Video Games -- Not Just for Kids Anymore
What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy James Paul Gee Book from Palgrave MacmillanRelease date: 07 May, 2004
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.