Sunday, June 9, 2013

Video Games-Purpose and Yes, Importance

We always hear from the psychology community how our society is devolving because our young like to play video games. Every time there is a mass shooting or terrible tragedy where there is less than the expected societal me culpa, we are told that its because our young are inured to violence due to video games. They have done studies, tests, programs and many have even based their entire professional careers on the belief that video games are damaging to the human psyche and are making young people evil.

To that I say nonsensical-bullcrap.

It's not only because I know that CM2 considers himself a gamer. He spends every waking moment not studying playing games, discussing games, watching others play games and simply revels in the complexity and the social paradigms found in the video game world. He chats, tweets and IMs about the different genres. What they mean. How some are good, some are bad, some are racist, some are misogynistic etc.

Contrary to lore, Gamers are not social apathetics. In fact part of the joy of game play is the interaction with other gamers. They can slice and dice a game, the story and see the reality of the play down to the littlest detail. These people are highly evolved intellects that manipulate story lines,  thrive on creativity and promote many ideals and virtues.

The issue is not that video games are violent. Quite frankly some are and some are not. The issue is does the person playing the video game know what is real and what is fantasy? Can they leave that world behind when they turn off their machines? Can they differentiate between the rules of game play and the rules of modern society? If at any time these issues become problematic (or addictive), then it is not the game that is at issue, but the mental health of the person involved.

The know-it-all powers that be have decided that certain types of persons prone to dysfunction are drawn to game play. Not so. In fact it is the highly aware and quite functional that seek out a modicum of normalcy if for nothing else to assuage their own discombobulation, as it were.

Comfort in the midst of chaos is how gamers look at game play. The other day at the neurologists office the medical intern asked Mr.GS what he liked to do in his spare time.

"I like to play World of Warcraft," he answered. "There I am a 90 level warrior that can control the world around me. Here in the real world, I am only one person, without any power. Unable to fix anything that is wrong with the world. Here at times I feel helpless. In World of Warcraft at least I can feel like I can do something."

In a sense, Mr. GS is frustrated by his own anonymity/powerlessness. He sees terrible things on TV and has studied the most evil times known to man. He no more could do anything about the Holocaust than he could  do anything about Darfur or about what is happening in Syria. He sees hunger, hate, war, basically every form of man's inhumanity to man and goes inside the make-believe world of game play to escape  the vagaries of the real world for awhile.

And no he doesn't have to become jaded into thinking that the human condition is something to ignore and simply worry about himself for the rest of his life. No he doesn't have to get used to the evils that abound in the world and accept that humanity is not worth worrying about. Let him be frustrated by reality. And let him find an outlet to relieve that frustration.

He knows the difference between real and play. He knows why he enjoys game play. It's a form of therapy.  Playing games doesn't make him, or his brother, unable to cope in the real world. If anything its a way for them to deal with the real world by escaping for awhile. It's better than psycho-therapy for the boys are actually in control every step of the way . It gives Mr.GS a much needed outlet for the fact that one youngman can do nothing beyond his own little sphere of influence.

So I wish everyone would calm down about game play and see it for what it really is. Play time. An escape. Not any different than what we did as children when we played pretend. The difference is that video gaming is just alot more sophisticated than anything we could have ever imagined when we were growing up. Game play is about being part of something that is fun, exciting and outside the bounds of society. It's their rebellion from the pressures of life.

People escape in many ways. Some use drugs. Some use alcohol. Some use shopping. Some fight and abuse others as a way to cope. Some become workaholics, anorexics or completely exit out of society. Unlike those who use addiction to cope, gamers understand reality and are quite good at parsing out the world around them. At least with Gamers they are aware of the real world and when they are playing pretend.

So if the way my boys cope is to play games and pretend to control an otherwise uncontrollable world, so be it. It's not any different than Sheldonopolis. Only in their world, when the city is attacked by Godzilla as mayor of the town they don't tell the people to leave the children and run.