Has society not yet adapted to gaming?

| Monday, October 11, 2010
Gaming isn't new relative to life spans. Even someone 90 years old will have spend a third of their lives, at least, with the existence of computer-based gaming. For younger people, they may have never known a time without gaming. For example, at a mere 23, I grew up with games. So games are old in this sense. But in terms of society, games are young. Very young. They're barely more than a generation old. And being in such an early stage, they are changing rapidly, so it's risky to even put Pong, GTA, and Wii Sports in the same category of "gaming". It would be as if we tried to group Chess, Monopoly, and Risk in the same category of board games, despite having much different rules, social interaction, and play time.

I don't think society has figured out games yet. This is why we see arguments over everything from "gaming is terrible!" to "20 hours a week is excessive" to the guy who thinks 20 hours is nothing at all. We all struggle for comparisons to other hobbies, other social activities, other potentially risky habits. We talk of TV, reading, drinking, smoking, chatting, and we get nowhere at all. There simpy aren't any good analogies.

This isn't restricted to just gaming. Look at the issue of illegal music sharing. Just that phrase is absurd. Sharing? It's not sharing. Sharing is when I give up something I have so you can have it, temporarily. Theft? It's not theft either. Theft implies someone lost something. Piracy? That's a type of theft, so it doesn't work either. We need a new word, a new phrase, something with a better ring to it than copywrite infringment. Does copywrite infringment sound like a crime that an ordinary person commits? Not at all. It sounds like something argued in back rooms at big corporations with ten dozen lawyers and possibly an animal sacrifice.

But getting back to gaming: what is a reasonable amount of time to spend on it? We don't know. No one knows. Literally no one knows becacuse it hasn't yet been defined. There isn't a social norm yet. Instead there are hysterics, prohibitionists, casuals, hardcores, addicts, and a whole lot of people with no previous experience on whicht on structure their views. Whenever someone tries to create a definition of reasonable, they end up going off what they previously think of gaming and create an extreme from that. Someone who thinks it is evil will say zero hours per lifetime while a person who grew up gaming will see any and all free time as reasonable.

I suppose I'm being idealistic to think there would ever be any standard. We don't even have those for old activities. How much should a person drink? Read? Watch TV? Socialize? Commute? Personally I think that last one is the worst. It's a huge time and energy drain, and for what? It's compensation for a lack of planning on all levels, from personal to business to government from city to federal.

I do expect that within 100 years we'll see some vague consensus on normal, in the sense that we won't have many people saying that zero is normal or 60 hours is normal. And maybe, just maybe, people will stop making comparisons to pot. Or they will and it will make sense, since by then they'll both be legal activities.

The posts which triggered this: Righteous Orbs: Fear and (Self)-Loathing and Raging Monkeys: So when's the last time you /played the game?


Unknown said...

TV was turning us into Zombies, Radios are evil, heck, I'm sure some old timer ancient Greeks thought theater was bad for society.

People are afraid of new things. That's all there is to it.

Anonymous said...

You don't have to go back nearly as far as the Greeks to reach a time when theater was thought to be fundamentally immoral.

Gronthe said...

You are so right, there are no good analogies really. TV comes close, but after 80 years our societies still haven't come up with a cutoff for how long is too long to watch TV. Although, I think everyone agrees that The Wiggles is bad for anyone to watch.

If everyone was the same, had the same life circumstances, the same moral code, the same life priorities, the same personality then I think there could be some standard of normal. But without us being alike, there will always be opinions differing so widely that a consensus will probably never be reached.

Syl said...

If you consider that mainstream gaming and the internet have been around for maybe 20 years only in private households of the western world, it is NO wonder whatsoever that we are still in a massive phase of defining this medium and struggling with bias and fears. 20 years thats what - hardly one generation.

It's been like that with any "world-altering" changes and innovations before, no news under the sun: when public transport took its huge leap with the first railway tracks, many people were actually convinced (!) that you would die when inside a vehicle that is driving at such speed - or rather the media made sure to spread similar propaganda.
the same with Television - we actually debated this topic back at university once, looking at old anti-TV adds and propaganda, telling people you would go blind (lol!) from watching television, etc. etc.

so yeah, whatever lol. we'll talk again 20 years from now. ;)

As for standards - the thing is that there can never be standards set for something like gaming, simply because every individual leads a different life from the next, with different interests and also different priorities. one person can deal just fine with gaming 10-40hours a week, another cannot. what counts (for me at least) is that you are in control of your life and are 'the ruler', not the ruled.

As for "addiction", the term is heavily misused in gaming debates. for an addiction to qualify, there would need to be factors like substance increase and withdrawal symptoms in place. most wow gamers I know, including myself, have played less rather than more over the years and disappeared completely for months or even years, taking care of other things / being bored of the game during that time too. talking of the 'average gametime per week' is therefore rather unproductive, I probably should have elaborated on that in my post.

Klepsacovic said...

@Nikola: Shakespeare was a dirty, dirty man.

@Gronthe: We need is a Brave New World?

@Syl: So what you're saying is that gamers are constantly going cold turkey and then binging?

Syl said...


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