A few months ago, I was ill. After weeks of being totally exhausted, I was eventually diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome. This meant my doctor signed me off work for a while. My employer, understandably eager for me to get back to the grind, arranged for me to see an occupational therapist. So I played nicely and let this guy come round to talk to me for about 30 minutes, so he could compile a report for my employer. His report shocked me. He somehow decided that I was tired because I played on my Xbox 360 too much. As a result, my employer quizzed me on my gaming habits, and I was told I should play games less. Let’s skip the (valid) argument about how an employer can’t reasonably dictate what their staff do in their free time, and get to the crux of the problem. The stigma that still surrounds gaming.
Now, to start, it’s not as if I was constantly glued to my console. I was probably averaging around 5 or 6 hours a day of sweet, sweet gaming time. Not a lot, considering I was home all day (though I did spend a lot of time sleeping). The major problem I had, is that if I had spent 10 hours a day letting my brain atrophy whilst watching crap on TV, they wouldn’t have cared. Even if I went out drinking every night (the favourite pastime of the manager who was so critical of me playing games) they probably wouldn’t have mentioned it. Gaming however, is a convenient scapegoat. ‘I don’t understand games. How are you controlling what’s on screen? I accuse you of witchcraft, devil child!’
And maybe, just maybe, they get away with it, because despite the millions of gamers worldwide, not enough of us will stand up and defend gaming. I mean I gave a little argument, telling my boss that I wasn’t tired due to games, and that playing them at least gave me some mental stimulation. However, I didn’t dare to say how ridiculous, ignorant and even offensive it was that they suggested that games were responsible for my illness. Of course we are dealing with a culture of blame here. To paraphrase South Park “We must blame them and cause a fuss, before somebody thinks of blaming us”. And gaming makes such an easy target – it’s subject matter is often extremely violent which always helps. There’s a wave of righteous indignation every time a new COD or GTA is released. It’s not wholesome life-affirming fun for the whole family, you see. Well, maybe the Wii is, but they don’t make the connection between granny flapping about at Wii Sports, and little Billy decapitating zombies in Left 4 Dead. Let’s not forget either, that in terms of popular culture, games remain the new kid on the block, and bullies always go after the new kid.
An easy target, with few apologists to defend it’s honour is always going to take the blame. Imagine a kid plays Halo, listens to Beethoven, watches Harry Potter, then goes out and shoots some one. No one ever blames the hormone riddled wizard or classical composer do they?
The question is, how do we stand up and be counted in the offensive against gaming? I would suggest looking out for negative stories about gaming, and stating your point of view in a calm and polite manner is a decent start. Or just talk more about your hobby with non-gamers. These are of course, pretty small steps. What we need is a complete change in the attitude of society towards games. And that certainly won’t happen overnight. Even so, gamers of all nations, join me in fighting the good fight, and one day, maybe, just maybe, we shall get the respect we deserve!