Why The Anti-Gaming Brigade Need To Relax

There’s no escaping the gaming behemoth that is Fortnite, it has become the game of the hour, every hour, and probably for every other hour to follow until it’s dethroned. It’s not especially hard to see why it’s garnered huge success because it ticks all the boxes.

It borrows various successful elements from other games and incorporates them in a fun, cartoonish way. This presentation means that Fortnite is “parent-friendly”. Yes, I purposefully avoided using “kid-friendly” here because it’s always the parents that lose their minds whenever a new game permeates into popular culture the way that Fortnite has.

The World Health Organisation made matters worse earlier this year when it officially added ‘gaming disorder’ to their published list of mental health disorders, much to the vexation of the gaming community.

Subsequently, parents have been freaking out, claiming their children have health issues brought on by gaming or that their precious spawn is addicted to games. Of course these are genuine and serious problems and I’m certainly not invalidating them but I wonder how many of these parents are just climbing aboard the hysteria train or basing their opinions on historical bias. Because let’s face it, this phenomena isn’t new.

I hate to break it to all the concerned legal guardians and Mumsnet advocates out there but being an ‘anti-gaming parent’ has been an ongoing trend since games first rose to popularity in the 1970s. That’s almost half a century ago and during those 50 years or so, games have evolved, so why do we keep hearing the same critiques decades later when so many gamers have grown up perfectly fine?

I do get it though, I understand that the majority of anti-gaming parents are just trying to protect their children, however whipping up fear and criticising games without having an understanding of them is dangerous. Games can be a force for good, they have been for a long time and will always continue to be.

For every scientific research paper that attacks video games, there are countless others that praise them for all the benefits they provide. Academic journals and research papers aren’t black and white. Science writing deals in hypothesis and is open to peer review. One media outlet might come across a study that plays into their agenda and run with it, rather than review multiple studies on the subject. This poor journalism leads to unsuspecting parents panicking before they have all the information to hand.

I have been gaming for as long as I can remember, I’ve practically based my identity around the concept of being a “gamer” and I genuinely believe that video games have saved my life on more than one occasion. So when I hear negativity directed at the industry I’ve grown to love and have been part of my entire life, you know damn well that I will defend it. Like Lydia to the Dragonborn in Skyrim, I am sworn to carry its burdens.

To be honest, what I find more unhealthy is the way in which organisations, the media and some parents frame their concerns. The insistence that all games promote negative side effects is severely warped and the terminology that runs alongside it isn’t productive or helpful. Consider how a child (or in my case, a 30-something adult) might feel if you tell them that they are “wasting their life” by playing games.

The very thing they love is being defined as something possessing no worth in society and the activity they enjoy is called out as time wasting. That’s an incredibly serious attack on their own self-worth and identity. If those critiquing aren’t careful, their own concern could potentially cause more harm to their children.

I have lived with anxiety and depression since my teenage years and gaming was the one constant that helped get me through the harder times. Even today, I use games as a way to unwind and de-stress. I can lose myself in a game whenever I need to forget who I am. Like reading a good book, it relaxes me and has become a form of meditation.

I can get engrossed in a story with hundreds of side quests (oh, how I love a side quest), be someone else for a while if I’m in a self-hating mood or do something repetitive while allowing my mind to wander. That’s the great thing about games, they come in multiple forms and I think this is what many worried parents don’t seem to realise. Not everything is a bloody, violent shooter. That being said, there is no objective evidence that playing video games makes someone more likely to commit violent acts or crimes.

Another factor to consider is that you’re often being the best version of yourself when you game. You’re developing skills that you might not otherwise have a chance to, like determination, perseverance, the ability to work with others, lateral thinking, the drive to consistently improve and a plethora of other redeemable qualities that I won’t continue to list because they are unlimited.

In fact, at a recent eye examination, my peripheral vision was being tested and the optometrist was impressed that I managed to see every movement out of the corner of my eye, however small. Hell yeah, I scored 100%.

He then asked if I played video games because often, despite the damage that screens can do to your vision over time, when we game, we’re not just idly watching a screen or scrolling through a social media feed, therefore our ability to take in information is improved.

I left feeling good about my eyesight and gaming skill but also a little sad because I’ve always wanted to don some sexy librarian style specs. But hey, in a game with character customisation guess who gets to live out that bespectacled dream? That’s right, ME! Take that, stupid 20/20 vision.

Of course, it’s important to remember that as with anything, some gamers do pick up bad habits and behaviours with rage-quitting, impatience and abusive language being just a few examples but we’re only human, right?

I’m not defending these behaviours, merely suggesting that humans are a flawed species. We make mistakes but the great thing about that is we can all work towards being better, you know…like we do when we game. After all, life’s just one big grind.