Essay Critique: ‘The Awkward Truth About Gaming’

I came across this article written by Sunil James entitled ‘The Awkward Truth About Gaming’. According to the essay’s bio introduction, Sunil is a UK-based Catholic Youth Minister affiliated with Sehion Ministries. To give a brief background, Sehion Ministries is one of many Charismatic Catholic organizations. A movement rooted in a handful of American Catholic universities during the 1960s, Charismatic Catholicism is an eclectic blend of Pentecostalesque devotionals with Catholic theology, characterized by its emphasis on prophesy, faith healing, glosseria (speaking in tongues) along with an individual, personal relationship with Christ.

In Kerala, the movement was planted and nourished by a rally of ‘generation Xers’, as an alternative to their parents’ culturally-based version of traditional Catholicism. Nowadays, it’s impossible to be a Malayali Catholic without being familiar with the Divine Retreat Centre in Potta, Rexband, or the Jesus Youth (JY) Movement. That is the extent to which the Charismatic movement has penetrated mainstream Kerala Catholicism.

I was never attracted to the Charismatic movement. I found their preaching to be emotionally-manipulative, feasting on people’s vulnerabilities until they are weak enough to be overdependent on their message of ‘salvation’. Their retreats usually conclude by highlighting the various ‘miracles’ performed during that session, ranging from headache relief to leg cramps ‘cures’ (I shit you not!). After all, God doesn’t have the time to cure cancer!

I mean, sure, they’re not flying airplanes into buildings. However, these ‘charismatic’ preachers represent the worst of religion. So, I was intrigued when I spotted this essay written by one such person on the topic of ‘gaming’.

Now, I’m not a gamer. I’ve actually never been a ‘gamer’. I owned a PlayStation2 (and later, a PS3) eons ago. Yet, I only had an handful of games in my shelf and I played them sporadically. But I have a numerous friends and acquaintances who are gamers and I’m always disturbed when I see that subculture unfairly misrepresented by the mainstream media, out-of-touch parents, and ignorant religious preachers including the author whom I am responding to.

This is going to be a tediously verbose rebuttal. If you need to use the restroom or grab a quick drink, I suggest you do so immediately.  It’s ok, I’ll wait.

*cue jeopardy music*

Okay, readydaa??  Let’s get started…

“Innocent Pastimes. In the past, children enjoyed themselves playing games together. Their innocent pastimes would challenge their bodies or their minds. Games like hide and seek, football, tag, boxed games or chess. But today, it is alarming to see even young children playing game that involve killing people, for fun! These days, the majority of games contain violence or explicit material.”

Ahh, yes, the good old days that never were! I love it when people nostalgically present the past with such an idyllic, sugar-coated ‘leave-it-to-beaver’ picture. Sunil is right! Back in the good old days, the only forms of entertainment children indulged themselves in were hide-and-seek, football, tag, boxed games or chess (as if children don’t play them now…). It’s not like cowboys-and-Indians was ever a trend! I mean, four-year-old boys never received toy guns on their birthdays during the 1930’s!

Nope, pure chaste innocence. Children were never exposed to violence….except when a nigger was occasionally lynched and hanged in the town square. But who cares. Its just a nigger! Or when their mothers were knocked to a bloody pulp and raped with no legal consequences! Or when children themselves were beaten to a bloody pulp with no legal consequences! After all, child abuse was just a form of discipline.

Innocent pastimes…..

“Young People spend hours and hours in a virtual world, a ball to an imaginary team mate, meeting strangers in virtual hotels, or trying to kill someone by some gruesome means. Unfortunately, gaming has gone from playing for fun to a way of life”.

Now, the thesis for Sunil’s argument is based on that old, tired canard about Videogames inducing anti-social behaviors in young adults. I’ll address that unfounded misconception in a moment. However, I want to take this moment to discuss his point regarding ‘meeting strangers in virtual hotels’.

First of all, I am not familiar with ‘virtual hotels’. He is referring to those sleazy sex chat rooms? Maybe? I really cannot tell.

Let me tell you all a personal story (which I normally don’t do for this blog). Once upon a time, I was depressed and extremely lonely. I felt distant from people around me, for some inexplicable reason. I randomly went on this chat room, and met this young woman from India, who was also in a similar state of mind. Somehow, the original anonymity allowed us to be open with each other, which enabled our quick chat room session to evolve into an intimate emotional relationship. We’d unleashed our burdens and secrets to each other, and, in return, received comfort, support and practical advice. In other words, we made each other stronger and capable of facing our insecurities and inner demons.

Yes, I befriended a stranger from the internet and I have no regrets. I’m not saying there aren’t any pedophilic predators lurking for pre-teen girls. Obviously precaution should always be taken. But don’t stigmatize internet friendships.

:”Gaming in itself is not wrong, and I can see many benefits from playing videos games, but the reality is that gaming is addictive”

Yeah, what isn’t addictive? Food. Sex. Exercise. All addictive!  It’s baffling how we only associated addictions with ‘societal vices’.

I remember running a session for teenagers and in the 30 minute break, many boys took out their phones to play games rather than having to talk to the others. Some people are so engrossed in the world of gaming taht they prefer not to speak to real people”

Here’s a quote taken from one of my favorite television programs, Seinfeld :”Why does everything always have to have a social component”. And below is a clip from that same episode.

We’ve all done something like this at some point in our lives. And this episode took place before the age of smartphones. Sometimes, we’re just not in the mood for small talk.

Just because those boys took out their phones to play candy crush, it doesn’t mean they’re ‘so engrossed int he world of gaming that they prefer not to speak to real people’. What a baseless assumption to make about a bunch of teenage boys you hardly know. Maybe they’re actually interacting with each other through Fun Run or Trivia Crack. I mean, socialization and gaming are not mutually exclusive.

You think people were extroverted social butterflies back in the good old days of which you speak so highly?

1-U36hBj8i-C7JJJxS4MP2HQ

“Many gamers, when they get home, instead of talking to their parents about their day, just throw their bags in a corner, grab something to eat quickly, then start gaming straight away. They neglect their friends and family.”

You think gamers are the only one who avoid talking to their parents about their day upon arriving home? Dude, it’s called ‘being a teenager’. Teenagers have been grunting and rolling their eyes at their parents since the days of the homo erectus.

Don’t worry, I’ll address the ‘they neglect their friend and family’ statement soon….

“I’ve also noticed that after playing games, I can’t concentrate on other things like studying. This is because gaming over stimulates (sic) the brain and then, when you try to read a book, your brain finds it boring and it makes you relive the ‘scenes’ or memories of a recent game”

Well, every person is different. Video games may have negative impact on Sunil’s ability to concentrate. However, a BBC article summarized several studies concluding the benefits gaming has on motor skills, visual-spatial abilities, attention span and memorization. For some people, video games could actually enable one to visualize what he/s is reading from a literary narrative.

http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-34255492

There is an added danger when you spend too much time by yourself, in a room with a console that is connected to the internet.

I agree. There is a danger is spending too much time with yourself. We are social being after all. I just wish this author didn’t stereotype all gamers as schizoid adolescents!

“After playing the same game for a few hours, you are bound to get bored and the temptation for young people , with their raging hormones,is to find, watch and do things that are sinful”

Raging hormones? Do things that are sinful? Oh my!! I could just picture it (unfortunately)!!  I mean, the thought of teenagers exploring their bodies and sexuality is just so mind-mindbogglingly horrifying! Won’t someone please think of the children….and pass the tissue!!!!

The author repetitively equates gamers with ‘young people’.

Um…Newsflash!!

The average gamer is thirty-one!!!!

Not twenty-one. Thirty-one!!!

A few years short of being considered ‘middle aged’.

They are (mostly) guys with families and white-collar jobs who prefer to unwind with Call of Duty, Final Fantasy or whatever game is popular these days. No different from watching sports, movies or prime time television programming.

“Also many games involve killing or have some questionable ‘that kind’ of content. (You know what I mean!)

No, I don’t know what you mean.  Care to elaborate?

“What I don’t understand is that movies with lots of killings and ‘those kind of scenes’ have an age restriction but for some reason games with this kind of content are deemed ok for all age groups”

What the fuck????  Have you never heard of the Entertainment Software Rating Board? Are you that thick-headed and blind? Or are you just intentionally being deceptive? I really can’t tell!

“Gaming takes us away from reality. Many teenagers and young adults complain that their parents don’t spend time with them. Though this may sometimes be true, it is also our responsibility to spend time with them.

You could say the same thing about cinema or literature in regards to ‘taking us away from reality’. Videogames are a work of art, just like cinematic productions and literary works.

What does gaming have to do with parent-child relationships. You know, one way parents could bond with their children is through gaming! I played a round of WWE Smackdown with my father a few years ago. Is that an example of gaming ruining our relationship??

You know, there are families who base their weekly ‘family fun nights’ on video games. And why not? They’re fun, stimulating and an interactive way to involve the entire family. Are their relationships being ruined by gaming?

“I remember reading a quote about gaming from Fr. Edward Connolly, who said “Reality is where I work out my salvation. Reality is where I meet Mum and Dad, brother and sister, son and daughter, wife or husband, God and neighbour and, come to think of it, myself. Video games are an alternate reality. There I can pretend that I don’t have a mum, dad, brother, sister, son, daughter, wife or husband, God or neighbour, only myself. It’s kind of like Hell”

This Fr. Edward Connolly is either a world-class troll or a deeply deluded old man.

When you read Harry Potter, you dive into an alternative reality. When you watch The Matrix, you dive into an alternative reality.  When you catch an episode of Doctor Who, you dive into an alternative reality. When you play fantasy football, you dive into an alternative reality.

Activating your imagination does not negate your real-life relationships!!

“The truth is that games chance us without us knowing it. They can make us more aggressive and we start to expect everything to happen quickly, just like in the games”

The claim linking video games with aggression has been highly disputed.

“Instead of having pleasant dreams, we end up having questionable dreams involving killings or ‘those kinds of dreams’. Our whole lives become controlled by the games that we play”

Well, I can’t comment on dreams ‘involving killings’. Sunil, you might want to see a professional about that. As for ‘those kind of dreams’, well, Sunil Kutta, it’s a part of growing up. You don’t have to fear your sexual urges.

I have a box of tissues if you need them 😉

“The Solution is to control your gaming. If you are addicted and have tried top stop but can’t, it is because you are relying on your own power. It is almost impossible to break any form of addiction, even gaming, in your own strength. YOu are much more likely to succeed by trusting and replying on God’s power. “

So, apparently the author fancies himself to be a psychologist. This is my problem with religion, particularly the charismatic movement. Sunil is promoting the gamer equivalent of alcoholic anonymous, where instead of relying on your own willpower, you put your faith in a ‘higher power’. There is no benefit to being overdependent on a diety that may or may not exist! You’re just replacing one form of addiction with another.

The author concludes his dreadfully-written essay with the following:

“choose gaming and then, as research shows, you are choosing to be depressed, lonely, isolated. This is the harsh but awkward truth about prolonged gaming. You might think playing games will make you appear cooler and bring you many ‘friends’ but the reality is that you will end up all by yourself as a loner’

Yeah, except video games have been instrumental in alleviating depression and anxiety, as research has shown. And the variety of gaming subcultures have allowed people with similar interests to network, meet-up, and discuss new trends in gaming. You know, kind of like book clubs or film discussion groups.

No one will bat an eye at someone curling up with their copy of Tom Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October or leaning back on their chair to watch Guardians of the Galaxy (for the third time). Yet, somehow, playing Mortal Kombat makes you a schizoid pariah prone to violence and depression.

 

 

 

 

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