Image of Solitude

“Solitudes” by ArTeTeTrA. (Creative Commons License)

Go Outside and Smell the (Paper) Roses!

It is no secret that videogames are blamed for a lot of the world’s ills.  Simplistic associations between videogames and societal violence persist despite the ambiguous and often downright flawed research in this area.  I suspect this particular gaming albatross is never going to disappear, but just in case that it does, the forces of reaction are lining up new evils to associate with interactive entertainment, chiefly childhood obesity and addiction.  This of course is nothing new.  Governments have routinely targeted the new media of the day in order to try and expand their control over information; parents have regularly lambasted the media du jour in order to dodge responsibility for their own parenting decisions.  I am, however, routinely shocked at how effective the level of societal brainwashing has been.  Many of my students have absorbed the “evil influence” argument to some degree.  This is perhaps not so surprising in those who don’t consider themselves gamers (although many of them are; they just don’t play “those games,” you know, the bad ones; playing Candy Crush obsessively doesn’t make you a gamer but playing Call of Duty does, in their minds).  Yet even people who have been playing and enjoying all manner of games for years, who think of “gamer” as part of their identity, have absorbed some of these negative stereotypes.

Yet behind all of this there is often a much more basic dismissal directed at games, a snooty high-mindedness that declares that those who play videogames are simply “missing out.”  What they are missing out on is sometimes unspecified; the proposition is left hanging, a vague assertion that gamers are missing out on “life” in some unspecified way.  Sometimes the criteria are established: they are missing out on “social interaction” or “the great outdoors” or “creative play.”  Such charges are, of course, usually based on hopelessly romantic notions of what each of those entails.  Anyone who has stood in line to get coffee at Starbucks with a group of people who can barely look up from their phones long enough to voice their order (and in fact usually continue texting, etc. without even offering the person serving you your drink the courtesy of eye contact) should know better than to offer platitudes about the vast and exciting world of stimulating social interaction that is waiting for people just outside their front door.  Moreover, it is worthy of note, isn’t it, that this “gamer generation” of “millennials” (and I honestly have no idea what that word means anymore, if it was ever supposed to be anything more than a term of abuse ready-packaged for deployment by grumpy curmudgeons like me) are actually those who are seeking out experience, the extraordinary and the extreme, in unprecedented numbers.

With all of this as background, it occurred to me recently, that the real hidden tragedy associated with videogames is that it is the people who don’t play them who are missing out. Read the rest of this entry »

St Cuthbert

Saint Cuthbert? Or a modern videogame designer?

It shouldn’t by this point be any surprise that the mainstream media does a lousy job commenting intelligently on videogames.  When they aren’t talking about videogames as a business (in which case they are always awesome) the standard narrative remains that playing games is bad for you.  Games either actively damage you in some way or prevent you from engaging in activities which are supposedly a lot better for you.  Sure, the mainstream media does occasionally flirt with the idea that games may be beneficial on the individual and social level.  But this is really the equivalent of the fake compliment, something they know they have to say to keep the wheels of conversation moving, when what they really want to say is that those jeans do make you look fat.  When something new and game-related appears, however, the media reach for their default frameworks. It took all of two days after the release of Pokemon Go, for example, for the Washington Post to come up with a story built around the stock “games are dangerous!” frame.  Like all such stories, it takes a few anecdotes and while it never explicitly argues that this is a trend, strongly implies it, and relies upon readers’ familiarity with the broader frame to come to the necessary conclusion for themselves.  (The Pokemon Go phenomenon is obnoxious but for reasons that have nothing whatsoever to do with the supposed potential to make people so self-absorbed that they walk into lamp posts or in front of cars; in terms of massive levels of screen-based self-absorption society has left orbit on that one already).

But there’s at least some evidence to suggest that it may be making videogames that is hazardous to your health.

Read the rest of this entry »

I’m not even going to pretend that there isn’t a conflict of interest here.  A better, more ethical person would take steps to maintain their objectivity and protect their sense of integrity.  But in a world where news anchor Brian Williams can singlehandedly drive the Taliban out of Afghanistan, and the US Supreme Court has declared that money is people, I will simply press on.  In the immortal words of Brian Williams, once more unto the breach!

Read the rest of this entry »

[Real] Caution!  This is an image of a real onion and should under no circumstances be confused with The Onion.  Trigger Alert!  Users who have experienced traumatic encounters, resulting in uncontrollable weeping, with onions in the past may find this image disturbing

[Real] Caution! This is an image of a real onion and should under no circumstances be confused with The Onion. Trigger Alert! Users who have experienced traumatic encounters, resulting in uncontrollable weeping, with onions in the past may find this image disturbing

I have been pretty critical of Facebook(tm) in the past but It now appears that I owe Big Friend an apology.  Because it has become clear recently that the folks at CareShare Central have been working diligently behind the scenes to protect us.  Not to protect us from the predatory wiles of advertisers or the social media giant’s own datamining practices.  Nor have they been working to protect us from pages devoted to sexual violence against women, or the avalanche of everyday idiocy represented by the YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT! clickbaiters.

No, apparently they have been grappling with a much more weighty problem, one that clearly threatens to bring social media crashing to its knees.


Well, not satire itself, exactly, but apparently the inability of some people to differentiate satire from the real thing.

Read the rest of this entry »

Crazy Desperation

You haven’t updated your status in three fucking hours! What’s wrong with you! (Photo by Eneas de Troya, Creative Commons License)

I’ve been taking a break from Facebook for several days.  But it seems Facebook doesn’t like being “on a break.”

Read the rest of this entry »

This post continues the discussion I began in “Chillin’ at the OK Corral;” In that post I re-evaluated both Guild Wars 2 and Star Wars: The Old Republic based on their pre-launch claims concerning the revolutionary transformation they were about to unleash upon a helpless planet earth.  Since their release, the Massively Multiplayer Game environment has seen some interesting changes over the last year or so.  What might these changes indicate about the fate of existing MMORPGs and ones still in development?

Read the rest of this entry »

Looking back over some of the posts on the blog I see that I wrote several anticipating the releases of The Old Republic and Guild Wars 2, including one called “Everything we know about MMORPGs is about to change. . .or is it?” which looked at the way both games were claiming to bring revolutionary innovations to the genre. Given that both games have now been out for a while and I’ve played both of them it seems only appropriate to ask: how well are we coping with the Revolution?

Read the rest of this entry »