I have had this conversation so many times that after a while it feels like it’s part of introducing myself to another guy.
It goes something like, “So what do you do for a living?” I reply with, “I run a video game website.” Then he sighs and starts to explain that he really likes playing video games, but he’s been trying to quit playing them because of his significant other or his kids or because he thinks he’s too old to play games. After this part of the conversation I ask him what games he plays or played and his mood does a 180 and he enthusiastically talks to me about a few of his favorite games. After a long discussion about video games, he goes back to his somber mood and tries to explain again that he needs to not play video games.
These poor, lost souls constantly astound me, because you will find that although they quit playing video games they didn’t give up the couch, they still watch plenty of TV or movies. For some reason though, they have it in their head that video games are unacceptable. Many of them still play them but feel guilty. Many of them quit for reasons they can’t really explain, but what quickly becomes clear is that these guys really enjoy playing video games and miss playing them more.
I guess a lot of this ultimately comes from the perception that video games are toys that children play with. Continuing to play them past your early 20s is a sign of immaturity or dysfunction. The sad thing is that this was never true. Adults have always played video games. There have always been games that were complicated and engrossing enough that adults played them. I had a really long list of them from the ’80s, but I think I only need to list one to make my point; Tetris.
I think the difficulty people have is that since video games are perceived as toys they don’t receive the same acceptability as movies or books from fellow adults. I’ve never had a conversation where someone told me that he was going to stop watching TV or movies and was going to stop reading books. I think they just write off adult-oriented games. I’m not even talking about games like Mass Effect or Catherine that aren’t just violent but include themes, concepts and gameplay that isn’t directed at kids. I’m talking about games like Your Shape: Fitness Evolved or Zumba Fitness. Those games are clearly aimed at adults and given the weight problem America has I think it would be great if they played more games.
My tastes in movies and books evolved as I grew older. Even books that I read as a kid seem to have different and more meaningful themes in them. When I first read The Chronicles of Prydain as a kid, I found it to be a fantastical adventure, but when I reread it as an adult I discovered themes about sacrifice, duty and honor and while I must have known they were there as a kid, I understood why my own personal beliefs resembled the themes in the series so closely.
My tastes in games also changed as I grew older, the games I played as a kid are awesome, but there were a few that I’ve revisited and realized they were not nearly as good as they originally seemed; Donkey Kong Country. There were even a few that I tried to play as a kid, but quickly lost interest in and now realize how much I was missing out on; Nightshade.
I know that I opened this article by talking about men and there are plenty of women who play games, but I’ve never had this discussion with a woman before. I think that the negative stereotypes of gamers as men might help prevent women from feeling this. Comments from public figures like former U.S. Secretary of Education and CNN Contributor William J Bennett focusing specifically on men don’t help either. In an article featuring a picture of a man playing a racing game titled Why Men are in Trouble he wrote:
“We may need to say to a number of our twenty-something men, “Get off the video games five hours a day, get yourself together, get a challenging job and get married.” It’s time for men to man up. “
With outside influences like this it’s no wonder grown men feel ashamed about playing video games.
The biggest issue really becomes how to fix these notions. I think games are becoming more common, but I think we need to reach out to guys who feel like they are too old to play games. I think most of the guys who talk to me feel like they want to justify their hobby and I do that. I tell them, maybe not directly, that they are fine and that they should enjoy their time spent playing games. I tell them that I play games, I’m in great shape, I have a college degree, a wonderful wife, an adorable puppy-dog and I’m not at all bothered by how much I play games. I can play games and maintain my life and my relationships at the same time. Video games are an interactive entertainment medium. Some titles are for kids and some are for adults, and adults shouldn’t feel ashamed to enjoy something made for them to enjoy. I like playing video games. In fact, I want to play them more and that doesn’t bother me either.