Downtime: Grow Up!

February 19, 2008

Since I can remember, I've been playing video games...

Since I can remember, I've been playing video games. I was a console junky in my early years, starting with the Atari 2600, moving to the ColecoVision and their ADAM computer, trading up to a Nintendo Entertainment System, then getting a Sega Genesis, the Sega 32X and CD, a Sony Playstation, Playstation 2, and finally an Xbox. Now, I’m a grown man playing an Xbox 360 with a Live account. I know: grow up. But wait, there’s more.

During my time as a console player, I can vividly recall Vic 20s and Commodore 64s and 128s taking up plenty of my time as well (Bard’s Tale III anyone?). Now, I consider myself a PC gamer first, console gamer second, thanks to my custom-built system. Over the years, I've been ridiculed and made fun of by parents, colleagues, and friends alike for my love of digital action. But now, the video game industry is the real deal.

Not only are video games now being used in the healthcare setting to help kids and adults with various diseases and conditions, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) recently reported that families are getting in on the act. The ESA report tells me that I’m part of the $7.4 billion spent in 2006 on video/computer games. But more importantly, I'm part of the 35% of American parents who say they play computer and video games. And although my oldest son is not even four years-old yet, I plan on playing plenty of games with him (he likes the driving games—only blue cars) when he learns how to use the controllers. Once this happens, I will be part of the 80% of gamer parents who say they play video games with their kids. I definitely agree with the 66% who feel that playing games has brought their families closer together. Although my wife doesn’t engage in any digital fragging or strategy sessions, I’m sure when the three boys and I are pwning [see sidebar] each other in Gears of War, she’ll get an itchy trigger finger.

This information is important, because it shows that the stereotype of gamers as overweight, saucer-eyed, introverted, half-eaten-corn-chips-on-the-belly adolescents is now an antiquated notion; gaming is becoming a social event in the family setting, much like a movie night or board game night. Heck, even the PTA is endorsing it! I definitely plan on integrating video games into my family's social setting, because gaming is something we can all do together, it's fun, and it allows us to explore competition, sharing, and sportsmanship in a contained setting. Now, I'm not saying you should abandon other forms of social activity/bonding with your kids; rather, I like the fact that sharing games is starting to become as mainstream as the tried-and-true outdoor activities, like playing catch, going fishing, or just wrestling on the grass—all things I love to do and plan to do with my three boys. But if they ever start LARPing, I don’t know if I can take it. (Go to YouTube.com, type in “LARP”... become horrified...)

As far as negatives regarding violent games and the amount of time kids spend playing games, I am fully aware of the Entertainment Software Rating Board's (ESRB's) designations and agree that they are highly effective in determining what’s good for my kids. But because I play and read about games on a daily basis, I'm pretty well-versed on what's appropriate for my kids. The ratings are good, but I agree with the ESRB that parents should take an active role in knowing what their kids are playing and not just rely on these ratings to determine what's suitable.

But let's get back to the business side of things: a $7.4 billion industry. With so many game developers, publishers, websites, companies, and magazines, there are plenty of jobs to go around and lots of money to be made. The video game industry has employed thousands of people as level designers, programmers, editors, sound designers, testers, etc, and paid them to do something they love—and isn't that what a career is supposed to be about?

What are your thoughts on this? Do you play games with your kids regularly? Have you integrated gaming into your usual social activities? Drop me a line at jmaillard@mdng.com; I’m always interested in learning what our docs are doing.

Gamer Speak

Aggro. Derived from “aggression,” it means you’ve “activated” monsters, usually in a MMO game, by moving

close to them and now they’re attacking you.

Avatar. The character in the game that represents you.

Buff. A beneficial spell cast on a monster or player.

Camp. Staying in the same area as a player or group of monsters to do the same repetitive actions.

Farm. To repeatedly kill the same monsters in the same area, usually with the purpose of obtaining money or specific items.

Flame. An insulting criticism or remark meant to incite anger.

Frag. Killing an enemy in a game.

Gank. Gang killing. Also used to mean bullying of lower level players in PvP or to kill a player while he is engaged

with a monster.

Grinding. Staying in the same area fighting the same types of monsters for a very long time.

MMO. A Massively Multiplayer Online Game (also called MMOG); a game that is capable of supporting hundreds or thousands of players simultaneously. World of Warcraft is the shining example.

Mod. A modification to a game, either through provided tools or hacks, to change its original form.

Newbie. A new player in a game; usually referred to as Noob or N00b.

Nerf. A negative change; to downgrade or weaken something.

PvE. Player vs. Environment. Combat between players and computer controlled opponents.

PvP. Player vs. Player. Combat between players.

Pwned. Slang term for "owned," which means to soundly defeat an opponent.


x