Monday, June 27, 2011

Defying Gamer Stereotypes

And we all have beards, even the ladies.
I am a video gamer. By the standard hysterical media perception of gamers, I am twelve years old, call strangers "faggots" on Xbox Live, absorb copious amounts of gratuitous violence, and reenact said violence on helpless grannies.

Turns out these stereotypes might not be true. Will wonders never cease.

Myth #1. We're a bunch of thugs

Crime reports in the United States have been dropping consistently since 1991. A BBC report posits several possible reasons why, including video games:
A study released last month suggested video games were keeping young people off the streets and therefore away from crime. Researchers in Texas working with the Centre for European Economic Research said this "incapacitation effect" more than offset any direct impact the content of the games may have had in encouraging violent behaviour.

Yes, this study refers to gamers as "incapacitated," basically zombies incapable of lifting themselves up from the couch, but it beats the standard story about pliable absorbers and purveyors of the old ultra violence.

Myth #2. We're a bunch of snot-nosed kids

Another study states that the average age of a video game player is 37. The average game buyer is 41.

This probably means that more parents are buying and playing games with their children, but that's not all it means. People in their 30s and 40s are the first generation that grew up with video games in their homes. Many of us see the fact that they are more than children's toys and are an acceptable way for an adult to spend his or her leisure time. This sort of acceptance will become far more common as twentysomethings and teenagers grow older.

We may or may not be snot-nosed, however. The study does not address that issue.

Myth #3. Parents just don't understand

The same study also points out that parents are more savvy about understanding game content than is generally believed and they do a good job of keeping kids from violent or sexually explicit games.

Well, that part is based on a survey of the parents themselves, so it's entirely possible that they are overestimating their skill in this area. Still, it indicates that parents are aware of their responsibility to monitor the media their children consume.

I think the media likes to focus on special, eye-catching stories of children being exposed to adult content in games or of mentally disturbed people acting out game violence in real life. In reality, these are edge cases and most parents are conscientious about providing their children with material they feel is important.

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