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Video Games — Not Just for Kids Anymore

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Most people think of the original Nintendo Entertainment System or the Atari 2600 as the first real home gaming consoles, but video games have been in our homes since 1972, with the short-lived Odyssey system released by Magnavox. Atari followed up in 1975 with their first release through a partnership with Sears. Now, in 2005, with more than three decades of at-home gaming behind us, adult gamers are facing a new challenge that has nothing to do with pitfalls or a lack of ammo. Those of us who grew up with games from a young age are now facing contempt from our friends and loved ones who look down their noses at our childish habit.

But are games really only for children? The statistics say no. According to an article from Wired, the average age of the modern gamer is 29. The industry recognizes this, and has steadily increased production on “Mature” (adult-oriented) games, but what about the rest of the world? With video games almost constantly in the news for violent and sexually-oriented content and all the discussion over how these games affect children, is it any wonder that adult gamers can’t get any validation? According to that same article from Wired, gamers from ages 6-17 make up only 33% of the market. So what about the other 67% with a controller in hand? If they want to bust up zombies in the latest Resident Evil or stroll down the street with a rocket launcher in one of the installments of the Grand Theft Auto franchise, they’ve as much right to do so as an adult does to buy pornography… or go see an R-rated film. And despite the negative press, video games tend to be far more comparable to the latter rather than the former.

With everyone preaching about the danger to children from video games, it’s no surprise that adult gamers face challenges in getting their close friends and family to understand that they are not spending time with a childish pursuit.

We gamers who are now in our twenties and thirties are the first generation to grow up with gaming consoles in the home, and we are the first to be making a lifelong habit of playing games. Whereas others prefer to unwind in front of the television or with a book, gamers like to relax with a few friends and some rounds of Halo. And it’s really no different than watching a movie, reading a book, or vegging out in front of the television — except that gaming tends to be more active than those others pursuits. The problem is that games still bear the stigma of being for children. Gamers have to deal with parents, siblings, spouses and significant others telling them to ‘grow up’ and do something productive, while these same individuals are spending their leisure hours in front of the tube with a can of soda in one hand and a bowl of popcorn in the other. And what is the real difference? Some evidence points to real benefits that give gamers an edge when it comes to learning. But until (or unless) conclusive evidence linking games with concrete cognitive benefits surface, gamers of my generation will continue to fight this battle.

By the time our children grow up (and they will grow up playing games, for the most part) and begin dating and starting families of their own, this will undoubtedly be a non-issue. Video games will no longer be seen as limited to males, or children, or geeks. But for us, the original lifelong gamers, we fight battles with the government on what constitutes violence in games and whether nor not we should be able to freely purchase suce, and we fight battles at home for the right to kick back in front of the television for a while to disappear into another world — one in which we can enjoy rich interaction… and yeah, blow things up.

Because, y’know, explosions are cool.

The LegendaryMonkey is also Alisha Karabinus, a blogger and writer from Little Rock, Arkansas. Find out more at Sudden Nothing.

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About Alisha Karabinus

  • http://www.breakingwindows.com Matt Paprocki

    I’ve been saying for a long time it’s their lack of acknowledgement as a great art medium and the thought of them being just for kids that make them so so controversial. You really nailed this one.

    I think the bigger debate amongst the actual gaming community is what needs to be done to shake the image of “for kids.” It’s not the few kids games on the market like Sly Cooper. There are far more kids movies than there are games released each year (at least that’s how I see it, especially with the direct-to-video market). I’m not sure what can be done at this point that hasn’t been done already.

    I do have to say though I’ve never recieved the whole “You’re too old” debate personally. I get the “you have too much of this crap” argument.

  • http://www.suddennothing.net LegendaryMonkey

    I’m not sure there’s much we can actively do ourselves. It’s a stigma and we have to deal with it, and make sure we educate our own children.

    But as for you not having dealt with it, I gotta ask… how old are you? :) I’m 26, but I don’t get a lot of it personally, either — then again, both my husband and I play games. A close friend, who is 28, gets it from his wife all the time. A co-worker, who is also 26, gets it from every girl he’s ever dated, he says. Another co-worker, in his early thirties, gets it from his wife and mother. Etc. I think it’s people of a certain age, roughly 25-35.

  • http://www.breakingwindows.com Matt Paprocki

    I’m 25 and never stopped playing. I did get a little bit in high school, but that was it.

    I see a pattern here though from your reply: It’s the women that seem to have the problem with it. Not to be sexist, but could that be the problem? Do we need to figure out why (most) women don’t play?

    It’s hard to deny that you’re unfortunately a minority in this situation, and games are dominated by males as far as numbers are concerned. Why do women watch movies but not play games?

  • http://www.suddennothing.net LegendaryMonkey

    It’s not as much of a minority as many think — according to the statistics in that Wired article, women under 50 make up about 33% of the gaming population, which is more than many would assume.

    I think when it comes to women carping at their SOs about gaming, it’s really about gaming taking time away from togetherness or whatever. Even my friend’s wife has been known to sit down and play some Ratchet and Clank at times, or crash cars endlessly on Gran Turismo — which is way fun to watch, she laughs her ass off — but when it comes to her husband spending several hours at a friend’s house playing Halo, I think she gets upset because he’s not with her. But because of the STIGMA that games are for kids, it’s easier for her to make that argument than the other.

  • http://www.breakingwindows.com Matt Paprocki

    Those stats are deceptive. How many of those include women who play solitare on their PCs? They use these same designations of “gamer” when they total dollar mounts. It’s not right, really, though kinda/sorta true.

    I also wasn’t even thinking just about players. How many do we have on gaming maqgazine staffs? How many women are programming these games? That’s part of the problem if you ask me. They’re made specifically for the male market.

  • http://www.suddennothing.net LegendaryMonkey

    More and more all the time, Matt. In fact, a majority of people who play MMORPGs are women. We are seeing more and more women going to school to become programmers.

    Maybe if we stop being so caught up with how many women play games — or don’t — it won’t matter as much anymore (after all, this post had nothing to do with gender, and yet, we’re discussing it… why?).

    Games with big, busty heroines will always sell, even if they’re demeaning to women. They’ll sell even if women were to take over a majority of the market, because that’s that’s what some guys like — and hell, even I’ll play as a big, busty chick if it’s the best way to go (note that I often play as Taki in Soul Calibur!).

    Not all games are made specifically for the male market — many of them just happen to be made BY men. As we see more and more women entering the industry, we’ll see more changes. Until then, women will keep right on playing what they play now — the best games out there that they enjoy.

  • http://www.animesweep.blogspot.com Lindsay Beaumont

    I remember the Atari! Long, loooong time ago . . . then it evolved into NES, then SNES, now it’s PS2 and Gamecube. But yeah, I grew (growing) up with a game console in the house and I still get hassled with people saying “don’t you have anything better to do?” or “what are you 10 years old?” (I’m 24, and for the above conversation I am a girl and I mostly play RPGs).