It's been a while since I wrote you. Thanks again for your patience with me back then. I still like to come back to your site since you always give great advice and things to think about. However in one of your last letters you said something that keeps bugging me:
“I think that a lot of furries get it (which is why it bothers me that too many of them anesthetize their brains with obsessive game play; some gaming is fine, but too much is a trap and a waste of life, and it also plays into the hands of the corporations seeking to suck people dry of their money).”
While I'm pretty sure you didn't mean it like that, to me it sounds like you were trying to say: „I think video games serve no purpose and keep mankind from evolving.“ That's why I wanted to give my opinion on that topic.
Are video games a waste of time? Yes, they are. Just like watching football games, going to cons, playing board games, drawing/writing without charging any money or reading books without any productive content. While all of these things sure are fun and might bring people together (just like video games), they don't serve any actual purpose except to kill time and to escape reality. We humans simply have too much time to spend after all.
Video games CAN cause addiction, that is true, just like many other things. But the definition of video game addiction is still pretty vague. For example there are people who play four hours a day and are not classified as addicts. Most of those people have some other problems which they try to escape, but the games are not the source of these problems. If there were no video games in this world these people would find another way to anesthetize themselves.
Yes I know, there are always exceptions, but saying video games keep us from evolving is like saying shooter games are the cause of homicides (which has been disproved many times already, but people still tend to think so).
Are video games sucking people dry on their money? Unfortunately that has become very true over the last few years, many game companies have stopped caring about the quality and only care about the profit, especially companies like EA. That's why most of my video games are indie titles, games by people who actually work together with their communities and care about their work.
What do I personally think video games are? I think they are an art form. Many game publishers, especially the independent ones, have proven that games can be as a matter of fact very fine art. Just take a look at „The Vanishing of Ethan Carter“, a game of such visual beauty that most triple-A publisher couldn't even hope to achieve. Or „Cry of Fear“, a game created by a 12 years old game engine, yet much more atmospheric than any horror movie I've ever watched. Yet media still likes to shame video games for being evil, simply because they keep people from consuming 'normal' media. (For example, I haven't been watching TV for years now.) The law still refuses to acknowledge video games as an art form, which is why many movies, comics etc. get away with thinks that get heavily censored in video games. For example, I live in Germany, and while there are tons of sh**ty movies showing the Hakenkreuz, in every video game it get's censored.
In that letter of yours you said there will be some point in history where mankind needs to adopt to their natural roots. I totally agree with you on that, but that doesn't mean we will give up on most of our technical achievements. There are many new yet strange things that are still trying to fit into our society, and video games are sure to keep us company for a long time, AND to evolve with us, because they are our creations.
Some time ago I read an article about the military using video game simulations for actual war simulation. That actually made me hope that some day governments will start to realize their wars over political and ethical disagreements only cause the death to millions of innocent lives, and instead will solve their fights via CounterStrike or Battlefield. I know that sounds dumb at first, but imagine this:
Nation a) and Nation b) both want the control over a new discovered gold mine that lies exactly on their frontier.
Nation a): “That mine is ours! Prepare for war!”
Nation b): “Whoa whoa, wait! We are no barbarians, who are we to send our people to kill each other over our greed?”
Nation a): “You're right. Then we challenge you to a game of CounterStrike!”
And then their best players face each other on a neutral VAC-protected server.
Admin: “That's it, Team b) wins!”
Nation a): “Aaargh, they were totally cheating!”
Admin: “No, they were not! We checked.”
Nation a): “Okay, let's face it like gentlemen, you people won. Take the mine.”
Sounds funny? Yes, but I honestly hope that some day in the future we will achieve something like that. Video games are not our enemy, they are what we want them to be.
I know what you said in that letter was out of context, that's why I hope to hear your view on that subject.
Kind regards and best wishes! Oh, and to your husband too.
(Sorry for my grammar, I hope my letter is still readable)
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Thank you for your letter, and I apologize if I wrote something that wasn’t clear. My position on video game play was, and is, and always has been, that playing games for recreation is fine, as long as it doesn’t dominate your life to the point of obsession. Play, as any psychologist will tell you, is healthy. It stimulates the mind and gives us a chance to relax from the daily stress of life, whether that is video gaming, watching a football game, or going to the theater. When does it become an addiction? You say there is no formal definition of that for video games, but actually there is: gaming becomes a problem when it interferes with your life and normal function in the world. I’ll give you an example. I attended Califur recently and met a friend of a friend there who said he refuses to play video games. When I asked him why, he explained that when he played his first game (I think it was Sonic), he sat down and played for 54 hours straight. When he finally set down the controller, he discovered that his job had called and fired him for not showing up. He felt he was too much of an addictive personality, therefore, to handle owning games. That is the perfect example of a problem. I have also known furries who obsess so much about games that they have a huge library of them and, meanwhile, neglect to pay bills or even eat. This is what I’m trying to warn people about.
Another clear sign of addiction is if there are withdrawal symptoms should the addicting behavior be taken away. There was a recent study, for example, in which college students were asked to not use their cell phones for a week. Some were okay with that, while others reported experiencing definite symptoms of withdrawal, such as anxiety, nervousness, and, of course, a strong desire to get the cell phone back. I myself must admit that I'm a bit addicted to checking my messages and chatting on my phone or on my computer.
In the letter to which you refer, I meant that playing video games for a big chunk of your life will mean you won’t have time to develop more important parts of your being, including the intellect and the spirit. When it comes to spiritual evolution, the question is this: at the end of your life, when you look back, will you consider your one chance to really live to have been well-spent if for most of the time you did nothing but play games, video or otherwise? Do you really believe we are put on Earth to press buttons and jerk joysticks frantically back and forth? Do we get a true sense of accomplishment from winning points on a screen or getting to the highest levels of an RPG?
To comment on other things you wrote: yes, the military does, indeed, use video games—primarily, my understanding is, they have one that is used for recruiting and aptitude testing. About video games and art: it might interest you that there have been exhibits at art museums celebrating video games as art, such as this http://americanart.si.edu/exhibitions/archive/2012/games/ and here http://www.movingimage.us/, so, actually, video gaming is considered by many to be an art form, and I don’t disagree with that.
As for the scenario about nations in the future battling it out on a screen: sounds nice, but I doubt that would ever happen. I’m reminded of the episode “A Taste of Armageddon” on the original Star Trek series in which two planets fought a war using computers. Whenever the simulation said that a populated area got hit, some people were declared dead and voluntarily killed themselves in disintegration machines. The idea was to have a war without destroying the culture, architecture, art, etc., of their civilizations, but people still died. Kirk quickly put an end to that (violating the Prime Directive, as he often did, the scamp), noting that war has to be ugly or else people get too used to it and it becomes an eternal state of conflict. Now, say we had something like what you suggest where the nations have a game brawl—the difference between this and the Star Trek episode is that people don’t die, which sounds better. So, the two countries have it out and one wins and the other loses. Guess what happens next? The country that loses says, “Okay, you win,” shakes hands, goes home, and launches a nuclear strike on the unsuspecting other country.
Human nature is too aggressive to agree to fight without actually hurting someone (especially when the ones making the decisions don’t have to go to the war themselves). Furthermore, war isn’t just about power; it has now become about money. America’s policy in recent decades to bomb countries in the Middle East and Asia is designed to make companies like Exxon and Halliburton rich, and any pretense that we are somehow “defending freedom” is utter baloney; playing a video game to solve a political conflict isn’t going to make any company rich and, therefore, won’t work. Much as we try to deny it, we are animals and, indeed, in many ways worse than animals. Perhaps, one day, we will be able to solve differences without bombs and guns, but if we do it would be more likely an exercise in diplomacy, rather than gaming. I, for one, believe that it would probably take a worldwide threat to make us all come together out of necessity, such as one sees in the movies Independence Day and the brilliant Watchmen. Even better would be if we did evolve into a much more spiritual state and gave up all the things that lead to war, including nationalism, religion, materialism, and general hubris.
Looking back over your letter, I didn’t really see a question, per se, so much as an objection to my original statement. I suppose the question was, “What is your full opinion about video gaming,” so there you have it. An interesting topic, and I bet we’ll hear more about it in the future.
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