Throughout growing up I was fortunate enough (In my opinion) to grow up surrounded by gaming and people who (mostly) supported my love for it however, throughout the time of me playing games which is nearing on 15 years now I’ve never seen positive coverage in the press, anywhere. That fact alone is mainly why I want to take a deeper dive into the world of gaming but not just the games side of it but the mental health side of it and how it’s truly impacting society from Esports to New Media but firstly I want to give a brief overview on how gaming has affected my life so that you can understand my stance and viewpoint.
My Experience With Gaming
From the age of 3 I’ve been involved with gaming. (Well, that’s what my parents will tell me.) I began on Crash Bandicoot on the Playstation 1 and from there is sort of spiralled uncontrollably into my parents biggest mistake since me. What they didn’t know after whilst introducing me to the orange marsupial was that it would spawn a love for gaming spanning the entirety of my childhood and still following me into adulthood. To me gaming used to just be something I’d get on and do after getting home from school but it very quickly became much more than that. When I started losing friends around me due to “extra curricular activities” around year 9 gaming very quickly became some form of sanctuary from all of that.
Gaming to me meant that I didn’t have to battle with things going on around me like losing friends because I knew that as soon as I went home and as soon as I turned on that Xbox I’d have all of my friends online to chat with for hours on end, but then as I aged I started to notice more and more that there was nothing about gaming in the press aside from negative coverage such as blaming gaming on being the cause for heinous crimes such as school shootings and even for crippling young people’s minds which is my biggest and main gripe with Old Media and their representation of gaming.
Old Media vs Gaming
In my opinion Old Media ( Print Media, Film Studios, Music Studios, Advertising Agencies, Radio Broadcasting, and Television.) has always been out gunning for gaming and New Media (but that’s for another time) and I believe this to be the case due to the fact that with any domestic crimes or probes wherever gaming is present the Old Media will try to pin gaming as the cause. Take this awful, awful crime from 2012 in which Adam Lanza killed 27 people including his own mother and 20 children but of course a shining and rather disgusting example of Old Media attacking gaming and it’s community the headline reads: Adam Lanza: A head full of video games and a house full of guns But of course, there must be a very valid reason as to why the headline is worded so specifically to imply videogames are at fault here and are solely to blame right? Wrong. The only time videogames are mentioned in the article is in this paragraph:
“When investigators found his computer at the house, the hard drive had been smashed, presumably by Lanza. He is said to have been a fan of computer games featuring warfare and killing. Did he cross some line from the fiction of these games into some twisted, self-realised reality last Friday?”
Is there any evidence that gaming caused mental illness here? No. Is there any evidence that he even OWNED any? No. It’s just one statement not based on fact that reads “He is said to be a fan of computer games.” Now I don’t know about you but that is by no means a reason for somebody to kill 27 people. And, if that isn’t enough to show that Old Media is attempting to take down gaming and it’s community there is always this gem: Excessive PlayStation gaming causes new skin condition Now of course gaming is linked to this but is “Playstation gaming” the cause of a new skin condition? No and if you think it is then I don’t think you’re fit to judge videogames in any capacity. This skin condition comes from the person using their controller for an excessive length of time. So no of course gaming did not cause a skin condition. Do we say riding motorbikes is the only cause RSI? Of course we don’t because RSI can come from anything where you use your hands in the same position over and over again but ultimately jut slap the word gaming on a negative headline and all of a sudden you have the whole world’s attention specifically the older generation. Which brings me to my next issue:
Grannies vs Gamers
I know what you’re thinking, “Wow another young person disrespecting their elders what’s new” But I fail to see how I’m “supposed” to respect someone’s opinion that is so shaped by what they read and see in/on the news. For context, Grandparents from nearly all sides of my family have a negative stance on gaming and believe it to be the devil, why is this? Well just as I said before they just take everything they see in the old media to be the truth and then proceed to regurgitate such lines as “Too much on that Nintendo will turn your brain to mush” or “You’re always on that why don’t you socialise with your friends” and my personal favourite (which is not so much a negative thing at all but just reinforces why they shouldn’t even judge the hobby) “Who are you talking to, me?” To break down each sentence;
- “Too much on that Nintendo will turn your brain to mush” – This is a common thought among people not familiar with gaming and the scene as a whole as the media only really covers the “negative effects” looking at this article from the BBC in 2015 it clearly states that whilst some studies have shown a 4% increase in a persons aggression after a gaming session, further studies have actually shown that in fact there is no correlation between gaming and a person’s aggression nor is there a correlation between real world acts of violence and videogames. So to say that it’ll turn your brain to mush is just another thing that people say due to what they’ve read and seen in the propaganda machine that is the Old Media
- “You’re always on that why don’t you socialise with your friends” And to this I say what I always do and will, Me playing games is socialising in this day and age and I think it’s about time to people see that clearer this point is only backed up by a study written by Dr. Jennifer Jenson and Barry Dilouya and Dr. Suzanne de Castell in which they found gaming not only allowed for social interaction but in fact supplemented it and the study even suggests that people who game online and interact with others online are more likely to then go out and socialise further.
- “Who are you talking to, me?” The reason I include this quote isn’t to subvert it with some amazing new study or developed research but to show that in fact gaming still isn’t completely understood by the older generation and the fact that you can communicate with someone in a different country through a games console is almost alien to some suggests to me that the Old Media still is not doing enough to explain what gaming is and what it does for young people rather than what it supposedly does to young people.
So whilst I do think that there is certainly an issue when it comes to the older generation and gaming I don’t necessarily think that’s their own fault I more look at Old Media to take responsibility for that and turn it around when it comes to gaming, with no substantial evidence there should be no reason to berate gaming for what it is and we should be educating people on it rather than making it out to be a big bad monster. Although, that being said Old Media are going to have to do that because if they don’t they may lose the battle to New Media.
New Media & Gaming
Old Media’s greatest enemy, New Media. New Media is typically referred to as any type of content on demand through the internet so sites such as YouTube, Vimeo, Twitch and Netflix are all types of New Media as are Facebook, Twitter and Discord. Note that the first examples listed are all some form of video sharing site whilst the latter examples are all social media platforms but it’s important to note that no matter how different the websites are they all fall under the umbrella of New Media. The reason that New Media is so key when it comes to the discussion of gaming in the modern world is because New Media is almost exclusively in support of gaming and what it can do for their respective community. Take YouTube as a key example of this as we saw back in August of 2015 YouTube launched a separate website under the name “YouTube Gaming” which exclusively caters towards gaming, with the goal of the site to separate gaming and make it more easily accessible to any audience due to it’s rapidly growing nature. Not just this but New Media is a platform in which gaming has flourished in recent years look at YouTube channels such as Rooster Teeth whom began a sitcom in 2003 with the caveat of the show being that it was all filmed in the game Halo Combat Evolved, 13 years on from that and they are releasing their first feature film in cinemas across America as a production company titled “Lazer Team” and whilst the film did not smash box office records it certainly was a shining example of what gaming can do for people in this day and age. Of course, with gaming and New Media video platforms helping to assist one another there comes the social media side of gaming and what that does for the industry.
Social Media has the potential to make or break a games launch or status within the community as marketing campaigns for games generally consist of a simple hashtag relating to the game and this if course encourages a certain level of community engagement and with that engagement can come all new fans and thus a bigger and bigger fanbase. So, when looking at New Media and why it supports gaming rather than putting it down and making it out to be the devil’s favourite past time it’s important to note that it’s all done for the sake of self growth. The reason YouTube supported gaming so much is because out of all of the content on YouTube gaming is by far the largest category and PewDiePie who is currently sitting at 54 Million subscribers on the website is primarily gaming focused showcasing that gaming is the most profitable area for YouTube to operate in. The reason social media is used so much when marketing a game is because it encourages a conversation and can be the spark that lights the dialogue for the game thus building a wider audience meaning all the more sales for the game. But, whilst gaming is something I strongly believe to be overwhelmingly positive there is one major issue with gaming today. Microtransactions.
The one thing that both old and new media can agree on when it comes to gaming, Microtransactions classified as any type of in-game purchase no matter whether or not it affects gameplay. Now, from my point of view and many many others there are two types microtransactions simply known to me as; “Harmful” and “Harmless”. Starting with harmless as it’s the most simple and therefore easy to grasp, harmless microtransactions to me are anything that you can purchase in a game for real-world money that has no significant impact upon the gameplay experience itself therefore meaning you can not buy them and have exactly the same experience gameplay wise as everyone. The best example of this is Overwatch’s lootbox system which involves players either earning lootboxes from literally just playing the game or players can choose to purchase them using real money, the thing is with these lootboxes is that all they contain are essentially different looks for your character and some in-game pictures meaning the purchases really are unnecessary hence them being harmless. Now, with harmless lootboxes not being necessary there comes it’s counterpart in the form of harmful lootboxes. Take, Star Wars Battlefront 2 which launched in November of last year to much controversy.
The reason this is so important and pivotal to the argument of how videogames are affecting society is because not only did the issue occur last year, it also made international headlines and was even the talking point among governmental bodies across the globe. In a nutshell, Star Wars Battlefront 2’s lootbox system would have had players paying out $2100 or putting in 4,528 hours worth of game time just to unlock all of the weapons and characters, this also meant that in order for somebody to get to play Darth Vader in would take them 126 hours alone. (Thanks to this Star Wars Gamer article for sharing those figures)
The reason this matter was raised to such a level that governments across the globe had to discuss it is because the game was aimed at children and as Hawaii state representative Chris Lee summed up the game as being a “Star Wars-themed online casino designed to lure kids into spending money.” Which was quoted in a recent article by The Telegraph. Thankfully, whilst this is a dire situation and does shed a poor light on the industry the situation was rapidly defused after the developer disabled microtransactions for the game and whilst Microtransactions can result in disaster for some game franchises. Thankfully, they do not have an impact on perhaps the hottest side of gaming in 2018. Esports.
Perhaps the hottest commodity in the modern gaming world, Esports is slowly taking over. Once, being considered an laughable act just a mere few years ago but now it’s taking not just the online gaming community by storm but is also attracting a lot of attention from both Old and New media. The latest and potentially biggest Esports now is Competitive Overwatch otherwise known as the Overwatch League, The Overwatch League began in January 2018 and has taken the gaming community by storm with the debut day peaking at 450,000 concurrent viewers on the streaming site Twitch.tv alone. A brief overview of what the Overwatch League is imagine the Premier League for football but instead of kicking a ball they’re playing the videogame Overwatch. 12 Teams make up the league and will all play 40 games in the first season alone, and to put it in perspective. One player, who isn’t even old enough to compete in the League named “Sinatraa” was sgned to the team San Francisco shock for a staggering $150,000.
With 91% of children being gamers in 2011 alone and as of 2013 72% of all gamers playing online games it is no wonder Esports is on the rise, so surely, rather than berate something that so far has only proved to be beneficial to the community it’d be best to learn about Esports and gaming as a whole than to critique it and berate it when most don’t understand it all.
Personally, as a whole gaming is a positive force to anyone that it touches. I do believe that too much can become harmful but not harmful enough that it will destroy lives and turn you into a murderer, but what I want people to see and what I want people to understand is that gaming is held in such a harsh light purely because it supports New Media and allows it to thrive which Old Media is clearly noticing and seeing as a threat hence their efforts to shut it down with their callous articles and blatant propoganda. So I’m asking you as a reader to at least do your own research or look more into the subject of gaming before making such harsh judgements on it. Because at the end of the day if there’s no evidence to suggest every negative thing the Old Media claims gaming causes then believing them not only makes a fool of you but also makes Old Media just as harmful if not more harmful than gaming for poisoning people’s minds.
- The Telegraph (2012): Adam Lanza: A head full of video games and a house full of guns
- The Telegraph (2009): Excessive PlayStation gaming causes new skin condition
- BBC News (2015): Horizon: How video games can change your brain
- Nicholas Taylor, Jennifer Jenson, Suzanne de Castell and Barry Dilouya (2014)
- Public Displays of Play: Studying Online Games in Physical Settings
- Star Wars Gamer (2017):
It will take 4,528 hours of gameplay (or $2100) to unlock all base-game content in star Wars: Battlefront 2
- The Telegraph (2017)
Hawaii to crack down on ‘predatory’ loot boxes in video games following Star Wars Battlefront 2 controversy
- Inquisitr (2017)
‘Overwatch’ Superstar Jay ‘Sinatraa’ Won Inks $150,000 Esports Deal
- Cnet (2011)
91 percent of kids are gamers, research says
NPD: 72 percent of US gamers play online