10 Misconceptions About Games That Need To Go

Chances are, if you’re reading this, you know a lot of gamers.  You’re probably one yourself.  This means that you’re intimately familiar with the lame cliche’s and stupid misconceptions about us that are rampant.  Sadly, it’s not just old people (i.e. geriatrics) who believe this malarky.  Most non-gamers do.

It sucks.

Well, lucky for you, we’ve got some research and cliche-shattering information you can put on a t-shirt or dump on the next mofo who tries to diss you and your gaming habits.

#10 – Games Cause Headaches

Back in the day, if you were a pinball wizard or a serious Tekken junkie, you not only were on the fast track to carpel tunnel, but you probably got a lot of headaches.  The old CRT and flashing cathodes used in games of the old school stripe were notoriously hard on the eyesight.  This caused headaches.

Of course, to get those headaches, you had to be seriously obsessed.  I once knew a guy who played Street Fighter for 18 hours straight.  At a standup arcade.  In a 7-11.  With quarters.  Ya, nuts.  He got headaches.  Duh.

Today, I know World of Warcraft junkies who play for nearly 24 hours at a sitting, dedicating their entire Saturday to the game every single week.  The rest of the time, they’re normal, productive humans with real jobs and lives.  On Saturdays, though, they are Alliance-slaughtering fiends.  They don’t get headaches.

My how technology has changed.

#9 – Video Games Make People Violent

This one is right up there with heavy metal and gangster rap making you go buy weapons and perpetrate mass murder.  Anyone else remember Rob Halford singing in court to prove his point – that his songs don’t tell people to off themselves?  It’s on YouTube.  Google it.

Anyway, study after study hoping to prove that violent games lead to violent gamers has utterly failed to do so.  Is it some vast video game production conspiracy in which the evil game designers are trying to keep the truth from being known so they can continue to reap profits on the backs of those they’re destroying with their satanic wares?  Nope, sorry, there’s none of that going on; gaming doesn’t have a grassy knoll.

What we do have are two statistics that, despite sensationalist news reporting, prove that the opposite is likely true: video game sales are at an all-time high and youth violence is at a 40+ low.  Ya, it turns out games are an outlet, not a trigger.

#8 – Games Aren’t Art

This is a funny one since almost without fail, the highest-paid member of a game development team will be the artist(s).  Excluding management, of course.  Next time you’re in your favorite MMO, turn the graphics up as high as they’ll go and just observe.  There’s a ton of art going on.

#7 – Games Make You Antisocial

This is also amusing, since it plays on the cliche that most gamers are pasty-skinned, scraggly-haired teenagers who sit in front of their TV playing XBox and couldn’t tell you what color the sun is.  As shown in #4 below, most gamers play socially.

There are, of course, a small percentage of gamers who play games alone, usually because they have specific social anxieties or depression issues.  The games are an outlet for that, though, not the cause.  The same MSU study mentioned in #6 found that to be the case.

#6 – Gamers Are Fat

Speaking of sitting around playing games and sporting the fluorescent tan, the cliche goes that gamers are either woefully underfed or are fat.  A 2011 study by Michigan State University found that teenagers who play video games are no more prone to being overweight than the general population of their peers.

#5 – Gamers and Games are Sexist

This one is borderline true.  Yes, most games with female characters have traditionally either used them purely as sex symbols or made them so shallow that they barely deserve a footnote in the game’s lore.

This is beginning to change and at a fast pace, though.  Now that game publishers have become aware that a large chunk of their audience are female, they’re beginning to beefcake some of the games…  OK, I lie.  They are dropping a lot of the fem-cliche’s, though.  Although personally I’d like to see the chainmail bikini hang around for a while.  Hot.

#4 – Video Games Are Like Crack

Some people who are predisposed to addiction are at risk of becoming addicted to video games.  This is well-proven.  But those same people could just as easily become addicted to drugs, bad habits, or (shudder) Gingham dance.  In order for something to be considered a psychological addiction, however, it must meet certain criteria.

Since most gamers (about 62%) play with others either in person or virtually and about a third of gamers play social games exclusively, it goes that most gamers are not actually addicts.  One of the hallmarks of addiction is hiding or soloing the activity.  Even sex addicts prefer not to repeat the same partner often as that can lead to a chance of getting caught.

#3 – Only Guys Play Video Games

The fact is, while the majority of gamers are male, that statistic has been changing, and fast.  In fact, in recent surveys, the ratio of male:females is getting close to even (about 48% female as of 2010).  The old “he’ll be a virgin at 37” cliche now has to include chicks in it to be politically correct.  Padum-cha

#2 – Video Games Make You Stupid

This one is entertaining on many levels.  First, it assumes (there’s that word again) that gamers are wasting their brains away on mindless button punching, which is the exact opposite of what every game made for anyone over the age of 3 is designed for.  After all, button punching might have been fine back when Pong was big, but games like that made now won’t even get noticed on Facebook. Even Disney.com doesn’t stoop to this level.

Second, it insinuates that because gamers aren’t actively putting things into their brains in the traditional sense (e.g. books, long conversations at the hardware store, at school), they are letting their brains rot as they stare at the flickering screen.  Oooo, pretty.

Except that’s not how it is.  Psychologist Gabe Zichermann is considered the world’s top expert on game-related psychology and he says that video games are directly responsible for the sharp rise in Fluid Intelligence in the last two decades.  Why?  Because FI is linked to novelty, self-challenge, creative thinking, networking, etc.  In other words, it’s directly connected to what every good game makes players do.

BAM!  In yo face, haters.

#1 – All Gamers Are Kids

And need to grow up.  This one is almost assuredly the most common one.  It’s become a common cliche that gamers are all people who aren’t “grown ups” and are just jobless or marginally employed losers who live with their parents.

The good news?  This assumption is a load of crap.  The Entertainment Software Association performed a research survey to find out who’s playing video games (of all types) and learned some interesting data that, frankly, the gaming industry is still grappling with.

According to their research, the average age of the average gamer (a person who plays more than casually – i.e. often) is 30 years old.  Thirty.  Three zero.  Yep.  What’s more, 68% of the gamer cadre is over the age of 18.  That means that more than two thirds of the gaming population are adults.

So the next time some soccer mom brigade whines about how violence in video games is turning children into mindless death machines, remind them that the vast majority of gamers are actually adults, so the only thing they can blame when they catch their 12 year old playing Grand Theft Auto is their own parental incompetence.

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