Nerds with a Heart of Gold, Gamers Giving Back
Fifty years ago, comic books were a scourge that threatened the very future of America by turning its children into perverse social deviants. Times may have changed but sensationalism will always sell, and the new explanation for young deviancy has become the video game.
Video games and the people that play them have had a troubled history in the media. They’ve been perceived in turns as misfits, slackers, immature children and loose cannons. To those that call themselves “gamers,” this misrepresentation is as insulting as it is limited.
“I think a lot of people think of the term in negative connotations,” said Julie Schaffter, a junior at Flagler College. “You have to think of it this way: there are tons of ‘gamers’ in the world, but there are also different levels of gaming.”
Schaffter argues that there are now a variety of markets each with their own feel and culture. Games designed for families and marketed to kids or adults who typically don’t play games are typically on Nintendo’s Wii platform. Meanwhile, that market and culture is completely different than the user base of the more adult-centric Xbox 360 or Playstation 3.
Schaffter’s sentiments are echoed by the Entertainment Software Association, or ESA. The ESA is an organization designed to rate video games in the same way that the film industry rates movies. Recently the ESA released their annual report and their findings may surprise the uninformed.
The ESA report confirms Shaffter’s assertion that video games are truly for everyone, with nearly 68 percent of the homes polled in the study claiming a game console.
The average video game player, to the frustration of many wives and girlfriends, is 35-year-old male who has played games for over 12 years. That’s a far cry from the assumption that these games are just for kids.
Video games are also anything but socially isolating. Henry Jacobs, the director of Comparative Studies at MIT, recently wrote that more than half of the gamers he’s researched play socially. “Even games designed for single players are often played socially, with one person giving advice to another holding a joystick,” Jacobs writes. “Two players may be fighting to death on screen and growing closer as friends off screen.”
Clearly, it’s not fair to demonize video games. But there is damage to be repaired. So, who better to start fixing it than the gamers themselves? Many game players have started charities to prove that their hobby produces rational people and not socially awkward crazies.
Donate Games and Child’s Play are both charities founded by gamers that rely on the good will of gamers to make the lives of sick children better. Child’s Play is aimed at giving toy donations to sick children in hospitals all over the world during the Christmas season and Donate Games allows gamers to donate their played games to the charity which the organization will then sell to raise money for orphan’s disease.
Communities of gamers have also stepped up to the plate. A group of gamers that have formed around an online super hero game called City of Heroes didn’t form a charity of their own. Instead, they created a website called Real World Hero in order to direct people who play their game to charities and groups who help those less privileged or in need. All of this is run without the expectation of a profit and out of the kindness of each gamer’s heart.
So the next time you snicker at a group of overweight man-boys loitering outside of a GameStop, keep in mind that these are people. That ratty video game shirt and shorts on the weekend could be replaced by a suit and tie during the week. Video games have become as pervasive as any movie or book, and the people who play them are now your friends, neighbors, accountants and ministers.