Game on: Not just an obscure hobby

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 10, 2013

Many of The Tribune’s readers probably don’t play video games, don’t like video games and don’t even think video games impact their lives.

The first two are likely valid assumptions but I would wager the last one is an incorrect statement. As folksinger Bob Dylan sang, “The times they are a-changin’.”

Video games have emerged as a significant part of pop culture. Even if this hobby doesn’t interest you, odds are your children or grandchildren are another story entirely.

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Or, you may be more interested in video games than you think.

It used to be that you had to sit down in front of your TV to plug in, but that is changing, too.

Games are everywhere now, perhaps the biggest breakthrough to the mainstream coming from smart phones, iPads, iPods, Kindles and other mobile devices. That doesn’t even include the major TV-based consoles — Xbox and Playstation — both of which will likely be launching new versions this Christmas that will be the must-have items for the holidays.

So don’t think that video games will be going away anytime soon. In fact, they are bigger than ever.

According to a recent report in Entertainment Weekly, the video game industry grossed $14.8 billion in 2012. Does that sound big? It is, especially when compared to the fact the movie industry’s box office take was only $10.8 billion.

But are video games bad for us as individuals and as a society? That is the million dollar — well, actually $10 million — question.

Games are in the spotlight as a cause for increased violence in our society. As part of his recent gun control reform, President Obama has asked Congress for $10 million to study the cause of gun violence and the connection to violent video games, movies and television.

I don’t believe there is a connection since violence existed long before the first Atari, but I also don’t see any harm in trying to fully analyze it and support that with scientific evidence.

There have been widely conflicting studies focused on the actual cultural impact. Some conclude that video games can desensitize people to violence through prolonged exposure. Other reports contend there is no lasting effect.

The continued emergence of video games puts me in an interesting position as a fan but also as the father of a 5 year old and an almost-3-year-old who both love playing games on the Nintendo Wii and our cell phones.

Although I was born in the 1970s, I consider myself a child of the ‘80s since those were my so-called formative years. That means I had a front-row seat for break dancing, big hair and cheesy movies. Also, I was there for the explosion of the niche hobby that became a cultural phenomenon.

Over the years I have played thousands of video games, owning everything from an Atari to a Commodore 64 to the current generation of X-Box and Playstation.

Video games are about entertainment and escapism. I’ve been Super Bowl winning quarterbacks, world-saving heroes and despicable villains. I’ve thrown 100 mph fastballs, jumped out of airplanes and robbed banks.

I have never done any of those things in real life and don’t feel any more tempted or able to do now that I have in a virtual world.

But as a parent I do understand that my children are easily influenced. It falls on me to ensure that they don’t play anything inappropriate, understand the world of make-believe and mature into responsible adults that can enjoy video games for what they are: entertainment, whose value should be determined solely by the consumers.


Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCaldwell_IT.