About a month ago, I got into a discussion with one of the girls in my dorm (via Facebook, how else?) after she proclaimed that guys who play video games “at this age” — because hitting 18 clearly means everything has changed and you’re completely ready to put anything “stupid” or “childish” behind you — is like her still playing with Barbies.
Regardless of the fact that some gamers do still play with dolls (yes your figurines count, but I won’t tell if you won’t), I got understandably annoyed. I asked her to justify her reasoning, since I didn’t see a connection between the two. Last I checked, though granted it was years ago, Barbies are nothing like video games. I also asked her if she had in fact ever played any video games, or if she was talking about things she knew nothing about.
Her response? “They’re not real. They’re imaginary. Oh, and by the way I did play video games when I was younger, I just grew up and moved on.” She also then told me the conversation was stupid and unnecessary and she wasn’t going to waste her time trying to get me to grow up.
But why is imaginary a bad thing?
Real life is often boring. We all know this. And sometimes you need an escape. When I was younger and didn’t have games to turn to because my parents wouldn’t let me get a system until freshmen year — and this was only after I convinced them Dance Dance Revolution was legitimate exercise — books were my saving grace. I read anything and everything, and a large majority of it was fiction — completely made up. I would get lost in stories for hours, and come out feeling disoriented. You could slap me in the face while I was in the middle of a good book and I’d shrug it off and keep reading.
Video games are much the same. Yes, some are more complex and story-driven than others. Tetris does not equal Final Fantasy, for example. The point remains that video games are unique stories that never actually happened, even in historical-based games. Imagination is what drives them. And they can be just as riveting as books, if not more so.
Games are also great for teaching problem-solving skills as well as smart decision-making. Again, some decisions and puzzles are easier than others depending on the game, such as who to shoot first in games like Call of Duty versus puzzle-based games like Professor Layton. The fact is that games take more interaction and brainpower than it takes to read most fiction books, not to mention sitting on a couch and staring at a brainless “reality” show.
Putting aside games that are specifically created to teach you things (Brain Age, My Japanese Coach and all other games in the series, to name a few), numerous studies have shown that video games are making people smarter. If you didn’t check all the links, the last one came from the U.S. Navy.
Being “made up” is in no way, shape, or form a detriment to anything, from video games to books to TV shows. Imagination combined with ingenuity is what has brought about every invention since the dawn of time. Games help to foster both. If people still want to call them childish after all of this, I can do nothing more to stop them. In the meantime, I hope everyone reading this has gained some new ammunition to pull out next time someone laughs at you for playing video games, no matter what your age. Embrace it. I know I am.