Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Video Games Almost Mainstream

It's nice to see the news media not putting a negative spin on a video game story even though the two industries have long been arch enemies. Still it's pretty hard to shine a negative light on the recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center. I guess they could frighten older viewers with the study's finding that 97% of teenagers in America play video games. But quite frankly that's getting old. Most parents who aren't completely nuts know that video games don't turn children into vicious, psycho killers. Only politicians who like appealing to reliable senior citizen voters still spout out such nonsense and associate video games with things like laziness, low intelligence, and violence.

If you think I'm wrong just look at the recent primary season where several candidates tried to drum up votes by making such claims. Even the youngest guy running has gone on about how video games make today's youth lazy. It's been standard practice to do this since the game Mortal Kombat first caught the attention of politicians. Luckily, things have changed in recent years to give the video game industry a better degree of respectability. The number one factor has to be the huge amount of money game releases like Grand Theft Auto IV and Halo 3 have brought in. When you have an industry that all of a sudden makes more money then Hollywood you can't help, but realize its not the whipping boy it use to be.

That's not to say that some people don't continue to scare uneducated parents with imaginary threats to their children. Not too long ago we had the Virgina Tech shootings which drew every pop psychologist and psycho claiming that the killer had been trained on video games. Of course this proved false and in fact the killer was probably more influenced by the wide media attention such school shootings always attract. It's not just violence either the media also loves to jump on any kind of sexual reference in a video game. Even though games are often much less sexual then a PG-13 movie they often have scenes blown out of proportion.

Who can forget the Mass Effect coverage on FOX News where they didn't even try to get any of their facts straight. I particularly thought the SexBox title was hilarious, but it displayed such a staggering amount of ignorance that my head hurt. Thankfully, if there's one thing the Pew study showed is that video games are well on their way to becoming mainstream. Ten years from now it will be impossible for the same kind of story to be aired by any news outlet. Of course by then I'm sure my generation will be worrying about how dangerous virtual reality pods are to our children.

P.S. Also interesting to note is that the Pew study found that MMOs were played by around 21% of teenage gamers.