, or can even enter the debate on whether new modes of communication like email and texting are equivalent to the phone in the dating arena. The answer, as I have discovered, is a very personal one. Some people I know think that it’s perfectly acceptable to ask someone out via text, others think it’s a really terrible idea, and it all seems to depend on the type of person you’re asking out. It is important to note that not all people who communicate largely through text, actually think texting is an acceptable forum for asking them out. Nor can either of these “relationship experts” really talk about the experience of dating websites like okcupid. Ultimately, what I’m trying to say is, that these women are no longer the dating authorities they once were because society has changed and dating along with it.

Next, I think it’s important for us to evaluate what gaming actually is. Video games are a hobby, one which revolves around a medium for storytelling. Playing a video game is somewhat more engaging than reading a book, or watching a movie or television show. The ultimate point though is that it’s a situation in which you are consuming media most of the time, and sometimes the challenge of it can be compared to constructive hobbies. Once we accept this, we realize that Kathie Lee and Hoda have just passed a value judgment on a hobby.

When you realize that this is a judgment of a hobby, it starts to actually become more mind-boggling. Are they suggesting that when I’m in my thirties I should put away my xbox, along with all other hobbies from my “youth” and take up the important hobby of reality television shows and stamp-collecting? Should I start constructing a shed for my apartment? As far as I’m aware, they offer no suggestion as to what I should do with the now several free hours I’d gain from not playing video-games, merely a blanket statement to no longer do it. Their reasoning is of course wrapped up in their own misconceptions about gamers as basement-dwellers, and thus man-children.

I would like to point out that they don’t say what they do at night. I’m certain they spend many evenings going home, having dinner with their family or alone, and perhaps opening a bottle of wine (they strike me as wine women) and then watching television or reading a book. Is that truly any different from the person who comes home from work, opens a can of Mountain Dew or Pabst Blue Ribbon, and plays a little Call of Duty, or Portal before going to bed? They’re both actions in which the person is consuming a substance they shouldn’t have too much of (alcohol and caffeine) and then proceeding to consume some media. While one could argue that this time could be better spent enriching yourself by learning a new skill, I find myself asking: who really does that? Better yet, who has the energy to do that after a day of work? If you can, then you’re an awesome person and shouldn’t be dragged down by all of us content to watch reruns of The Simpsons or play games like Scribblenauts, because frankly we’re all happy doing what we’re doing, and as long as you’re happy with your pursuits, the world is good.

This is what brings me to my final point about this whole thing. Their suggestion that you shouldn’t play video games past a certain age is clearly based around a false perception our society has about being an adult. I can take some guesses as to why we came up with the idea of the adult always seeming to be serious, and focused on the important things in life, like their responsibilities. Part of it comes from the caricature of 1950s and ’60s fathers, think for example the main character of A Serious Man. Also because when we’re children the experience and self-assured nature of our parents makes them seem like more serious and responsible people than we can ever be. Neither of these examples however is true. Fathers weren’t really like that then, nor were they ever, and our parents are humans capable of making mistakes, and goofing off as much as anyone else in the world.

For some reason, we’ve started to view being an adult as being a hyper-responsible person, who wouldn’t engage in such frivolous activity as these “video games.” When in reality, an adult is someone who is capable of reaching a balance in their life between work, and frivolous pursuits that occupy their time. Remember, that this definition does still condemn basement-dwellers, since they don’t balance their life between activities like video games and work and socialization, their life is just about gaming. I notice this problem of the adult preconception particularly amongst my generation, as we are just now stepping out into the world, and we’re starting to have these crises of what it means to be an adult. Telling us, and other people, that being an adult is a checklist of things, is really never going to help people reach the maturity of being a person who pursues their own happiness in balance with responsibilities like paying the bills and supporting their loved ones.

In fact, I can think of nothing more childish than to suggest that being an adult is a checklist of dos and don’ts. You don’t become an adult when you get the right job, have a wife, and 2.3 kids. You become an adult when you find things that make you sustainably happy, which can help bring balance to the rest of your life. Maybe you work a shit job, but that job doesn’t matter because it gives you the flexible hours necessary to be a part-time musician where you really enjoy your life. Or maybe you found a great job that keeps you on your toes all hours of the day, and you’re always anticipating the next project or crisis, and when you’re not at work you unwind by watching some television or playing a video game. Being an adult is many things, but it is certainly not putting away the things you loved as a child, or even a 28 year old, just because you’re older now.

I suppose my point here is that video games have become as large of a leisure activity as television and film. Furthermore, statistics show that they’re certainly no longer the pursuit of children, and the subject matter reflected in them is becoming more and more poignant with each passing month. Video games are here to stay, and maybe you ladies should try a couple, maybe suggested to you by people that are both gamers and know you well. Who knows, you might like ’em.

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From → Opinions, Video Games

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