There’s still a stigma towards gamers.
I’ve experienced this most recently when discussing just how great The Witcher 3 is with a colleague of mine. The conversation got quite animated, not through any disagreements but by just how much we loved the game. Another colleague of mine, however, whom we shall call The Snooty One, eventually said to us: “It sounds quite sad really.” When we enquired further as to what she meant, The Snooty One merely looked at us and replied: “There’s a life outside you know”.
Take away the fact that what The Snooty One said was really quite rude, what we have here is a clear cut case of gaming ignorance or, more specifically, the ignorant attitudes of non-gamers towards gamers.
There is often a perception from the outside looking in that gaming folk are the kind of people that live with their parents, sit in a darkened room and spend more time engrossed in World of Warcraft rather than revealing how socially inept they are. This may be true of some hardcore gamers (just think of the number of hours players spend with Call of Duty multiplayer), but considering how big the gaming industry is, I find it baffling, in 2015, that the aforementioned stereotype is still rife, especially when you think of how far the industry has come.
In the 80’s and 90’s, the notion that games were meant for kids would be accurate as, for the most part, this was the target audience. This would go to explain why there was such controversy when the likes of Doom and Mortal Kombat were released: games with mature content that were meant for adults. In fact, it was these games, as well as the birth of rating systems like PEGI and he ESRB, that allowed the industry to broaden its horizons. Couple that with the advances in technology and the age of gamers getting gradually older and you have an industry that has matured.
I’m 30 years old now and I have been playing games since I was six and whilst I still have a soft spot for the games of my youth (more for nostalgia than anything), I would rather play games that are a) mature (and I don’t mean gratuitous. I mean dealing with mature subjects) and b) great pieces of interactive entertainment. While the market is peppered with numerous titles that pander to the multiplayer audience, there are many a game, especially in recent years, that have been lauded for their storytelling. 2013 was a particularly good year, with The Last of Us, GTA V and Bioshock: Infinite all being released to universal critical acclaim. Crucially though, these are games that are heavy on story and aimed exclusively at an adult audience.
And that in itself is where the notion that gaming is a sad past-time is grossly inaccurate. After making her comment, The Snooty One then went to have a chat about how good the weekend Eastenders omnibus was. To her, the notion of spending three hours watching a soap opera is incomparable to spending three hours playing a video game.
This is utter horse shit.
When you consider gaming as an interactive medium, studies have shown being involved can improve reaction times, hand eye co-ordination and problem solving. It’s the same as doing puzzles every day to improve these things, just in gaming form rather than on paper. True, you’re not going to solve many puzzles playing Modern Warfare, but in terms of brain training, interactive experiences are proven to be more effective than passive experiences. Couple this with narrative story telling, and you have a form of entertainment that is at least equal to, if not better than, a movie or a good book.
And the notion that video game violence is a problem? Ignoring the tabloid hyperbole, studies have actually shown that gaming induced anger stems from failing at in game tasks (be it a puzzle, a multiplayer kill streak or a difficult boss battle) rather than content but that is an argument to be had in a different article.
So what of The Witcher 3? As a piece of High Fantasy, it deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones. The fact that it’s a game shouldn’t come into it.
Your move Snooty One.
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