By: LB Chambers
For those of you who haven’t ever read anything of mine (which is probably all of you, other than my brother and mom) I usually write about games, and gaming, and why it’s an often-overlooked area of interest.
In fact, gaming is so stigmatized it’s generally considered a waste of time, immature, or for people with no lives.
This has always been very interesting to me, as in my life I’d argue that the opposite is more often the truth. I found gaming on my own, but was motivated to become more and more involved simply because of the fact that the smartest, kindest, and most mature people I’ve met are gamers.
Which is why I got so very, very frustrated last weekend when discussing my hobby with a family friend.
After disclosing that I write about video games and the people who play them (I like to think of myself as a budding gaming anthropologist) she furrowed her brow, and in a somewhat polite way (like she was helping me out) insisted that I was wasting my time, that gaming was a waste of time, and that I was hurting others by encouraging them to waste their lives on games.
Needless to say the comment irked me.
Why does gaming have such a terrible reputation for the majority of people? I’d argue people think worse of video games than reality television, than badly written erotica, and definitely worse than television in general (besides plenty of studies that provide evidence to the contrary).
And after thinking about it for a while, I came to a mini-conclusion.
I think it’s because gamers share so few intimate and personal stories. It’s almost like this hidden layer of gaming, the part that changes and touches us, is the one part we never discuss openly or share, so I thought I’d share a handful of my own.
Gaming, to the average person, seems like a violent form of entertainment for spoiled teens and immature adults.
But I’ve seen Dark Souls give a severely depressed friend find a reason to get out of bed everyday, even if it’s just to try one more time.
I’ve seen Mech Warrior 3 give a group of senior, widowed veterans something to play together; to talk about and discuss besides bad times and sad memories.
I’ve seen Portal make a Marine, having barely survived a helicopter crash, laugh out loud for the first time in weeks.
I’ve watched a physically handicapped grandmother finally be able to play with her grandchildren on her terms through Wii Sports and Harry Potter Lego.
I’ve seen The Legend of Zelda help two childhood friends, with nothing in common after years of distance, to remember their friendship.
I’ve seen Skyrim give a teenager the confidence to ignore the mean girls, and pursue her interests of fantasy writing and kick-boxing.
I’ve seen The Sims giving a close childhood friend the chance to build, enjoy and find comfort in a family he’d actually want to belong to.
I’ve seen Halo give a friend with terminal leukemia the chance to laugh and smack talk with his little brother, to forget the hospital bed he hadn’t left in weeks and remember what it was like to be himself.
And I’ve lived, through dozens of games, confronting the self-doubt, anxiety, and depression I’ve fought my whole life.
So I argue that gaming isn’t it a waste of time, not in the slightest. I view a non-gamer in the same light that I would view a non-reader, with a sliver of pity.
Because I’ve fought mythical creatures, lived amazing stories, saved countless worlds, created the best version of myself again and again (making it easier for me to recognize who I am and what I want to be), and done it all alongside real friends and the fictional characters I try and emulate in my darkest times.
So while they see me wasting my time, I see myself living spectacular stories and adventures no other generation has had the opportunity to explore, while they live in a deliberately chosen box of limited experiences.
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