In the last few years of my studies in Kinesiology, awareness of our society’s sedentary lifestyles has been the center of attention and for good reason. What interest me more within that context is the consecutive questions of what we are to do with video games as they are undoubtedly a contributor of people’s collective inactive decision making? Video games compete for young minds attention which most of us may believe could be more productively spent playing sports and experiencing the outdoors. What I am here to state is that scapegoating video games to society’s inactivity is not the answer. I will go as far as to say that talking about technologies negatives is an irrelevant waste of time that only distracts us from problem solving. My goal is to provide reasoning to why believing video games are bad for our youth is wrong and how video games can serve us well in Sports and Recreation.
To set some context for my main point, a historical ground work will be laid in order to understand this problem in a truthful manner. For starters, scapegoating our problems to new innovations that occupy our leisure is nothing new and is in fact a common pattern that has been repeated throughout history. Video games are no stranger to oncoming barrages from parents and other important figures attacking the video game industry with hysterical claims that video games are perverting children’s minds. Jack Thompson and Anita Sarkesian are just a few anti-video gamers that come to my attention.
To get a look at the historical occurrences of how people have always been against new invention, let’s start by going back to approximately 430 BCE Athens Greece, home of the famous philosopher Plato. During this time oral tradition was the most common form of learning and expressing ones thought; writing on rolls of parchment was also commonly practiced. Plato was against poetry, literature, and the imaginative arts. In fact, Plato in many of his writings explicitly states his feelings of the written word and how it is perverting the youth.
This is what Plato had to say: “If men learn this, it will implant forgetfulness in their souls; they will cease to exercise memory because they rely on that which is written, calling things to remembrance no longer from within themselves, but by means of external marks. What you have discovered is a recipe not for memory, but for reminder. And it is no true wisdom that you offer your disciples, but only its semblance, for by telling them of many things without teaching them you will make them seem to know much, while for the most part they know nothing, and as men filled, not with wisdom, but with the conceit of wisdom, they will be a burden to their fellows (Plato).”
Now if we reflect on how important the written word is in our society, it is obvious that the technology of weaving parchment into a solid collection of written material is not a perversion, but an innovative tool that delights you and I. Academia and new innovations rely on books. The irony is that we have the luxury of reading some of Plato’s works because they were recorded in books.
During the 1500’s, English Puritans and political figures shunned theater, poetry, and other forms of art. People indeed thought that most forms of leisure were a perversion to people’s minds. Queen Elizabeth single handily whooped England’s economy back into shape because she lifted a ban of theater and poetry for her own personal consumption. Queen Elizabeth gave birth to William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, Edmund Spencer, and Francis Bacon (Spark Notes, 2005).
The Russian Chemist Mendeleev was an advent player of solitaire. His colleagues thought his hobby of solitaire was a frivolous waste of time. Mendeleev would then have an epiphany on how he would organize all the Atomic elements. Mendeleev took his useless hobby of solitaire and created the periodic table of elements which is used in every science class around the world (Eric, 2013). These three stories in history have one relevant pattern that relates to how older generations are perpetuating the idea that video games are perverting our youth today. You see, all throughout history people have always been resistant to new cultural innovations, yet these same innovations have given us so much in return for society’s who have frivolously consumed them.
Grace Hopper was involved in creating the first computer language compiler. She too was possessed by a bad habit of frivolously wasting time playing basketball. Only one problem, it wasn’t a time waster because the first functional computer language was inspired by Graces knowledge of basketball (Williams, 2012). Refer to the video of Howard Bloom for his work of compiling the history for this idea that video games do not pervert our youth (Bloom, 2013).
How about the real life ‘Irron Man’, Elon Musk who is reviving the electric car, building dragon capsules that go to the international space station and back to earth for reuse. He also is erecting the world’s largest battery factory in the US at this moment. Elon had his humble starts through video games. At the age of 12, Elon built his own video game system called Blaster. He sold this game, thus starting his career as an Engineer (Mary, 2014). These are proofs of the rewards of leisure and it is our duty to challenge people’s way of looking at these so called frivolous time wasters.
Now let’s look into how video games are utilized by people involved in sports and other activities. Video games are virtual spaces in which we can experiment, visualize, enhance creativity in our learning, and to help us learn motor skills. An example of this display is the Israeli air cadets use a gaming system called Space Fortress II as a part of their training program in order to simulate flying air crafts. In a study on the Israeli flight students, those who did not train with the video game simulator scored worse on real world flight scenarios (Gopher, 1994).
Madden NFL has dominated the market since 1989 and is no stranger to athletes who play them and who are virtually represented in them. Although these games do not explicitly convey how sports video games can be educational, they do have a subtle component of transferability to real world sports. Some may say the learning experience from video games can be subliminal. Sport video games mimic real world scenarios, settings, strategy, play formations, conditions, game statistics, and more. Video games allow for risk taking experiments where real world sport environments might not be practical (Silberman, 2010).
It is very common for modern athletes to incorporate video games in their lives as a tool or to escape from stresses of the perpetual beating of their bodies from competitive sport. Here are but a list of some professional athletes who play video games: Joes Johnson, Jozy Altidor, Jamaal Charles, David price, Usain Bolt, LeBron James, Adrian Peterson, Stephen Strasburg, Derrick Rose, Loic Remy, Marshawn Lynch, and Kevin Durant. A couple of athletes even stated that they took their video games on the road with them (Leli, 2014).
Now what I just provided is with the assumption that video games and sports are divided as two separate entities. The reality is that video games have risen to the capacity and as a center piece of modern culture that it is now classified as a sport, or more formally referred to as e-sports. E- sports are serious organized events that draw crowds, award elaborate victory cups, and give away mass amounts of prize money. Dota 2 in particular gave out $24 million in prize money while League of Legends compiled 2566 players for tournaments (E-sport Earnings, 2015). In the year 2014, more people watched the League of Legends championship than the total viewership of the Stanley Cup (CBC, 2015).
With the given capacity of video game popularity, speculation has been going around by gaming figures such as Rob Pardo that video games could possibly be an Olympic sport if people are open minded to the possibility (Fitzpatrick, 2014).
What is more, Toronto city is seeing an emergence of video game culture like nowhere else. A group of Waterloo graduates are opening a bar in Toronto that will be dedicated to the e-sports sports community. This throws a wrench in the original concept of pubs being dedicated to sport spectators and pub games like darts or pool (Ngabo, 2015).
Also, video game culture has an alluring feature of inclusivity. For example, in an online gaming community, one can often experience a live forum between people of all ages, sexes, and ethnicities. The common norms of face to face interactions are often flipped on its head in these video game forums. Children are typically limited to their social contributions because of the presence of authority figures; gaming forums lift the limiter on children as they can be seen to outperform and engage in petty squabbles with older peers on an equal playing field. This is the type of freedom that organized sports cannot always promise younger populations. Even people with disabilities are often times not limited in their capacity to fully immerse themselves in a video game environment as equals and with no attention drawn to their condition.
Video games happen to be prosocial, which is Contrary to common stigma. 76% of teen gamers play games with other people in some way, while 1/10 gamers’ are members of a gaming website community (Amanda, 2009).
Despite this, certain societal opinions still frown upon video games as a viable leisure option, let alone a sport. Through analysis of a video game forum, the community reveals some interesting perspectives on how the gaming community feels on the topic of sports and the place video games have in sports. Some people were for having the gaming community declared a sport; others were against calling video gaming a sport. Here is an interesting excerpt from a gaming forum: “Because of stereotypes. Physical ability has often tied with attractiveness. Gaming has often been tied with the opposite (League of Legends, 2013).”
This idea of e-sports not having legitimacy based on its lack of sexy qualities in the general public eye is nothing new and shows some stark similarities to the decline in popularity of fringe leisure such as ‘blood sports’ (give or take a few details on the animal cruelty and inhumane practices). ‘Blood sport’ is generally known for promoting idleness and decline in social discipline. The fringe groups that ‘blood sport’ created was, and still is not attractive toward wide public consensus on account that these events take place in dreary basements, back alleys, and attract unemployed thugs with crooked noses and a bad case of cauliflower ear (Bennet, 1981). This is not much different than the common stereotype in popular culture that gamers are idle losers or ‘basement dwellers’, which unfairly casts a broad stigma on the gaming community.
As from what was stated previously, one can conclude that video games are not a perversion or a waste of time. To say otherwise is not only wrong, but ignorant. As Far as I see it, scapegoating problems on video games is a regressive historical argument that has accomplished nothing. In truth, as a group who passionately hold a stake in youth being physically active, we should be quite inspired by the gumption that the video game industry has in exalting youth.
What do you think? Are video games perverting the youth? Are they holding us back from living healthier lives? Are they turning our youth idle and rotting their brains? Perhaps sports and recreation organizations are not meeting the markets demand? Or perhaps video games are completely irrelevant?
Feel free to comment below.
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Bennet, T. et al. (1981).Popular Culture: Past and Present. Routledge. 21-27
Bloom, H. (2013). Youtube. Are the PS4 & the Xbox Curses or Gifts?. Retrieved from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QTJeQS6wm88
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Eric, S. (2013). Oxford University Press’s Academic Insights for the Thinking World. How exactly did Mendeleev discover his periodic table of 1869? Retrieved from: http://blog.oup.com/2012/08/how-exactly-did-mendeleev-discover-his-periodic-table-of-1869/
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Gopher, D. (1994). Transfer of Skill from a Computer Game Trainer to Flight. Human Factors, 36(3), p.387-405.
Williams, K. (2012). Grace Hopper: Admiral of the Cyber Sea. Pg. 78. Naval Institute Press. Retrieved from: https://books.google.ca/books?id=KKmiw-_2gYIC&pg=PA78&lpg=PA78&dq=grace+hopper+basketball&source=bl&ots=gNbWLaw49l&sig=ROXONzMTkwaBfO7fFqixFzS47po&hl=en&sa=X&ei=sJ-0VPPmM6rdsAT82oDQAw&ved=0CFwQ6AEwDw#v=onepage&q=grace%20hopper%20basketball&f=false
League of Legends. (2013). General Discussion: Welcome to The Forum Archive! Why People Hate E-Sports so Much. Retrieved from: http://forums.na.leagueoflegends.com/board/showthread.php?t=3108809
Leli, T. (2014). 15 Pro Athletes Who Are Obsessed With Video Games. Rant Sports. Retrieved from: http://www.rantsports.com/clubhouse/2014/01/31/15-pro-athletes-who-are-obsessed-with-video-games/#slide_16
Mary, B. (2014). About Money. Elon Musk. Retrieved from: http://inventors.about.com/od/mstartinventions/p/Elon-Musk.htm
Ngabo, G. (2015). Toronto bar to mix e-sports, booze, ‘atmosphere’. Metro News. Retrieved from: http://metronews.ca/news/toronto/1297499/toronto-bar-to-mix-e-sports-booze-atmosphere/
Plato. Retrieved from: http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/wordscape/museum/plato.html
SparkNotes Editors. (2005). SparkNote on Queen Elizabeth I. Retrieved from: from http://www.sparknotes.com/biography/elizabeth/
Silberman, L. (2010). Double Play: Athletes use of Sport Video Games to Enhance Athletic Performance. Retrieved from: http://dspace.mit.edu/bitstream/handle/1721.1/59733/670238302.pdf?sequence=1