Video games have invaded our culture. As someone playing in a Super Smash Bros. Ultimate tournament this evening, I’m quite happy for this. But I’m also acutely aware that video games could only break into the mainstream through a hostile process.
I called my grandfather thinking he’d be one of the curmudgeons exhorting me to play frisbee or soccer over Dota 2. He surprised me by citing literature on the benefits of video games. Seems we have gained another fanboy!
His perspective was still valuable. Why is it that historically, video games and e-sports have been relegated to the nerdy oppressed subculture? It seems to boil down to the image of a physically and socially unhealthy kid sitting for hours in a dark room, eyes glued to a screen.
Thankfully, we can deconstruct this image. Time spent in such a way might have otherwise been used in another sedentary pursuit, such as reading, writing, or drawing. The scholar or artist can still make time outside of their chosen activity for social interaction and maintenance of physical health.
The skeptic is left with the question: why not just read then? And this is where the true misunderstanding lies. The most popular video games are not individual activities. They are sports in the truest sense of the word. They are the competitions of will that you get when humans have full command over physics and all the resources of the universe. They are immense battles of physical and mental strength, requiring dexterity, teamwork, skill, strategy, sportsmanship, and more. If you accept chess as a valid hobby, then video games are valid tenfold.
It’s natural and perhaps even good that we have been conditioned to view the basement hermit as a bit of an oddity. Time spent on cell phones has been positively correlated with depression and suicide. We should be very careful with the quality and purpose of our social interactions online.
But rarely do I hear the argument that in this age of information, our brains have become vastly more important than our bodies. Often, as repulsive as it may seem, the most direct way to interact with this new world is to plug in.