Video games are a controversial form of media. For whatever reason, since their invention, video games have drawn hordes of critics and been attacked from a variety of angles. They are tied by frenzied media and overzealous lawyers to any number of delinquents, degenerates, and violent criminals. If I could get only one message through to this crowd of people fearful of video games and their surrounding culture, it would be this: video games are not the source of violent behavior, addiction, depression, or any other negative state you care to tie them to. Those are all problems that have existed for as long as humanity itself has. On the contrary, like any other media form, video games can just as easily be uplifting, inspiring, and even therapeutic. Their merit lies in the minds and perceptions of the people playing them.
There are countless stories out there, I'm sure, of people positively influenced by exposure to gaming. A psychologist friend of mine uses a shared love of games to connect with his patients. Surgeons in major hospitals use the Wii to sharpen their coordination. Children facing horribly painful illness find release and entertainment in gaming. The list goes on, and I want to add my own experience to it, for whatever it's worth.
Four years ago, my husband and I lost our first baby after five months of pregnancy. It's a kind of pain that's difficult to describe and impossible to really understand without experiencing it, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone. The weekend we found out was a hectic blur of physical and emotional pain as I went through surgery and tried to deal with the loss of all the hopes I had tied up in our baby.
Life goes on though, and the following Monday my husband returned to work, leaving me home alone with no ability to do much of anything physical, and no one to talk to. I can safely say that the thing that kept me from a complete breakdown during that week was a video game; my husband, in his infinite wisdom, picked up Super Paper Mario and insisted I play it. The Paper Mario series, for anyone who isn't familiar with it, is the video game equivalent of a chocolate cupcake: sweet, satisfying, sugary goodness wrapped in adorableness. I clung to that game like a life preserver during that first horrible, lonely week, and the relief from my own concerns as I threw myself into the story of Mario and his friends was my salvation. Journeying through each of the lovingly crafted worlds, watching the sweet, simple story of the power of love unfold, took me completely away from my own troubles each time I started the Wii. To this day, Paper Mario is the first thing I think of when I need a little pick-me-up.
Video games will always be part of my life, and any naysayers who think of them as destructive or a waste of time will always come off looking like ignorant, sensationalistic fools to me. As a form of therapy, gaming can't be beat in my book; it's immersive and personally involving on a level movies and even books simply can't touch. Those developers who put so much love and dedication into their work, and craft such amazing, transportive experiences are doing far more good in this world than any hack journalist or lawyer decrying video games as a source of evil could ever dream of doing.
Anyone else with a story to share? The more examples of good we can throw out there in defense of our games, the harder it becomes for people to use them as society's scapegoat.
Gaming as a Force for Good
Blog entry posted by Jessica Holt, Jul 26, 2012.