It’s time to lay down some home truths – so stop looking semi-detached, open your mind to new ideas (since we share this spacious living room) and consider giving me your pennies if you can afford an Easterly outlook. The truth, my impossible-to-ignore sex-noise neighbours, is that computer games are a total waste of time. Just as a compulsive liar will eventually come to believe their own fallacy, during the course of attempting to persuade nay-sayers of our hobby’s legitimacy, we’ve fooled ourselves into thinking games are something more than a bit of fun.
In his book Men to Boys, Garry Cross argues that whilst children play with toys and thus simulate what it would be like to wield real power (think toy soldiers) it used to be that adults would progress from the simulation of power to truly holding it (such as through their employment and engagement in social movements). Over the past few decades, computer games have become appealing to adults and shifted in locus from the arcade to the living room. Even though they may appeal to adults, games remain toys nonetheless, and as such they offer nothing in the way of enabling their users to effect the world around them. Gaming is therefore responsible for creating a generation of childlike adults – unable to accept real responsibility, too occupied with virtual equivalent.
I trade my time for a smile. Games offer nothing else in this exploitative exchange – at least nothing applicable to the real world. On a recent iteration of my CV, I tried mentioning my time spent leading an outfit in Planetside – the rejections were easily enough to wipe that meagre smile permanently off my noseholder. You might say that there have been studies proving that games can help improve reaction times or encourage rational thought, but our society is geared towards recognising formal qualifications as a measure of achievement; Until Blizzard begin issuing Level 70 diplomas or your printer jumps into life to certificate Peggle Grand Mastership, I doubt any game will help you survive the bill-paying world.
Try watching this video and tell me if you don’t think Clay Shirky’s argument is applicable to gaming as well as TV. In summary, he says that people sit static, staring at the telly because they don’t know what else to do with their free time. Shirky tells us that it took around 100 million hours to bring Wikipedia to its current state and that 200 billion hours of television are watched each year in the US alone. We gaming hobbyists proudly inflate the dichotomy between TV as a passive medium and our active engagement with games. We’re fooling ourselves when we do this. Unless you’d claim that switching channels frames the TV viewer as an active participant in their entertainment, whether you chose to save the princess from the castle or push her out of the top window, you’re not pushing the bounds set down by the developers or effecting the auto-traveless world.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the entertainment industry is regarded as a doubleplus by governments – first as a source of tax revenue and second as a means of keeping their subjects occupied with frivolous nothings instead of being politically aware and engaged. While we game, our liberties are being taken away. If we can’t cut out gaming entirely, let’s at least limit it and deploy our free time in ways that’ll make a difference – before Fleshworld 2: The Fleshening has those irritating invisible barriers everywhere.