Initially, I was intending to post an editorial on the ‘outside world’ viewpoint of gaming culture, focusing on the common misunderstandings as a whole. Several drafts later and the piece had yet to find the right angle to work from.
Then, as I was dozing off last night, it came to me: The reason non-gamers don’t understand our culture and industry is our own fault. If we want the general public to support us, we have to give them a reason to do so.
ESPN’s Skip Bayless recently stated, “He [Kobe Bryant] is smiling, while wielding an assault rifle, while we have troops overseas at this moment doing the same thing FOR REAL!” Is Skip off his wagon? No. Is he misinformed? Almost certainly. There is still a perception in the mainstream that video games are bad for you and cause violence amongst those who play them.
What needs to happen is a push into the mainstream about how gamers firmly understand that video games are not reality, and that even while video games have hit the technical, story-telling and visual levels that they have, violent crime amongst teens is down significantly. Sure, there may be those who still manage to fall on the “dark side”, torturing kittens and burning down their grandmother’s houses, but I am also sure that there are cribbage-addicts that do these things just as well. The effect is not of the same cause, but because there are no major players in the political or news world that are a proponent for video games — or at least understanding of them — these details will go unmentioned.
As for the argument of Kobe Bryant, “… smiling, while wielding an assault rifle, while we have troops overseas at this moment doing the same thing FOR REAL!”: I guess the countless numbers of Marines, soldiers and other military personnel that regularly play Call of Duty and Medal of Honor don’t actually exist. I mean, it’s not like they organize tournaments or anything of the sorts, right?. I would also be damned if members of the military have a website devoted entirely to the hobby, created and maintained by those in active duty.
But, I digress, as it is so easy to do when dealing with short-sightedness. The main point is that gamers are like any other group of people that have a specific talking point, one that they would like to be recognized. And, just like any other political party, cause, or culture, we may vary our likings in specific details but overall are in agreement towards the same cause.
There are a few things that we can currently do, at least to help begin to chip away at the lack of understanding of our sub-culture: Write a letter to your congressman (it does work, especially en masse). Offer to author an article or column for your school or local paper. Explain (to as many people that may not understand) that video games are not only for kids anymore, and that they are a great avenue for experience, learning, and personal and mutual growth. If we want the non-gaming public to be on our side when it comes to game-related issues, we have to put forth the effort and protect our hobby, more so than those that aim to shoot it down.