|Posted on April 27, 2010 at 12:06 AM|
Gamers Need to Grow Up
I was originally going to post a rather long and involved article in regards to Videogames as Art. This has been a hot topic lately and many are citing Roger Ebert for his (rather stubborn) stance on videogames not being a legitimate art form. I had written around five pages or so, discussing less whether or not games are art (they are) but whether or not they are good art, what is “good” art and the history of what people viewed art as over time; notably film which is a great comparison. Doing so, I read numerous message boards, responses to Ebert’s article at this website and internet forums that strongly shaped another issue I feel more pertinent:
Gamers need to grow up.
If you want to be taken seriously, then you need to start acting seriously. The responses to Ebert’s incredibly well written and well-thought-out piece play out as though people against his stance are using Twitter one-liners to bring his view down. They are amateurish. Childish. Juvenile. Nonsensical and the exact response that many would expect the gaming community to present as an opposing side.
The sad thing is, the average age of gamers, as of a 2009 study, is 35 years old.
The average age is 35 and the majority of responses sounds like someone from middle school upset a bully stole his lunch money? No wonder nobody takes videogames seriously and still look at it as a toy for children.
Looking at some of the absolute idiots that are taking up the mantle in trying to bring down Ebert miss the entire point: that they should be building their own argument; not saying "blah blah blah, he's old, he doesn't play games blah blah blah" is as a complete 180 of what is needed. Also, showing Ebert games you think are artistic, too, is completely pointless. You have to show how the concept of art is applied to videogames, not how you think one game is artsy and thus proves your point. These people just angered me. Let's stop worrying about reactions to criticisms and start taking action if you want to progress the medium to a point of being taken legitimately.
I seriously hated calling myself a "gamer" after reading some of these morons once the insults started flying, so I think my knee-jerk loathing of this attitude and immaturity of a demographic that is far older than their voices appear is going to come through as spiteful. At this point, I think it needs to.
Validation from the Masses
If you had read my previous blog entry regarding the Game Overthinker's view on gamers, much of this will be echoed. However, he touched upon ideas whereas I sort of wish to explore them.
What gamers want, more than anything, is validation. They want what they spend their time doing to be viewed as a legitimate way to spend your time. The money is certainly there. The game industry makes billions, however the mass perception, especially from older generations, is that it’s still something for children. So when a Jack Thompson sits on a pedestal and points at a violent videogame, gamers feel hurt (and rightfully so) when he could just as easily point at a slew of R-rated films as well. When you have parents groups and other activists that seem to belittle the videogame industry as a whole, many feel insulted since, again, the average age of gamers is 35.
But I say this: look at the reaction they stew. No wonder they think it’s for kids when the responses, in most cases, are childish and as closed-minded as their own. Yes, you can say they are “out of touch” or “just don’t get it” but it’s up to the community to grow up and help people get it. By this, I mean acting insightful, educated and intelligent - in the exact same manner and method uses that allows someone like Roger Ebert to denounce it. To be respected, you have to have dialogue and discussions, not throw a temper tantrum.
How to Grow Up
Stop worrying about validation, first off. Right now, just enjoy games for being games. Enjoy their design, their gameplay, their visual splendor in 720p hi definition and surround sound. The fact is, it’s too early to really care or worry about such a young medium being validated by the masses, much less to be viewed as an art form. The community, simply, is not there. Oh, it's there in numbers and revenue generated, but that's really about it. The demographic of average players is 35, but while that might be a shame in terms of how gamers act by comparison, it’s also still quite young in terms of people approaching and presenting the medium as respectable forms of art and the eventual validation they seek.
Over time, this will happen. Eventually game design won’t be taught at design school, and game theory will. Eventually a college might have an discussion on videogames beyond just their history and entertainment value – such as many colleges having film departments that cover those elements, but also specific directors, genres and narrative theory. From this, more and more grow until people begin writing thesis and books on the subject rather than using the outlet of the internet to cry out like schoolchildren unhappy with a pop quiz.
Another way: stop having knee-jerk reactions to every little criticism that hits your ears as though it’s some form of personal attack and just enjoy games for what they are and what they offer. It took film decades to be viewed as more than just bits of entertainment and to finally be taken seriously. The only reason why it feels so desired now, is because we live in this world of immediacy and the “now” generation. The scholastic level doesn’t work like that. It’s a slow progression, not immediate satisfaction.
But you can help in the long run. By planting seeds now, you can help the perception evolve down the road. By just this act of understanding that it’s a process and not immediate, you are already growing up. This shows a maturity of willing to listen and let the industry and games themselves evolve naturally rather than forcing the issue. Now take it one step further. Start having discussions with others rather than arguments. If you’re in college, write something that might promote videogames beyond just being “cool” or “fun.” Discuss the visual aesthetics or maybe write something that can look at videogames from an intelligent point. You need to lead by example – and seeing as how videogame “journalism” is about as far away from legitimacy as videogames being art is, it’s up to the massive community to decide if they want to take up that mantle or just sit around and bitch about if for another twenty years.
We’re All in a Boat...but Everyone Should Be a Captain
You can’t expect sudden change in views, but you can expect a change in attitude from yourself. Gamers seem to have some sense of entitlement to their cause yet at the same time won’t ante up to the table and try to take matters into their own hands. They want everything to be done for them like spoiled 35 year old, overweight, children living with their mother. Incidentally, that is the exact same impression society has about gamers - lazy and want everything handed to them - the impression you put out there the impression most will have of that. You can’t expect one person to rise up and change everything, or for everyone to suddenly “get” it and legitimize your form of entertainment, but you can grow up and take responsibility yourself rather than acting like Will Ferrel and John C Reilly in Step Brothers.
Though I am not posting much on this topic here, the idea of “videogames as art” isn’t nearly as important as the community surrounding it needing to mature and grow. It’s at that point we can start having such discussions. As it is right now, the videogame industry is huge and its value as entertainment growing and growing. Hopefully, the maturity of gamers will grow and grow alongside with it. For now, let’s just enjoy what we have, act respectable and understand that things aren’t going to change overnight. Adam Sessler is absolutely correct in that the reaction of the gaming community is more or less proof that it still has a long long way to go...though the questions videogames bring up are exciting, the community has a lot of maturing to do.
If you’re over the age of, say, twenty, then you have no excuse to act like a complete asshole. Kids will be kids. Let them act like morons online and in games as they spout obscenities and tweet their distain toward those that don’t point at videogames as any form of value. If you’re an adult, though, you need to act like one. You need to put on that captains hat and point the direction you want the boat to go. You’ll hit a few icebergs along the way, but at least you’re making decision and putting an effort to venture forward rather than leaving the steering wheel to spin aimlessly and bigger ships with bigger guns bombard it until it sinks.
At some point, perhaps I’ll dig up my expose on videogames as art. As of right now, though...the world of videogamers doesn’t deserve it.