Against the Grain

Slightly more than just jibba jabba

When do gamers grow up?

Posted by Patrick on 20 Sep 2007

The community of adults, especially adult males, in the US that hold onto habits traditionally attributed to children is an ever-growing one.  Why do you think that is?  Are we socially more immature, or are we men devolving mentally into lengthened adolescent periods whereby we don’t realize our true potential until well after we reach adulthood?  Or, is there some other force at work?

I’m 31, which puts me square in the prime demographic of adults these days who are absolutely hooked on video games — not just adults who enjoy playing freecell on the computer or who like to occasionally drop a quarter into Ms. Pac-Man, I’m talking about adults in this country who are absolutely addicted to video games.  We are the first in line when a new console hits the market, we are the demographic of people who keep companies like AlienWare in business — we think of computing first as a method of gaming, and secondly as a method of being productive with work. What’s more, the “hardcore gamer” community is looking at a growing population of women, to boot.  Whereas we medium-aged gamer adults pioneered most of the gaming consoles and usually have hours of stories about the time we pwned mob X in game Y with friends A B and C.  It’s not a hobby — no, it’s an entire existence.

Does an addition to video games make us less mature as adults?  Sociological studies disagree on this topic, but I must say that I think so.  From the perspective of one study, the constant interaction present in many online multi-player games (MMORPGs) promotes social awareness and tact.  Another study, published more recently, indicates that young men and young women who have a strong affinity towards video games (who play games more than 20 hours a week) grow as adults to be more socially eccentric and are generally less comfortable in human-to-human interactions than the same demographic of non-gamers.

So, what are the criteria for someone to have “grown up”?  If you ask me, it’s when a person begins to accept responsibility for themselves, but more than that, it’s when a person makes conscious decisions to better themselves and follows through with them.  To me, that is the mark of someone who has grown up.  When I think of that, I always have questions:

  • Can a hardcore gamer be “grown up”?  Absolutely. 
  • Are the majority of adult gamers also “grown up”?  No, they aren’t. 
  • Do I mean to imply that kicking the video game habit can help someone grow up?  Yes, I do.
  • Do I have an addiction?  I used to, but have outgrown it.
  • Am I a gamer myself? Yes, I am, but casually.
  • Are time-sink video games hurting American society?  Yes, they are.
  • Do I think I have “grown up”? Yes, but only after my first child was born.

Are video games the only source of the social devolution?  Of course not; just look at network TV these days.  It plays on the most basic of human instincts to try attracting viewers.  There’s literally nothing on network TV in prime time these days which is suitable for children.  Compare that to a socially fluid country like Japan — take a look at what comes on TV in the prime hours in Tokyo; you’d be amazed.  It’s full of variety shows, educational shows about Japan itself (like places to go to do X kinds of things), and lots and lots of comedy and drama.  This is a different post, but drama in Japan is not medically, criminally or sexually driven like every drama in this country.  No, they actually maintain some sort of socially responsible standard.

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3 Responses to “When do gamers grow up?”

  1. ruhi said

    I feel that men who are addicted to gaming are less socially responsible. Anything that draws them away from ‘reality’ is good enough. I wish I could do the same sometimes. Unfortunately, I find it difficult to put away work and other pressing needs (except when it comes to Harry Potter).

  2. Patrick said

    I think what’s odd is that it’s not only the US which suffers from this condition. It’s less common, but if you go to some areas of Tokyo (especially like Akihabara (秋葉原) or even Shibuya) you’ll run into a gaggle of adolescent and young adult males who are absolutely possessed by some form of gaming demon. I believe they obsess more than the average American does, but there are far fewer % of people in Japan who are stricken as such.

  3. ruhi said

    A person in China actually died of exhaustion from too much of gaming a couple of days go. He had playing online games in an internet parlour since 3 days, without any break.

    The obsession with any kind of gaming is a lot in the US. Whether it is baseball, basketball, football, soccer or plain video game. It is good in a way because this is perhaps the only country where you can make a career out of it. In India, it’s not even an option. One in thousands gets to be in the cricket team. No other sport is taken seriously in India.

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