Debate of the Day: What Have We Become?

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I know that’s sort of a broad question for a debate of the day, but when you see the above picture, you sort of understand what I’m talking about.

Doing what I do for a living, I find myself constantly in a position where I have to defend video games. Yes, it’s a mainstream pastime and not just for dorks and geeks anymore. Yes, it can be beneficial and teach you valuable skills like hand eye coordination and teamwork (unless you’re playing Call of Duty).

But then I come across pictures like this, and I have to wonder if when all is said and done, video games have made us better off. Yes, you can play games in moderation and have a blast, but there’s an entire generation of kids right now being raised on games by parents who are happy that something, anything is able to make their kid sit still not only for minutes, but hours upon hours if you want them to. As ardent as a defender of video games as I am in many regards, I do not see increased childhood obesity rates as a miraculous coincidence when viewed next to this lifestyle. Yes, it’s the shit food, but sitting around for hours a day when kids used to be up moving around and doing things is going to significantly contribute to problems like that.

As for video games causing aggression? I’m not sure I buy that one. Kids were aggressive far before games even existed, and it’s not some new trend we can blame on the medium. I think you get upset when you lose (I’ve seen some insane child rage videos on YouTube), but overall games can actually relieve stress by having kids take out their aggression in a virtual world instead of the real one.

Looking at this picture just makes me sad though. To see virtual ping pong replace its real life counterpart makes me feel like an old man at 24, and soon I’ll be yelling for kids to get off my lawn. Expect they won’t be on my lawn. They’ll be inside, playing video games.

Have video games made this next generation better or worse off?

  • I really hate the current state of parents letting video games babysit their children. I’m tired of watching my friend’s 8 year old realistically slit someones throat over and over and over again in a game because he can’t beat the next part of the level. I just don’t think its’ appropriate for kids that young. Parent’s just don’t seem to care about the maturity ratings on games at all, and I do believe we’re going to have some royally fucked up little kids coming through our schools soon.

    Of course, the majority of royally fucked kids will be from 16 y/o moms who make their children watch bullshit MTV shows with them while trying to get pregnant again because it’s the cool thing to do.

    I am so glad there are online home school options these days…

  • Skeebo

    We’re not getting heavier b/c of video games, chances are none of these kids would’ve been playing table tennis in the first place… it’s not like it was ever a super popular game.

    No we’re getting heavier b/c portion sizes have exploded.

    Anyone remember when the Route44 used to be the ginormous, “I can’t believe they’d give us that much” drink?

    When the smallest drink size you can order is what was the largest drink size was 10-15 years ago, you gotta a really good look at what the problem is.

    In a world of “Value Size” and “Combo Meals” EVERYWHERE, not just fast food, you have to actually work against the flow to keep your portions even remotely close to what they should be, and a lot of people either don’t want to care, don’t know they should, or just don’t think about it.

    Weight is first and foremost a direct result of how much food you eat, everything else is secondary.

  • Diablo

    I don’t know if this is in the same vein, but I grew up in the bottom half of a large family. Basically I have from my childhood maybe two photos of me growing up because frankly after 4 kids, taking photos got expensive.

    My older brother now has three daughters, all below the age of four. At any point, I can spend maybe three minutes to locate videos and photos of all three of them, at any point in their lives. I got their first words, first time walking, first snow fall, their first anything.

    Its amazing to me that they have such a huge digital foot print. I spent a couple of deployments overseas and I got to see more of my nieces “firsts” than my father did of mine since we didn’t have the technology, let alone the simple fact that he worked about 60+ hours a week for us.

    Is there a lot of bad? Yeah…but I wouldn’t give up anything for seeing my goddaughter tell me she loved me for the first time while I was countless miles away from home.

    Though…the moment they are on facebook or whatever, I am going to hate technology. I already planned on crippling their first boyfriends…now I am going to have to potentially leave the state to do so…

  • MetFanMac

    Video games are not, to my mind, a cause–they are a symptom, a symptom of the state of Western culture in general and American culture in particular. More than ever, people are pandering to children, whether actual children or adults’ “inner children”. Video games, for example, are becoming a big industry because so many of them are being geared towards adults, who have more spending power. I’m neither claiming that video games should only be for children or denying that you can make video game that are meaningful on adult levels–but there have to be limits. Look at schools, making getting passing grades easier and easier while simultaneously teaching children how to memorize rather than how to learn.

    tl:dr version: America is becoming lazier and lazier as a nation, becoming more and more dedicated to the concept of instant gratification.

  • Violets dyed

    At 49, I am an avid videogamer. However I am quite moderate in my playing. I keep it in perspective.

    What I’ve noticed about not only this generation, but in people up to their early thirties, is that addiction to technology is becoming a near-crisis level issue.

    I fearfully envision a time in the not too distant future where people sitting across from each other in restaurants have to talk to each other through their iPhones because we as a people have lost our ability to communicate directly. People walk around like zombies in the malls and on the sidewalks, checking and talking on their phones, texting, listening to iPods. It’s as if we have decided that we can’t deal with each other any more.

    I don’t think that it will get to anything too insane, and I do realize that my age has a lot to do with it. When I was a kid, if you couldn’t find a pay phone you didn’t make a call. If you were away from your phone people had to wait to contact you. Television had 3 major channels, a few local channels, and KCET.

    I’m not saying things were better back then, but they certainly were simpler.

  • frikkenkids

    I personally witnessed several 10 to 14 year olds a few weeks ago crowded around a TV shooting basketball free-throws on a Wii. Free-throws for Christ’s sake! It was a nice day and there was a basketball net on the driveway. It really depressed me. I play games, and will defend them as entertainment, but crappy simulations of something you can easily do in real life just boggle my mind. If I found my kids doing that, we would be having a serious discussion about how they spend their time.

  • xXburekXx

    growing up my parents never let us have video game systems in the house, my very first system was a gameboy color and i played that outside with my friends or before dinner. the problem now is online, we have the ability to talk to each other, some people see that as enough social interaction, thats why i miss the consoles that didnt have online, sure you were playing games but at least you were in the same room, there wasnt no voice behind the mic.

  • Steve

    If obesity rates continue, life expectancy in this country is going to go backwards. We’re literally eating ourselves to death.

  • Tim

    People have been having this debate for years — decades, really. Video Games making children, or people in general, lazy and lethargic is not a new debate or concept. You could replace that picture with one from the late 70’s featuring a group of young people huddled around a giant, wood-paneled floor model TV playing black-and-white PONG on their set while the actual table-tennis table (redundant) sat on the other side of the rec room collecting dust. In fact, there are quite a few hot-button debates concerning what this generation is involved in that are not really new at all, but simply rehashes of previous generations concerns. How about MTV only airing Jersey Shore marathons and no music videos? People talk about that all the time, but that’s not really a new concept or issue, it’s been discussed since the mid-to-late 90’s, maybe even before.

    I don’t think it’s a question so much of what kids are into, but should be more of question of what tired old entrappings of society do we blindly follow on a daily basis.

  • EarthThePlanet

    This picture looks like it was taken at a community center. If that is the case, the irony of the situation is that they might not have the proper equipment to play the real game. That’s the true sadness here is that after school programs are constantly getting their funding slashed. So instead of encouraging actual activity and providing the means to do so; they’ve become babysitters who simply need to provide enough entertainment to occupy the youths. How many schools do you know that have resorted to pay for play for sports? Instead of complaining our kids need to get out and do things, we should be focusing on getting these programs and schools the funding they need to continue to activities we all enjoyed when we were younger.

  • trashcanman

    Video games cause aggression in the same sense that sports do. They get your adrenaline and competitive juices flowing the result is similar to a bunch of dudes sitting around watching football. Yes, there can be aggression, but acting like video games are a cause of violence is moronic when entire cities are burning because of a fucking sporting event. And lifestyle changes in our generation are exactly why obesity is on the rise. It’s not just gaming, it’s the internet, iPads, texting, DVDs, endless reality television, and all that other crap that keeps us sitting on our asses for days on end.

  • Nickincollege

    I consider myself quite the gamer but pictures like the one above have me shaking my head. I don’t have a problem with kids playing video games but I don’t think it should be a means of babysitting. Kids need to go out and interact with other kids their age. When I was a kid (back in the 90s), yes I had a playstation, but I went out and did stuff with other kids around the neighborhood. Whether it be playing sports, building forts in the woods, to just straight up doing random shit we could think of, I was out there having fun. Would I play ping pong on a wii? Sure, why not? But I’d much rather be could at ping pong in real life. Which addresses another up and coming issue: Kids who know what they’re doing in video games think that they can use these skills in real life i.e. Call of Duty kids who think they’re military experts. I’m tired of hearing how if they could use any gun in the real world, it would be the Famas.

  • Davy

    While it’s true that video games didn’t invent aggression, it’s not true that they prevent it by allowing people to take out their anger in the fake world. That idea is based on the theory of catharsis, developed by Aristotle (the guy who thought gravity makes heavier things fall faster) and Freud (don’t get me started), who both worked before we got around to applying the scientific method to psychology.
    Scientific studies repeatedly show that “taking out aggression” by punching a pillow, or playing a violent video game actually increases aggression rather than reduces it (after a momentary rush of feel good chemicals, that may actually cause an addiction to aggressive behavior).
    Check out research done by Bushman, or the Cracked article “6 Bullshit Facts about Psychology Everyone Believes.”
    But this applies just as much to sports as video games, so I guess it’s a little off-topic.

  • tires don exits

    I’m with you on the aggression debate. I do have a problem with this:

    > but overall games can actually relieve stress by having kids take out their aggression in a virtual world instead of the real one

    They can relieve stress, but not by taking out your aggression. This isn’t specific to video games, but anything really. “Taking out your aggression” just doesn’t work. It doesn’t make you feel better, it often just makes you feel worse. None of that aggression/stress stuff is specific to video games, so it would be nice if people would stop bringing them up together when I could easily change the sentence to “movies cause aggression”, “books cause aggression”, “aggression causes aggression”.

    Related to the picture, I have a story about when the Wii first came out (with Wii Sports). After it came out, I ended up bringing the Wii I got to school and we were able to hook it up to a TV during lunch. We then played Boxing and Tennis (we didn’t go into anything else since we didn’t have the time). I’ll say that the 5 games the Wii had (Tennis, Boxing, Golf, Baseball, forgot the last one if there was a 5th) were all games that I could have gone and played outside, but they required a much deeper investment than say… 10 minutes during lunch. We also just wanted to play with the brand new motion controls (we very quickly after its release went back to the games we were playing before).

    Although with table tennis (if they had the equipment), I would have just gone and played it. The virtual simulations are all so shitty anyway that if it’s physically possible, I’d rather play the real game.