We spent the weekend visiting some good friends in New Jersey. Since the route home sends us right past Philly, I figured I would take advantage of the opportunity to enrich myself with the erudite discussion of the day’s issues at that landmark NPR station WHYY.
Instead, I was assaulted with this show about Second Life run by some psychologist named Dan Gottlieb, PhD. You always know something is going to go badly when the guy makes sure to put “PhD” on the end of his name. None of the smart ones are that proud.
So after an interview with an enthusiastic consumer of Second Life the discussion on the show began in earnest. Dr. Dan first started talking to some dude from Stanford who had done an extensive survey of people who are heavy players of online games. The first question out of his mouth?
First I’m thinking about the creators in Linden Labs, where these ideas come from. I wonder how many of the creative minds in Linden Labs have Aspergers or social anxiety disorder… kind of isolated people who are more comfortable with screens than people…
Now, I have no love for MMO games in general or Second Life in particular. But I do work in software and am perhaps I take too much personal offense when the old stereotypes are trotted out. I found this to be an infuriately stupid turn of phrase, especially for someone who apparently fancies himself to be an educated and somewhat sophisticated intellectual. I felt the dork rage welling up from my dark reserves of bile. The phrase “moron shrink asshole” passed over my lips.
But, I restrained myself. Ultimately I found it impossible to dig up the angry energy necessary to come to the defense of my various identity groups. Maybe I’ve just been beat down by the man over the years, but at this point the whole exercise seems pointless. Others in the dork and gaming communities obviously do not feel the way I do. The poor oppressed gamer has become a subject of wide discussion again as Fox decided to drum up ratings by picking on Mass Effect a few weeks ago. This latest incident has lead to much hue and cry, including a two parter by our old friend N’Gai about whether games will always be thought of as infantile amusements for overgrown children.
I have two opinions on this general question. The first is that video games in fact are infantile amusements. If the video game industry wants to escape this pigeonhole they have to figure out how to assess what they do a bit more realistically.
The second is that if the current generation of moron PhD assholes and media types want to sit around and stare in wonderment at the people playing Second Life and conclude that they are all mentally ill, nothing that we do is going to change their minds. Their attitudes are pretty much set. They might not even be wrong. But, one thing is for sure. They will eventually die. At that point, video games will no longer be seen as a strange fringe element. When the next generation takes over everyone alive will have been playing them for their entire lives.
Being the lazy sort that I am, I’ll just sit and wait, rather than working up a sweat right now.