It’s Only a Game

Video games still have a perception issue. Are we trying to make them something they're not?
This article is over 11 years old and may contain outdated information

It’s over 5 years since John Seely Brown and Douglas Thomas wrote a short post for the Harvard Business Review Blog entitled The Gamer Disposition. In their article, they claimed that video gamers have key attributes and character traits that should help them thrive in the twenty-first century workplace. From their focus on results to their out-of-the-box thinking, gamers have more of what it takes to succeed than their non-gamer counterparts.

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The Gamer Disposition is just one of thousands of similar posts and articles which offer a variation of the ‘video gamers are smarter’ and ‘video gaming is good for you’ arguments. Many of the articles have been backed up by research that shows how gamers are more creative or are better decision makers. Hell, there has even been research that shows video gaming improves the performance of surgeons!

Whenever I read these articles, I can’t help feeling that video gaming is somehow on the defensive, still trying to justify itself against the old stereotype of the pasty-faced youth playing Halo in his mom’s basement for 18 hours a day. Why are there never any articles about how playing Monopoly helps you in the workplace? Arguably, there is just as much strategy involved and you have the added incentives of acquiring great chunks of real estate and piles of cash!

The bottom line is that video gaming is still viewed with suspicion by some sections of the media – and by more than a few parents. Despite the popularity of Kinect-driven games and the hundreds of E-rated titles that are released every year, it’s games like Dead Space 3 and the Gears of War franchise that make all the headlines.

And then there is the online component.

As video gaming has matured and embraced the Internet as both a gaming platform and a means of communication, parents have seen what little control they had over their kids’ gaming experiences dissipate even further.

Perhaps one of the problems is that some gamers try to elevate video gaming to an art form. Gamers will often talk about their favorite titles in the hushed tones reserved for the latest Tarantino movie, and new releases are reverentially reviewed in the arts pages of The New York Times. The goal appears to have video gaming gain general acceptance by including it with mainstream entertainment, such as TV, movies, music, or the literary word.

But video gaming will always fail when faced with such lofty ambitions. Although story lines can be compelling, video gaming is not theater; and although graphics can be stunning, video games are never going to be confused with great cinematography. If we are more realistic about the medium, then we can be far more accepting of its impact. After all, it’s only a game.   


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